Rangers v Manchester City, pre-season friendly, August 5, 2009
“Pre-season is all about getting players games. I was at Blackburn as a player and I don’t think they won a game pre-season the year that they went on to win the Premier League. In the back of everyone’s mind it is all about Blackburn in a couple of weeks and hopefully we will have everyone fit and firing then.” - Shay Given.
For all of Manchester City’s purchases this summer, on-the-field results have spoken for themselves after the Citizens lost to both the Kaiser Chiefs and the Orlando Pirates in South Africa, before the richest club in the world needed an 87th minute equaliser from Martin Petrov to walk away from Barnsley with a draw last Saturday. It is hardly the type of form to make the Big Four shake in their boots.
Of particular note has been the inability of City to score goals, chalking up just two goals in four matches. Roque Santa Cruz and Carlos Tevez, both injured and doubtful to be ready for the start of the season, have yet to feature for the Eastlands outfit, while Emmanuel Adebayor (6/4 to score) has yet to break his duck since leaving Arsenal. Elsewhere, Gareth Barry is still nursing a knock which has forced him to miss the majority of the pre-season.
Nevertheless, City still have an embarrassment of riches that most other teams would crave. Robinho (7/4 to score), Shay Given, Micah Richards, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Craig Bellamy (6/4 to score) and Stephen Ireland have all had extensive run-outs in pre-season and the likelihood is that they will all feature against Rangers at Ibrox on Wednesday night.
Walter Smith can only look on with envy as Manchester City prepare to cross the border. The Rangers gaffer has been handicapped in his ability to sign anyone since the transfer window reopened because of the financial crisis which the Scottish giants find themselves in.
Rangers’ lack of fresh faces has been most noticeable at the back. In the four games the Scottish champions have played in Germany and in the Emirates Cup in London, Smith has been forced to field the same back-four.
Seemingly picking themselves, Steven Whittaker, Madjid Bougherra, Davie Weir and Sasa Papac have consistently been lined up across the pitch from right to left as there is a distinct lack of defenders on Rangers’ books who can come in the backline. (Rangers are 15/8 to keep a clean sheet against City.)
While times are tough in the financial sense, there have been some encouraging signs for Walter Smith in pre-season thus far.
Between the sticks Neil Alexander and Allan McGregor have both made strong cases to be considered the number one come the first day of the season. The return to fitness of midfielder Kevin Thomson is a major bonus for the Gers, while Pedro Mendes (7/1 to score) and Steven Davis have also looked sharp in the centre of the park this summer.
While up-top, Kenny Miller appears to be over the worst of his nagging hamstring problems that dogged his season last year, while against City the club’s most gifted goalscore, Kris Boyd (13/2 to score first), is touted to return to the attack.
In a meeting between the haves and the have-nots, it is the paupers who arguably start the match as favourites.
101predicts: Rangers 2 - Manchester City 0 (9/1)
Full match odds here.