Wembley XI takes shape
The return of three more players means that Manchester City could just about field a side made up of first-team players now back in training in Saturday’s Community Shield.
And with a friendly match against Championship outfit Blackpool tonight, the Blues are gradually getting together a competitive team for the curtain-raiser against Leicester at Wembley.
More players are due back this week — although City have refused to publicise any schedule — and could still figure on Saturday.
Doyle to return?
Tommy Doyle has been noticeable by his absence since the academy building was closed down by a Covid outbreak, forcing the junior players to isolate.
Others have come back, but he, Liam Delap and Romeo Lavia have been eminent absentees.
It emerged last week that Delap picked up an injury that forced him to miss the 4-0 win over Barnsley on Saturday night with Stoke now trying to land him on a season’s loan, while Lavia watched from the stands after failing to prove his fitness.
Doyle is back in training, along with Lavia, and both could get a chance, even though the increasing number of first-teamers is squeezing chances for youngsters.
The outstanding player in preseason so far has undoubtedly been Riyad Mahrez, with a scintillating free kick goal in the opening 2-0 win over Preston, followed by an even better half-volleyed finish, assist and killer pass for another goal as they saw off the Tykes 4-0.
With long-time rival for a right-wing berth Bernardo Silva now back, and the transfer pursuit of Jack Grealish heating up, Mahrez will want to keep his standards high against newly-promoted Championship opposition.
With Ciaran Slicker ruled out of Saturday’s game by concussion protocols after being stretchered off against Preston, City had 17-year-old Dutch keeper Mikki Van Sas (below) on the bench. The former Ajax man starred in the Under-18 Premier League last season, and could be Zack Steffen’s understudy again.
Body language watchers will be interested to see how Bernardo Silva shapes up, as he is expected to take some part in the game.
The Portugal star reported back a week after international teammates Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo, with no explanation given — and the photos of him arriving at the CFA hardily made him look like he was full of the joys of the new season.
But the midfielder is said to have bitten the bullet after wanting to leave last summer and been told that was not possible – whether he gets his wish this time remains to be seen.