NEW JERSEY — Preseason gives clubs an opportunity to take a look at a variety of players, whether they may be squad regulars, fringe players, newcomers or reserves.
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In Manchester City’s case, the Premier League champions have carried many of the latter during their International Champions Cup tour in the United States, largely due to the fact that their stars are still recovering from a long 2017/18 PL season, in addition to duties at this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
No Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva or Sergio Aguero meant more time for manager Pep Guardiola to get a glimpse of young talents like Phil Foden and Jack Harrison, both of whom have made the most of their opportunity in a crowded Man City midfield.
Despite two consecutive ICC defeats over the past week, Guardiola remains pleased with what he has seen from his young players, who had the lead against Liverpool prior to the introduction of Mohamed Salah in the second half.
“It’s incredible what we have done,” Guardiola said. “For 75 minutes we are incredible against that team, playing in the final of the Champions League and those kind of amazing players we have I am so, so proud. I’m happy to be managers of those guys.
“We made 75 minutes incredible but the last 15 minutes we were so tired and there were some changes and of course their quality of the attacking players they deserved to score more goals at the end.”
The ICC has been important for City on the defensive side as well, with youthful players like 17-year-old Eric Garcia and 19-year-old Cameron Humphreys-Grant earning significant minutes for a back line that conceded the fewest amount of goals in 2017/18.
While the Citizens’ youth has been the main focal point since arriving in America, the club has brought along two key figures in the attacking third, with Leroy Sane and first-year winger Riyad Mahrez — who joined from Leicester City this summer.
Sane was impactful for the Citizens on Wednesday, scoring just 12 minutes into the second half after being brought on by Guardiola.
Meanwhile, despite playing with mainly reserves in the first stanza, Mahrez displayed his creativity and pace on several occasions for Man City.
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Guardiola believes that despite building a strong resume last season at the Etihad Stadium that the best has yet to come for Sane, making him a dangerous work in progress.
“It depends on him,” Guardiola told reporters. “He needs more minutes and he needs to regain his principles in terms of playing without the ball. He has the talent to do that and we are happy that he scored. Still, he is far away from his best.”