Preseason a chance for City hopefuls
Preseason is now gathering steam and Manchester City are in the United States, having completed their first three friendlies. Now, many will tell you the results of these matches don't matter -- and that's more or less correct -- but there is merit to say they have some influence over the coming campaign. For Manuel Pellegrini, there will be one or two questions about who could take a place in his squad following a good spell in the warm-ups.
While this isn't an exhaustive list, here are five players who could benefit hugely.
Following injury to Alvaro Negredo, one of City's four striking berths is up for grabs for the start of the 2014-15 season. The Spaniard has confirmed he will be out for a couple of months and it may be that Pellegrini opts not to dip into the transfer market -- especially following the limits placed upon him by the Financial Fair Play ruling -- and that he chooses instead to promote a player from inside the club.
The Chilean has shown an interest in Guidetti before, attempting to take him on loan to Malaga when Roberto Mancini was in the City dugout. Should the Swede put in a few good displays and score a few goals in the coming friendlies, Pellegrini's thinking might be to give him a chance to win a Premier League place.
The forgotten man at City, Scott Sinclair has the chance for a fresh start. Having spent the entirety of last season on loan with West Brom -- missing most of the campaign due to injury -- the winger needs to impress in order to get anywhere near the Blues' squad for 2014-15, or garner some attention from elsewhere in order to get first-team football with a transfer.
Sinclair earned the club a penalty with a driving run in their friendly with Sporting Kansas, while he netted himself in the win over Hearts. And that's two things more than he did in his fleeting appearances for the club during the 2012-13 season, when he racked up just 15 appearances (three starts). If he can continue in that vein of form, perhaps he'd have a chance of changing Pellegrini's thinking for next season.
Despite being a mere 17 years old, Nigerian playmaker Kelechi Iheanacho shone in City's 4-1 win over Sporting Kansas. He rounded off the scoring with a calmly taken drive off a Jesus Navas cross, showing he's got a fair bit of technique to back up the budding good feeling surrounding him. He was quick and mobile, dragging defenders out of position and causing problems.
Iheanacho was also a bright star at the Under-17s World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, scoring six goals in seven matches and winning the tournament's Silver Boot. If he's available, Pellegrini could well throw him in, especially having shown he's fearless in his career so far.
However, he faces a battle to break into City's first team -- and not just from other playmakers like David Silva or Samir Nasri, but from the UK government. City may not get a work permit for him and may need to loan him out to another country in order for him to qualify in the future.
With the changes going on in the defensive positions for the Blues this summer, the transfer of Eliaquim Mangala looks ever the more likely -- especially following the accidental release of a video that shows the centre-back having a medical and giving his first interview with the club. However, should the transfer rumble on until nearer the deadline, there may be a small window of opportunity for a young Belgian defender.
Jason Denayer joined City's EDS following a successful trial last season and has been excelling at centre-half, even scoring in a 6-0 European youth league win over Bayern Munich. He's been on tour with the squad this summer and has looked capable when given the opportunity, so should Pellegrini have a problem in defence like he did last year, he may turn to Denayer as an option.
With the arrival of Fernando, it's looking like the future is bleak for Jack Rodwell. Plagued by injury in his time at City, he's been unable to get a decent run of games in the first team. He has always shown potential, but has put in a range of displays that have been categorised from excellent to awful. He has been fairly inconsistent.
No doubt that has been due to his fitness issues, but that's not going to matter to Pellegrini when the manager comes to sorting his first-team plans for next season.
If Rodwell is to prove he can be a part of the main squad, then he's going to need to show an ability to stay fit and put in some good performances throughout preseason. Right now, he's behind several midfielders for a spot in the team.