Football Features

“He’s arguably Guardiola’s most important player” – Raheem Sterling lights up Kitchee 1-6 Man City

By Chris Smith

Published: 15:02, 24 July 2019

Man City overcame the stifling Hong Kong heat to beat Kitchee 6-1 in their pre-season clash.

Although Pep Guardiola will likely be seething that his side were unable to keep a clean sheet, he’ll be more than pleased with his side’s attacking prowess, with the likes of Raheem Sterling and David Silva tearing their opponents apart.

Goals from Sterling, Silva, Sane (x2) and youngsters Iker Pozo and Nabil Touaizi were enough to see off their Asian opponents with consummate ease.

But who were the winners and losers from the match?

Winner – Raheem Sterling

Even though he’s been around and killing it for some time now, last season felt like a real breakthrough campaign for Sterling, with his goals, assists and creation figures going through the roof. He’s arguably Guardiola’s most important player now. And promisingly for City and England fans, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Kitchee may not have been the biggest test but Sterling still took them on with ultimate professionalism, twisting and turning with the ball, driving into space and causing havoc with his electric movement.

His reward was a goal and, yes, another two assists. His strike to make it 3-0 just before half-time was emblematic of the new, lethal finisher Sterling has become, sweeping the ball into the far corner with laser precision.

A Sterling in this mood is a dangerous one, and one Premier League defenders will need to keep the closest tabs on if they’re to stand a chance of stopping him.

Loser – Angelino

Left-back has been a perplexing position for some time now for Guardiola at Man City. Benjamin Mendy has been crippled with injuries, Fabian Delph had mixed performances there before departing for Everton and while Oleksandr Zinchenko has generally been very good, he may still have designs on playing further up the pitch.

However, thus far, Angelino has not looked like the answer. Since returning from PSV, the Spaniard has been, well, terrible. So much so that he even started trending on Twitter during his first game against West Ham United.

Wednesday’s game against Kitchee was, if nothing else, a chance for him to roam more freely down the left flank, getting involved in City attacks and proving to Guardiola that he can be the outlet he desires. Angelino just didn’t deliver, though, rarely finding himself in the final third and failing to offer the kind of service Zinchenko does.

Angelino was replaced by the Ukrainian at half-time and Zinchenko immediately set about linking up with the likes of Sterling and Sane. Zinchenko may not like it, but left-back is still his best route into this remarkable City side and one he should take with open arms, while Angelino has serious work to do.

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Winner – David Silva

It’s somewhat sad and still quite surreal that this is to be David Silva’s final season in a Man City shirt. However, by the looks of it, he’s hellbent on going out in style.

His 45-minute stint in the first half against Kitchee showcased everything we love about this graceful little Spaniard, gliding with the ball effortlessly, sliding passes through angles even his own teammates struggle to spot and, when he had the chance, chipping a finish over the goalkeeper with the most delicate, caring touch.

The Champions League remains the final gaping hole in El Mago’s trophy cabinet but it’s clear the former Valencia star is making strides to put that right at the final time of asking.

Loser – Claudio Bravo

Claudio Bravo is a loser here not because he played badly, but because he probably didn’t need to play at all.

We all knew Kitchee v Manchester City would be a one-way affair but looking back, it’s hard to remember Bravo actually touching the ball. And the one time he was actually called into action, Kitchee scored!

Given the lack of action he’s had over the past 12 months due to injury, coupled with the fact the impressive Arijanet Muric and Zack Steffen are hovering out on loan, this pre-season could have been a great chance for Bravo to prove he can still keep Ederson on his toes.

Honestly, he’ll just want to get these next few days over and done with.

Winner – Leroy Sane

10 goals and 10 assists last season in the Premier League should nail down Sane’s spot in the Man City starting XI, right? Well, as we’ve seen and heard in recent months, that isn’t the case. The German has had to fight for every minute on the pitch, even sparking rumours of an exit to Bayern Munich.

It now looks like he’ll remain in sky blue and, here, City’s very own Jekyll and Hyde showed off his good side. Two very well taken goals were the icing on the cake of Sane’s performance, with the winger pulling the Kitchee defence out of shape at every opportunity with his pace and dribbling.

For all we know, Sane could play City’s next game against Yokohama FM and barely touch the ball but days like this remind Guardiola just how much of a potent weapon he can be – one he should keep around as he seeks to solve Man City’s Champions League conundrum.