After a pre-season debut loss to Bayern Munich to kick off the Pep Guardiola Era, Manchester City head to China for two games under the umbrella of the International Champions Cup, the entertaining pre-season tournament that puts together some of the world's best teams across the globe.
City will face Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions Cup this week, two big challenges for the young squad in Beijing. Plenty of Academy players saw action on the pitch against Bayern, and that should be the case again on Monday's clash with United, even though some of the first team's biggest stars are back in training - Agüero, Silva, Denayer, Hart, Sterling, Otamendi and Nolito all joined the China tour.
Monday night in Beijing should be an exciting one. The clubs alone gather plenty of attention, but another factor makes this pre-season match a must-watch: Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho meet for the first time this campaign, two months before their Premier League clash in Matchday 4. This is a friendly, so we shouldn't expect much heat between the two geniuses and rivals, but we'll certainly get a little preview.
On the pitch, we cannot expect a fantastic game. Both teams have new coaches in the beginning of their training camps, so this is simply to gain fitness, establish tactical principles, test youngsters and give chances to potentially departing players to maybe change the manager's mind.
Still, this is a Manchester Derby. Doesn't matter if it's in July or April, this matters. And it might be fun in the end.
Man City Team News: Pep Guardiola's side gets a boost with the seven internationals that joined training. Even though none of them are likely to feature after only two days in the squad, they need to be around Guardiola to learn the new system, and this week in China will help with that. Only Kevin De Bruyne, Bacary Sagna and Eliaquim Mangala are not with the group and will join them in England, but there's enough players to form a strong team to face United.
Just like the Bayern friendly, it's nearly impossible to predict a starting lineup. In Munich, for example, Pep gave the first half to the kids and played his first teamers in the second half. He could repeat that strategy or not, we never know. A few youngsters were impressive against Bayern (especially Angelino, Barker and Maffeo) and should get plenty of minutes again.
Aleks Kolarov play well as a center-back, and he might find a way to stay at City if he shines in this new position under Guardiola. The Fernandos pleased Pep, and could have a good 75 minutes to impress the coach again. Other than that, lots of rotations and tests for the rest of the squad.
Man United Team News: Mourinho has a much stronger squad available than Guardiola. Plenty of key first team players from last season took part in training since the first day, and the Portuguese coach was able to field a very strong lineup in the Champions Cup debut against Borussia Dortmund. United were beaten 4-1 in ugly fashion, however, and even though pre-season results don't matter, there was very little excitement from the Reds' performance.
But Mourinho's style of play requires a huge amount of tactical awareness and a high fitness level, and you can't expect that so early in the pre-season. Facing City is different than facing Dortmund, though, and the Derby buzz alone should be enough to give us a better United team than last Friday. A few players, like Juan Mata and Memphis Depay, have to prove themselves if they want to remain part of Jose's team, and will look to use the City game as a big stage to shine and prove their worth to Mourinho.
The Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing could be the stage for an exciting game of football. But this is a period to test your players, and given the weather conditions in China, many players could get tired very soon. There'll be a lot of substitutions and tests, and maybe a few goals. It's only pre-season, but every Guardiola game is must-watch, so this should be fun as well.