New-look Usuthu ready for City

2013-07-18 00:00

DURBAN’S Moses Mabhida Stadium will host 2011/2012 English Premier League champions Manchester City tonight when they take on AmaZulu in a pre-season friendly that will form part of Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday celebrations.

City are coming off the back of a 2-0 loss to PSL outfit SuperSport United on Sunday in a match that was played in front of a modest-sized crowd at Loftus Versfeld.

And while event organisers and members of the KwaZulu-Natal government are desperate for tonight’s match to be a resounding success, things were looking bleak with the news that at the start of business yesterday only 17 000 tickets had been sold for tonight’s clash.

“I am not sure how the sales have gone today [yesterday], I haven’t checked, but we were approaching half capacity this morning,” stadium manager Vusi Mazibuko told The Witness yesterday.

It seems certain that tonight’s match won’t live up to the hype that last year’s Mandela Day celebrations saw when AmaZulu hosted Manchester United at the same venue, but for both sides, this presents an opportunity to get in some match time ahead of the new season.

City dominated for large periods against SuperSport, but their touches in front of goal were indicative of a group of players just back from a holiday, and they are likely to be more combative now that they have spent a few more days in the country training together.

Under new coach Manuel Pellegrini, City have brought over a competitive squad and the likes of Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, Samir Nasri, Edin Dzeko, James Milner and Gareth Barry will all feature tonight.

In addition, leftback Pablo Zabaleta and striker Sergio Aguero are expected to play some part in the match after the pair were given an extended break following their Confederations Cup duty with Argentina.

While results at this stage of the season are not of much importance, two losses in South Africa would not look good for Pellegrini, who has taken over the reins from Roberto Mancini this season.

For AmaZulu, the match represents a unique chance to be exposed on the international stage. But, more importantly, it gives coach Craig Rosslee a chance to have a first glimpse at what is a very different looking squad to the one that stuttered their way through the 2012/13 PSL season.

Letladi Madubanya (Bloemfontein Celtic), defender Msekeli Mvalo (Chippa United) and Ghanaian Mohamed Awal Issah (who returns from Serbia) are all new signings and will more than likely be given a chance to impress this evening.

AmaZulu have also re-signed striker Ayanda Dlamini, while seven others have been put on the payroll, including Bonginkosi Macala (Jomo Cosmos), Lunga Zondi, Chris Manoka (both Thanda Royal Zulu) and goalkeeper Aubrey Mathibe (Moroka Swallows). Defender Prince Hlela returns from loan.

Ususthu’s decision to completely metamorphosise their squad is one that suggests a very different approach to the upcoming campaign. It will, if nothing else, be interesting to see how a brand-new group of players gels against such quality opposition tonight.

Among those released from last season’s squad are Makhosonke Bhengu, Joseph Malongoane, Bongani Mbele, Tsweu Mokoro, Kagiso Senamela, Sifiso Vilakazi and Zimbabwe international Ramson Zhuwawo.

Tonight’s match kicks off at 8 pm.

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