Five Things We Learned: Manchester City 2-0 Preston North End (Pre-Season)

Manchester City kicked off their pre-season preparations by welcoming Championship side Preston North End to the Academy Stadium. Here are five things we learned from Tuesday’s fixture.
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Pep Guardiola surprisingly named Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, Nathan Ake, and Zack Steffen in his starting XI, despite the quartet only returning to first-team training on Monday morning, whilst Liam Delap missed out after being deemed ‘not fully fit’.

Riyad Mahrez opened the scoring with a sublime free-kick midway through the first half, before Samuel Edozie doubled Manchester City’s lead in the second half with a powerful shot from close range.

Here are five things we learned from Tuesday’s fixture…


Cancelo Culture Continues

Easily the best performer on the pitch on Tuesday evening.

Joao Cancelo’s ability is undeniable and having lost his place in the side at the back end of the last campaign, the Portugal international looked determined to hit the ground running this season and to reclaim his right-back berth.

Throughout Tuesday’s fixture, Joao Cancelo played as though he had a chip on his shoulder, as though he had a point to prove – that he deserves to be the club’s first-choice right-back.

The 27 year-old displayed precise crossing and long passing ability, defensive prowess and excellent dribbling as well as interplay ability throughout the match against Preston as he staked his claim to regain his starting berth.

Joao Cancelo’s mid-season purple patch last season was key in Manchester City regaining the Premier League title, and although he was ousted by Kyle Walker following a dip in form, the former Juventus man will now be determined to earn back his spot, and he is very capable of doing so. 

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Riyad Mahrez Is Primed

Although we obviously can’t place too much emphasis on a pre-season friendly performance, Riyad Mahrez showed some very encouraging signs against Preston. The Algerian winger looked noticeably sharp and back to his usual, silky self as he victimised the opposition defence throughout the first-half.

Mahrez linked up effectively with Joao Cancelo on the right flank, as the duo dominated their side of the Academy Stadium pitch and were arguably the two strongest performers on the night.

Riyad Mahrez enjoyed his best season in a Manchester City shirt last term and finished the season strongly.

With Manchester City looking to retain their Premier League crown for the second time under Pep Guardiola, the Catalan boss and fans alike will be hoping that the Algerian superstar will continue to show what we all know he is capable of.

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Cole Palmer Oozes Potential

Cole Palmer – remember the name.

The 19-year-old put in an excellent performance in Tuesday’s fixture, with the lifelong Manchester City fan performing as though he had been playing first-team football for several years.

Palmer displayed excellent technical ability throughout his time on the pitch, retained the ball well, picked smart passes and, aside from missing a sitter late in the first-half, gave a very good account of himself against Championship opposition.

A boyhood Manchester City fan who has been at the club for over a decade, Cole Palmer looks as though he may be primed to follow in Phil Foden’s footsteps, as he looks to establish himself in the first-team set-up across the coming season.

Palmer will surely develop further next season under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola and whilst he is highly rated at Manchester City, it is up to him to fulfil his brimming potential.


Steffen Is Excellent Back-Up

One aspect of Tuesday’s game that has perhaps gone under the radar was the excellent performance of Zack Steffen between the sticks.

Steffen earned a deserved clean sheet, as Manchester City won the game 2-0 and whilst the USMNT ‘keeper had little to do throughout the night, each time that he was called into action, he was not found wanting.

Zack Steffen’s anticipation was sublime, as he functioned as the prototypical sweeper-keeper, commanding his area - and Manchester City’s defensive third brilliantly - and never once did he look to be a liability.

The former MLS stopper's ability with the ball at his feet was also apparent during the game and it is clear to see why the club drafted in the American goalkeeper in 2019, with Zack Steffen’s skillset being not too dissimilar to Ederson’s.

Steffen will likely be Manchester City’s starting ‘keeper in the upcoming season’s domestic cup competitions and may feature in the Community Shield against Leicester next month, as City look to earn their first piece of silverware of the season.


City’s Academy Is Thriving

The effect that Pep Guardiola has had on Manchester City’s academy is undeniable, with the kids performing as though they were well-versed in the Catalan coach's signature brand of football on Tuesday evening.

Since his arrival in 2016, Pep Guardiola has been instrumental in instilling an attack-minded, possession-based, fast-paced attacking philosophy throughout the entire club.

This was evident to see throughout Tuesday’s game with the strongest example being the excellent build-up to Manchester City’s second goal of the evening.

Youth prospects Cole Palmer, James McAtee and Samuel Edozie all shined against Preston and the team’s performance projected the notion that all is well at the academy and that the future is bright for many of the young footballers at the club.

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