Pellegrini returns to Hong Kong to boost City campaign
Former EPL champions welcome back Chilean boss after family bereavement as they set out to claim Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong
Manchester City received a shot in the arm yesterday when team manager Manuel Pellegrini arrived unexpectedly to join them ahead of their clash tonight against South China in the Barclays Asia Trophy at Hong Kong Stadium.
Pellegrini had returned to his native Chile following the death of his mother and the 2011-2012 English Premier League champions had not been banking on his return in time for tonight's match.
"He's landed already and sent an apology for not turning up at the press conference, but he will be at the match," said assistant team manager Brian Kidd yesterday.
Tottenham Hotspur, who just missed out on a Uefa Champions League spot by finishing fifth in the Premier League last season, will take on Sunderland in the opening match of the doubleheader.
Kidd said Manchester City's new signing, Jesus Navas, and his fellow Spain international David Silva, were both unlikely to start as they played for their national team in the Confederation Cup that finished on June 30, while another two newcomers - Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic - are short of match fitness. These four players did not join their team for a training stint in South Africa before coming to Hong Kong. The quartet, along with Argentines Sergio Aguero, were restricted mainly to light jogging during their practice session at Hong Kong Stadium last night.
Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas announced their star player, Gareth Bale, is also unavailable for the match. "He is recovering from a knock in training and hopefully he can get some involvement in the second game," said Villas-Boas.
The Portuguese reiterated that the reigning Footballer of the Year was "not for sale". Bale was "one of the most fantastic players in the world at the moment" and the Wales international would continue as a Tottenham player for the foreseeable future.
Bale's absence may be a relief for Sunderland team manager Paolo di Canio. The Spurs winger scored a 90th-minute goal from 25 yards to give them a 1-0 win over Sunderland in their last match of the season on May 19, although the result was still not good enough to give Spurs Champions League football for the coming season.
Sunderland captain John O'Shea admitted Bale's absence was good news, but said that since Spurs had many quality players to choose from, his side still faced a tough task. "If one individual who happens to be one of the best players of the world is missing, it won't worry them as Spurs have plenty of quality to choose from," said the defender. "We have to be 100 per cent focused with or without Bale."
Di Canio, meanwhile, paid high tribute to their new signing, Emanuele Giaccherini, although he did not say whether the Italian midfielder would start tonight.
Having joined from Serie A Juventus last week, the Italy international wasted no time blending in with his new teammates at their training camp in Italy and the pre-season preparations in Hong Kong.
"In my opinion, he's one of the best players in Europe to suit my system," said Di Canio. "There are not many wingers with his intelligence or ability to interpret the role."