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Club Friendlies Preview

Pep Guardiola will take on his successor when Man City play Carlo Ancelotti's Bayern Munich.
Pep Guardiola will take on his successor when Man City play Carlo Ancelotti's Bayern Munich.
Saturday 16 July

2/1 Rapid Vienna | Draw 9/4 | Chelsea 5/4 (18:00)

After a catastrophic 2015/16 season for Chelsea, in which they sacked Jose Mourinho and finished 10th on the Premier League table, Roman Abramovich turned to Antonio Conte to reignite the Chelsea fire. After winning three league titles in Italy for Juventus and exceeding expectations with Italy in Euro 2016, he certainly has the pedigree needed to succeed. 

Before the start of the season, the Blues have a series of friendlies to get them warmed up, as they head for Austria and then tour the United States. Conte will begin his reign as Chelsea boss on Saturday against Rapid Vienna. The Italian will have Chelsea well organised and will drill self-discipline and integrity into the entire squad. The Blues will be without their players that were involved in the Euros, including new signing Michy Batshuayi, although the likes of Willian and Michael Hector who played at the Copa America are expected to be in the squad. 

Conte will give some youngsters the chance to impress, but players like Diego Costa and Oscar who were snubbed by their countries (for Euro 2016 and Copa America) will be raring to go. This will be Rapid Vienna’s final friendly before they begin their quest to win the Austrian Football Bundesliga. Last season’s runners-up have won all four of their friendlies and beat Karabakh 3-1 in the OFB Cup final last weekend. They’re in better shape than Chelsea but with the Blues looking to impress their new manager, the draw is tipped.

Sunday 17 July

4/1 Wigan | 5/2 | Liverpool 13/20 (17:00)

Liverpool will travel to the DW Stadium on Sunday to take on Wigan Athletic in a friendly match. Although results don’t count for much at this stage, players will be playing for their futures with Jurgen Klopp rumoured to axe as much as eight players. Whether that’s true or not, the Liverpool players won’t rest on their laurels but show their quality as they aim for a place in Klopp’s plans for the coming season. 

Klopp, who signed a new long-term contract at the club last week, has organised no less than nine friendly games ahead of their opening league fixture against Arsenal on August 14, which began with a 1-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers last week as Danny Ings got on the scoresheet. Klopp handed debuts to three of his new signings with goalkeeper Loris Karius, defender Joel Matip and £36m signing Sadio Mane in the starting line-up.

Liverpool celebrate after their 5-0 win over Fleetwood Town in a pre-season friendly

The game against Wigan will give some of the club’s younger players and one or two fringe players the opportunity to show the manager a little more of what they can do, an opportunity that will be much rarer in the season itself. Liverpool will be without a number of senior players due to Euro 2016 and Copa America commitments but they’ll have Roberto Firmino, Dejan Lovren, Lucas Leiva, and Alberto Moreno to boost their side. 

After winning promotion back into the Championship following their title triumph in League One, Wigan will be dreaming of a return to the Premier League. Although that task may prove too difficult, having a striker like Will Grigg will give them high hopes. Unfortunately, the Northern Ireland striker won’t be back in the squad against Liverpool following his participation (didn’t play a game surprisingly) in Euro 2016. Grigg finished last season as top scorer with 24 goals to his name and Wigan will struggle without him up front. Liverpool should win the game comfortably, but the goal is clear: be prepared for their season opener away to Arsenal next month.

Wednesday 20 July

8/10 Bayern Munich | 5/2 | Man City 3/1 (20:30)

Pep Guardiola will find himself in familiar territory in his first match in charge of Manchester City, as he heads back to the Allianz Arena on Wednesday to face Bayern Munich, the club he left in order to take the job. Although it’s only pre-season and both squads will not be at full strength, the friendly clash promises to be epic with Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotii in the dugout. The pair have a good bond with Ancelotti revealing that the Catalan left him a personal good luck message in the manager's office. 

Ancelotti has promised to follow Guardiola's offensive strategy at Bayern in his quest for success in the Bundesliga, while he also tries to tamp high expectations in the Champions League. The Bundesliga champions have strengthened their squad by signing Mats Hummels from arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund and Renato Sanches from Benfica. Although this friendly might come too soon for the pair following their exertions in Euro 2016, Bayern will have a strong squad available with the likes of captain Philipp Lahm, Medhi Benatia, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa and Xabi Alonso. 

Guardiola’s appointment as City manager has seen excitement and expectation among the club’s supporters rise to levels rarely seen before. Their enthusiasm is, of course, understandable and they feel their team has some real momentum again after an appointment that has sent clear message to the rest of the world about City’s ambitions. That said, re-energising a group of players that regressed badly in the final 18 months of Manuel Pellegrini’s time in charge won’t be easy, nor will outwitting the host of big-name managers now residing in the Premier League. 

With Pep expected to spend a fortune on players having already brought in Ilkay Gundogan and Nolito, the Sky Blues will want to fight for their place under the Catalan. It remains to be seen whether City’s Euro 2016 participants will be back with the squad but the first team regulars include Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony, Jesus Navas, Fernandinho and Fernando. It should be an entertaining affair but Bayern have more quality available and should oust their opponents.

Written by Chad Nagel