Are Manchester City fans excited by the Uefa Super Cup? The supporters who have travelled to Athens to watch their team face Sevilla this evening could be forgiven for feeling a touch weary, but there is no question manager Pep Guardiola is giving the occasion his full attention.
This is of course City’s first appearance in the fixture, earned by beating Inter Milan in the Champions League final in June. Given you only qualify for the Super Cup by winning Europe’s premier club competition (or the Europa League), perhaps we should be less sniffy. It is also a rare case of a trophy City are yet to win, and as Jason Burt wrote for Telegraph Sport, Guardiola came to City to make history and break new ground for the club. After watching Arsenal lift the Community Shield, they will not want to miss the chance to have their name engraved on more silverware, however minor.
The City team that starts tonight will not be as strong as the one that finished last season, though. Ilkay Gundogan has gone to Barcelona and Kevin De Bruyne is expected to miss three to four months following the recurrence of a hamstring problem. Mateo Kovacic is a fine ball progressor between the penalty areas, but cannot match Gundogan’s goal threat. De Bruyne’s absence could present an opportunity for Phil Foden to start in an attacking midfield position, but Guardiola seems to prefer him wide and City have been linked with Lucas Paqueta.
John Stones and Ruben Dias were a magnificent if unconventional partnership in the heart of City’s defence, but Stones is coming back from an injury and Dias has not travelled. That blow is softened by the signing of £77 million left-sided centre-half Josko Gvardiol, who was so impressive for Croatia at the Qatar World Cup. Gvardiol is expected to make his full City debut tonight.
Sevilla are Europa League specialists, and knocked out Manchester United on their way to winning the competition for the seventh time last season. They have lost their last five appearances in the Super Cup, perhaps not a surprising record given they are up against the Champions League holders. Eintracht Frankfurt’s Djibril Sow has been Sevilla’s headline signing of the summer and they have so far kept hold of striker Youssef En-Nesyri. Sevilla are managed by José Luis Mendilibar, another Basque coach at the top of the European game.
Full team news on the way shortly.