Good afternoon European football fans. Thanks for joining Sports Mole
's live coverage of the star-studded Audi Cup, which in terms of pre-season fare looks to be a competition worth watching. Today's opening semi-final encounter at the Allianz Arena pits Manchester City
against Italian giants AC Milan
, in what should be a good test for Manuel Pellegrini
's squad at this stage of the summer.
City battled their way through some pretty treacherous playing conditions to claim the Asia Trophy in Hong Kong last week, but will definitely get the chance to play a more attractive passing style today at the Allianz Area.
Pellegrini's new signings spent last week integrating with their new teammates, but are at different stages of their pre-season. Fernandinho
has played a full part in the club's summer schedule to date, while Jesus Navas
, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic
have all arrived during the last few weeks.
An unfortunate injury ruled Matija Nastasic
ruled him out of City's squad for the trip to Munich, and also looks likely to mean the defender will miss next month's Premier League opener against Newcastle United. Sergio Aguero was also left at home to keep working on a niggling knee problem, but minus those two absentees Pellegrini has brought a full-strength squad for this prestigious pre-season tournament, which also features Bayern Munich and Sao Paulo.
City's starting XI has just reached us and looks very strong indeed. Jovetic, Fernandinho
and Navas all start for the Premier League contenders, while Joleon Lescott
takes Nastasic's place in central defence. A full look at both starting lineup's will follow in just a few moments.
City: Hart, Richards, Kolarov, Lescott, Garcia, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva, Navas, Dzeko, Jovetic
Milan Amelia, Zaccardo, Traore, Constant, Vergara, de Jong, Petagna, Antonini, Muntari, Boateng, El Shaarawy
It will be interesting to see if City stick with the fluid 4-4-2 formation that Pellegrini has adopted so far in pre-season. Jovetic should start his first match for the club alongside Dzeko, who scored twice in as many matches at the Asia Trophy last week. Fernandinho and Toure should form a formidable midfield duo, with David Silva
free to roam from an initial wide position.
also gets a welcome chance to impress for City today at right-back. With Nasatasic picking up that injury problem we are likely to see Javi Garcia revert to central defence tonight, alongside Lescott.
Milan have been considerable weakened by injury and international duty during the close season, with the likes of Mario Balotelli
and Riccardo Montolivo allowed an extended break. Stephan El Shaarawy
will occupy a lone front role this evening, supported by Kevin-Prince Boateng
and Sully Muntari.
Despite the unfortunate absence of Balotelli City will come up against one former player today, in the form of Nigel de Jong. The Dutch midfielder had his first season at the San Siro hampered by injury, and will be looking to put that right with a strong pre-season this time round.
PREDICTION! An opening ceremony full of activity is well underway at the Allianz Arena, which means we are around five minutes from kickoff. That just about gives me time to confidently predict that City will claim victory this evening, with Jovetic more than capable of netting his first goal for the club thanks to a consistent supply line from Navas and Silva.
Before the two sides emerge just a quick note on tonight's City bench, which is packed full of talent. Sergio Aguero is a surprise inclusion given his reported knee problems, but makes the subs list alongside Alvaro Negredo, Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta.
Both teams are out and just about ready to get the Audi Cup underway. This should be a good baromoter of where City stand this summer, and another chance to watch their quarter of summer signings.
Here we go then in Munich, with Jovetic and Dzeko getting early touches for City, who are shooting from left to right in the first half. Both teams have taken the chance to wear new way strips today, with City in an all-black changed kit.
GOAL! City 1-0 AC Milan (Silva)
City's first meaningful attack produces an early goal, with much of the credit for a slick move going to Navas. His driving run and cross found Jovetic free at the far post. The striker got enough on a pass towards goal to find the forward run of Silva, who tucked home a neat finish from close range. A fine start from Pellegrini's side, who have taken advantage of some very casual defending from the Italians early on.
CHANCE! Dzeko and Jovetic lead another march towards goal from City in the early stages. The pair combined to provide Jovetic with space inside the penalty area. He elected to take another rather than shoot, with his eventual low drive from a tight angle flashing just beyond the far post. Ominous signs here for Milan, who could have quite easily fallen two goals behind inside 10 minutes.
More slick passing from City sees Fernadinho and Dzeko swap passes in the final third, with a through ball just evading Silva's ghosting run towards the penalty area. Pellegrini's men are playing a noticeably high line so far, denying their opponents time and space to build in midfield.
Milan's young Colombian defender Vergara times his sliding challenge inside the penalty area to perfection, robbing Jovetic of the chance to shoot from 12 yards. Vergara is then forced to get a touch on Kolarov's dangerous cross, and is rather fortunate to see the ball come off his trailing leg and wide for a corner kick.
Jovetic comes close to picking out Dzeko with a clever flick inside, with Zaccardo coming across to intercept with a block tackle. City recycle possession as Toure elects to shoot from distance, with his strike falling well wide of the target.
gets involved for the first time today, shielding the ball away from El Shaarawy just wide of the penalty area. Milan are being forced to defend from deep and look the lone striker with long passes, but are yet to muster a shot at Hart's goal.
GOAL! City 2-0 AC Milan (Richards)
City have a two-goal advantage they thoroughly deserve thanks to the persistence of Richards. The full-back raced onto a chipped pass from Fernandinho behind the back four, but had his initial strike on goal saved as he chose not to find Jovetic inside the six-yard box. Luckily for City the ball sprayed back towards Richards, who scuffed home from close range.
GOAL! City 3-0 AC Milan (Kolarov)
This could get very embarrassing for Milan as a clinical finish from Kolarov puts City 3-0 ahead. The full-back raced into the penalty area after a precise pass from Jovetic, and from a tight angle produced a clinical finish across the goalkeeper and inside the far post. Complete control here for Pellegrini's men.
De Jong tries a long ball over the top, but his pass is aimless and fails to find a run from El Shaarawy. Prince-Boateng then lets out some frustration with a strike from 25 yards, but the midfielder is off-balance and slices his effort high and wide of Hart's goal.
Milan looked to have finally found some life as they stem the tide with a spell of possession. City are quick to win the ball back though, as Richards robs El Shaarawy before striding with purpose into the final third. Fernandinho is eventually brought down by a sliding challenge by De Jong, but the midfielder got a touch on the ball and City must settle for a corner kick.
GOAL! City 4-0 AC Milan (Dzeko)
Truly shambolic defending from Milan sees City get their fourth goal of the opening half. Silva quickly seized on a sloppy clearance to find Navas, who took a touch before flashing across goal with power. Dzeko was on hand to react, tapping home unmarked at the far post to notch his third goal in as many pre-season matches.
GOAL! City 5-0 AC Milan (Dzeko)
A top-class finish from Dzeko gets his second in as many minutes, and City's fifth of a remarkable first half. The forward controlled and volleyed on the turn after a clever lofted pass, smashing home with a superb finish.
GOAL! City 5-1 AC Milan (El Shaarawy)
Milan quickly race up the other end and bag a consolation that no player in white shirt wants to celebrate. El Shaarawy made the most of a loose pass from Garcia, aiming a shot into the ground. His effort trickled past Hart and into the bottom corner.
GOAL! City 5-2 AC Milan (El Shaarawy)
City have gone to sleep in defence and for the second time in as many minutes concede a cheap goal. A clutch of defenders were waiting for the referee's whistle after Petagna went down inside the box, but with advantage played El Shaarawy quickly took control, rounding Hart and tapping home with an assured finish.
GOAL! City 5-3 AC Milan (Petagna)
A quite ridiculous match has just seen an eighth goal before half-time. This time Garica and Lescott are waiting for an offside flag against Andrea Petagna
, but the linesman didn't oblige. The youngster took his chance brilliantly, flicking past Hart for Milan's fifth goal in the last five minutes. Schoolboy defending all round then as the Audi Cup gets off to an absolute flier.
HALF TIME City 5-3 AC Milan
That may just be the strangest first 45 minutes I've ever seen, pre-season friendly or otherwise. City looked absolutely imperious to put five past a young Milan side in 37 minutes, but then switched off to concede three at the other end before the break. Incredible, quite farcial stuff at the Allianz Arena.
For much of the opening period City looked sublime, with Silva pulling the strings as a hesitant Milan backline were brutally exposed. That shoddy approach to defending then seemed to rub off on Pelegrini's men, who took pity on Milan to give their flagging opponents an unlikely lifeline.
Despite that lazy end to the half there are plenty of positives for City, who look to be taking shape under Pellegrini. Navas has caused chaos with his pace down the right flank, with Richards providing a powerful support. Conceding three in six minutes may help Pellegrini persuade the club's owners that he needs another defender before the transfer window closes, particularly at centre-back.
Quite what both managers will say to their sides after that first half is open to debate, but surely Allegri will want more from his youthful side in the second period. Pellegrini is likely to ring the changes for City after the break, with the likes of Negredo, Nasri and Aguero waiting in the wings.
SUBSTITUTIONS: I'll do my best to keep up with what promises to be a whole host of changes at the break. Nasri is about to come on for City, while Antonio Nocerino is already on the field for Milan. More to follow when we get in on changes for both teams.
We are back underway at the Allianz Arena, with Jack Rodwell another noticeable addition in place of Fernandinho. I think that just about does it for the half-time changes for City, now let's see if the goal fest will continue in Munich.
is also in for Milan, and gets involved early on with a driving run to test Kolarov down the left wing. Negredo is also on for City, as the Spaniard looks to match a very impressive effort from Dzeko in that first period.
Kolarov gets forward and win a corner kick for City, which Silva will take. At the second time of asking his ball towards the penalty area picks out Richards, but his powerful header is always rising and finishes up well over the crossbar.
Nasri tests Milan replacement goalkeeper Gabriel with a teasing free-kick inside the penalty area, but the Brazilian does well to beat Negredo to the ball with a strong punch. Milan then launch a counter at the other end thanks to Rodwell's poor clearance, with Boateng curling a strike at least five yards wide of Hart's near post.
Gabriel nearly drops a clanger as a long ball bounces just beyond Nasri inside the penalty area. The Frenchman latches onto a dropped catch from the youngster, but his curling effort from a tight angle falls wide of the far corner.
El Shaarawy should just have wrapped up his hat-trick, but chose not to shoot first time inside the penalty area after a precise pass from Niang. That delay allowed Lescott to scramble clear with an important covering challenge, but Milan need better from the young striker in those situations when Serie A resumes next month.
SAVE! Boateng was just given the freedom of City's final third after beating the offside trap, but failed to make that time and space count. The playmaker chose to shoot rather than find Niang with a square pass, but his curling strike was quickly closed down by Hart with a fine stop. More worrying signs for City there defensively, who just seem to have lost the sharpness of that devastating opening 36 minutes.
Rodwell and Nasri win successive corner kicks as City build a patient attack inside the final third. A deep delivery from Nasri picks out Garcia, who sends a thumping free header towards goal. Luckily for Milan the Spaniard's central effort is palmed clear by Gabriel, with a rebound from Richards also caught by the youngster.
SUBSTITUTIONS A pair of City changes midway through the second half, with Dzeko and Silva withdrawn for Barry and Milner. Milan have also taken the chance to swap three players, with summer signing Poli, Emmanuelson and Kingsley Boateng brought on.
After that raft of changes Milan are the first to attack, with Hart forced to parry as Poli chased a clever switch inside the penalty area from Nocerino. The through ball took a late deflection off Rodwell, and needed a strong arm from the England international to clear the danger.
SUBSTITUTION: Two more Milan youngsters get a chance to impress late on, with Pacifico and Cristante replacing De Jong and Vergara. When play resumes Barry chases down a loose ball inside the penalty area, but an unkind bounce denies the midfielder any chance to get past two covering Milan defenders.
Niang goes down under a late challenge and requires medical treatment forcing a break in play. Thankfully the French striker is quick to return, with City quick to establish possession in midfield when the match resumes through Rodwell and Milner.
City decide to retain possession from deep for at least two minutes, with the tactics greeted with jeers by a relatively full Allianz Arena. Toure, Lescott and Nasri have all enjoyed more than one touch on the ball in this prolonged spell, which is eventually brought to an end by a long punt towards Negredo.
SUBSTITUTION: Yet another change for Milan, who swap Boateng for Italian youth international Pinato. When play resumes Negredo is quick to find space and shoot from 20 yards, smashing a strike at goal that needed a slight touch from Gabriel to deny City six of the best.
Kingsley Boateng, no relation to Kevin-Prince, has his attempted through ball towards Niang shut down by a block from Barry. Poli then robs the midfielder twice in quick succession, but Milan are unable to provide support and launch a late attack.
City look happy to close this match out at a fairly pedestrian pace, allowing their opponents to keep possession in midfield. Toure and Barry eventually win the ball back, but are unable to give a slightly frustrated Negredo service in the final third.
Cristante wins only Milan's second corner kick of the match via a deflection behind from Nasri, but Niang decides to take it short with a full penalty area waiting for the cross. City are able to clear their lines comfortably, as Toure drops deep to collect Hart's short goal kick.
FULL TIME City 5-3 AC Milan
Well, the second half was never likely to match a quite remarkable first period, with City maintaining their 5-3 advantage to win their Audi Cup opener. Pellegrini's side will now face the winner of Bayern Munich and Sao Paulo's clash later tonight, in a final to be played tomorrow night at the Allianz Arena.
That just about brings our coverage from Munich to a close. Plenty of positives there for City, but still work to be done defensively before the Premier League starts in just over two weeks. Thanks for joining Sports Mole today, and be sure to keep in touch for comprehensive pre-season coverage from across the continent.