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Pray for no rain: Man City to return to China after Beijing debacle

By AFP
media Manchester City's 2016 game against Manchester United was called off due to an unplayable surface at the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing. AFP

Manchester City will return to China this year for the first time since their ill-fated visit of 2016, when a game with cross-town rivals United was called off at the last minute.

The first overseas Manchester derby was cancelled just hours before kick-off because of an unplayable surface at Beijing's "Bird's Nest" stadium following heavy rain.

Pep Guardiola's City will hope there is no repeat when they compete in the 2019 Premier League Asia Trophy, which will be held in Nanjing on July 17 and nearby Shanghai on July 20.

The other teams will be Newcastle United, West Ham United and Chinese-owned Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Premier League said on Tuesday.

Each side will play two games in the mini tournament, which is likely to be testing for the players with peak temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius (86F) and the possibility of torrential rain.

The Asia Trophy was similarly dogged by pitch problems -- again after rain -- when it was held in Hong Kong in 2013.

Then-Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio labelled the muddy surface "a killer pitch" and Tottenham Hotspur's Jan Vertonghen suffered an ankle injury on the waterlogged surface.

While uncomfortable conditions for players and disruptive to managers' pre-season preparations, the Premier League and clubs see such trips as a prime opportunity to grow their fan bases in China, the world's second-biggest economy.

City recently purchased a stake in Chinese third-tier club Sichuan Jiuniu as part of their overseas expansion drive.

"In Manchester City we have the reigning Premier League champions competing for the trophy," the league's interim chief executive Richard Masters said when naming the July line-up.

"I have no doubt the fans can expect some competitive and thrilling Premier League action."

A glut of European football clubs look set to visit China in pre-season, with Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur also committed to coming.

 
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