With the season now just a matter of days away Chris Hughton has just 180 minutes of pre-season remaining to fine tune his starting XI.
Tonight’s visit of Real Sociedad looks – on paper at least – likely to be the toughest test yet for Hughton’s class of 2013/14, with the Spaniards’ fourth place in La Liga earning them a crack at next season’s Champions League.
While the level of performance and match fitness still remain the name of the game, the need to prove a good match to a side that will be mixing it with Europe’s elite will not be lost on Team Hughton as thoughts head towards the Everton game.
The Spaniards themselves will be hoping for a stern test having enjoyed a rather too comfortable 8-1 victory in Histon at the weekend; former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela being less than complimentary over his club’s choice of opponent.
All a little harsh on the Cambridgeshire side – who play in Conference North – after having stepped in as eleventh hour replacements for Tottenham Reserves, who were unable to fulfil the fixture.
Tonight’s opposition will provide a test not dissimilar to that faced in the second half in Braga where – by Hughton’s own admission – City struggled to retain possession and were dictated to, rather than being able to control the tempo themselves.
Hopefully small lessons will have been learned from Friday night and, while it’s normal to concede possession for long periods against foreign opposition of this ilk, Hughton will be hoping for a bright and lively City performance played at a high tempo – akin in fact to the opening forty-five in Portugal.
While he’ll be more than happy to see goals coming from all quarters, it goes without saying he’d like to see Ricky van Wolfswinkel get off the mark in a City shirt. Pre-season for the Dutchman has been a tough one for City’s marquee summer signing, but a barren pre-season would be a small price to pay for a goal on 17 August.
Whether tonight’s line-up gives any clues as to the longer-term thinking of Hughton remains to be seen, but with a squad blessed with more depth than any other seen in these parts, we can expect a ‘horses for courses’ approach to team selection.
As for tonight… a good all-round City performance and some entertaining stuff from those in yellow AND blue and white will suit me fine.
And it’s not often I say that…
On the Ball City