City are currently in the middle of their week long pre season camp in Austria and most of the first team squad got some match practice yesterday as warm up matches were played against German team TSV Munich 1860 and Albanian outfit Teuta Durres.
Three players who I’m sure Ole would have liked to have used yesterday were Craig Noone, Kevin Theophile-Catherine and Kagisho Dikgacoi, however, they were not available for selection. Noone has suffered a recurrence of the groin injury that ended his season early in the spring and may well need an operation – either way, he will miss the start of the league season. Theophile-Catherine has unfortunately had to return to France after a bereavement in his family and, strangely, Dikgacoi is still awaiting international clearance for his move to Cardiff from Crystal Palace. Aron Gunnarson and David Marshall are also carrying minor knocks which meant they were not risked for either match and there were three other absentees who I will talk about later.
I watched the TSV Munich match on a dodgy quality Internet feed and the German team, who I remember as the side West Ham beat in the Final of the European Cup Winner’s Cup at Wembley in 1965, provided a stern test in temperatures of 35 degrees centigrade which saw play stopped halfway through each half for a drinks break. City certainly rode their luck in edging the game 3-2, in fact, after a pretty even first half which saw both sides score twice, they were almost over run after the break.
Munich, who finished seventh in last season’s Bundesliga 2, spent virtually all of the second period attacking and it needed a few fine saves from Joe Lewis and a couple of disallowed goals for offside to keep City in the game before forgotten man Etien Velikonja popped up with the winner with five minutes left (I thought it was Kenwyne Jones at the time, but I’m blaming poor quality pictures and the fact that a pillar from the main stand was blocking pictures of the penalty area – that City were attacking the other end at the time does not weaken this excuse in any way!).
The first half goals were scored by Macheda and Whittingham (Whitts’ goal was from one of those free kicks almost by the corner flag – this time he surprised tracksuit bottoms wearing former Palace keeper Gabor Kiraly in much the same way as he did Julian Speroni at Selhurst Park in season 11/12) with Munich equalising quickly both times. I have to say that there were elements of City’s game which I found quite concerning. For example, our defending at set pieces was poor and, for a side containing some of our best passers in Eikrem, Whittingham and Dæhli, we weren’t half guilty of given the ball away cheaply at times.
Also, the contrast between Munich’s effective pressing of our attempts to build from the back and the way the German’s were allowed to play out from defence was marked - at times some of attackers even had their backs to the play as Munich defenders brought the ball out. Such things cannot happen once the serious stuff starts, but allowances need to be made for the heat I suppose.
There were some good things about City’s display, they broke quickly on occasions and finished the game pretty strongly as their opponents, perhaps, paid the price for their high octane approach. When you consider that Ole was able to field a completely different starting line up a couple of hours later for the game against Teuta Durres (who finished fourth in last season’s Albanian Premier League) which was comfortably won 3-0 with goals by new boys Guerra, Burgstaller and LeFondre, then I’d say the over riding feeling about yesterday should be satisfaction at the depth of quality we have in our squad.
That leads me on to the three others who are not in Austria. Steven Caulker and Fraizer Campbell were left behind in South Wales with Ole conceding that both players will be leaving – at one time it looked like they would become team mates at Crystal Palace, but it’s now being reported that QPR are again favourites to land Caulker and Leicester’s move to sign Campbell is back on again. Gary Medel is also almost certainly on his way to Inter Milan, but it’s still not clear if the deal will be a loan or a permanent one – apparently officials from the Italian club will be in Cardiff early this week to try to finalise things.
Kevin McNaughton’s season long loan to Bolton has been confirmed and, although Fabio could be used on the right I suppose, it’s looking more likely that John Brayford will make a long awaited league debut for Cardiff at Blackburn on 8 August.
With Gunnarsson already used as a right back at Bath and Magnus Eikrem forced to play there against Munich yesterday, it’s a position where City don’t have a great deal of cover (especially if, as rumoured, Theophile-Catherine leaves the club), but it seems Ole has no plans to bring in someone else who can play there. The two players we were linked with last week play in other positions. Bolton’s right sided midfield player Lee Chung-Yong is supposedly a City target, but I reckon this one is something of a long shot – more realistic for me are reports that we are going to make another bid for Southampton centre back Jose Fonte.
* picture courtesy of http://www.walesonline.co.uk/