Manchester City's £38m record signing, Sergio Aguero, is expected to be confined to the bench for Sunday's Community Shield encounter with Manchester United but midfielder Yaya Touré has said that the club are already viewing a win at Wembley as a way to "show United we are here".
Manager Roberto Mancini views this week as one of light training for Aguero after the Argentine's exertions in the Copa America and is unlikely to throw him into the starting line-up against United, despite the fact that his compatriot, Carlos Tevez, does not return to Manchester until Thursday. But as the countdown to the season continued with Liverpool's principal owner John W Henry unexpectedly suggesting that his own side are not prospective title contenders, Touré indicated that City feel another Wembley win over United would be a way of laying down a marker.
"We have to make a statement from the start," Touré said. "We have the Premier League straight after United and then the Champions League draw. We have to take it step by step. We meet United on Sunday and we will need to play very well to start the season off well. If it is possible, it would be fantastic [for me] to score a third [goal] at Wembley [to go with his FA Cup semi- final and final winners] but the most important thing is that the team wins, that the team shows our fans and everyone else that Man City are coming. We have to show United we are here.
"United are very strong and it will be very tough on Sunday. But we are getting some good players, important players, returning to their best. We are going to have to fight to show people that City are going all the way to the top."
Touré reiterated his eye-raising suggestion that City can reach Barcelona's level in the programme to Sunday's Dublin Super Cup match. "When I said that City could be as good [as Barcelona], I truly believed it and still do."
Adam Johnson has dismissed any suggestions that he is ready to leave City for a season on loan at his boyhood club Sunderland, and Craig Bellamy's proposed move to Celtic was also foundering on cost grounds yesterday. But Mancini's attempts to trim his squad does include a readiness to lose Shaun Wright-Phillips to Bolton Wanderers, despite offering grounds for the Englishman to believe he had a future at City, while on tour in the United States.
City, who may yet move for Arsenal's Samir Nasri if they believe he can be enticed away, are also viewing with equanimity quotes in the Italian media, attributed to Mario Balotelli, in which he suggested he did not like Manchester. "I am not happy in Manchester," Balotelli was quoted as saying. "I do not like the city. With my team-mates and my manager, everything is fine, but the city is not to my tastes. I miss the chance to be at home with my family and with my friends. Milan is a great team and one day, you cannot say what will happen. Inter again? We will see."
Balotelli's family had expected – and suspect – some mischief-making this summer in some parts of the Italian media, where the 20-year-old is a source of obsessive interest.
Henry, Liverpool's main owner, in Norway for the friendly with Valerenga, told the daily Dagbladet: "It's too early for us to start talking about winning the league. In my opinion Manchester United are the ones to beat. They have a good squad, and look really good. Our main goal is to qualify for the Champions League. If we don't it would be a major disappointment."