Stars unlikely to appear, but match still rich in talent

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The jerseys and crests on display today at Heinz Field are recognizable to soccer fans across the world.

The players in those jerseys? You might need a roster for that.

AC Milan and Manchester City will clash today at Heinz Field in the opening round of the International Champions Cup, an American tournament with eight of Europe's top club soccer teams.

While the overall quality of play will be far superior to what American soccer fans are used to in domestic leagues, the household names likely will remain on the bench.

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini said in a teleconference Saturday that the team taking the field today likely will be significantly different than the one he chooses to open with next month when Manchester City begins its Premier League campaign in England.

"I think it's a very important chance for [young players] to show what they can do in the upper squad," Pellegrini said. "Maybe this moment is their moment because we have five players that just arrived [Friday] off their break from the World Cup."

The five players on Manchester City's roster today who played in the recent World Cup in Brazil are goalkeeper Joe Hart (England), midfielders James Milner (England), Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast) and David Silva (Spain), and forward Edin Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina). But Pellegrini told the Manchester Evening News this week that because of their lack of training, they would not be ready to play today.

"[We had] a very youthful team against Sporting Kansas [City]," Pellegrini said, referring to Manchester City's 4-1 win Wednesday against the Major League Soccer team. "We hope that [Sunday] with AC Milan we continue the same way that we have so far."

Similarly, AC Milan's biggest stars likely will also stay off the field. The Italian side opened its International Champions Cup campaign Thursday against Greece's Olympiacos in Toronto.

Milan lost, 3-0, as stars Mario Balotelli (Italy) and Michael Essien (Ghana) watched from a private box.

Even though the superstars likely will remain on the bench, there's still plenty of world-class talent available on both teams.

Aleks Kolarov and Jesus Navas played all 90 minutes for Manchester City against Sporting KC, and Kolarov netted his team's third goal on a penalty kick. Kolarov played for Serbia in the 2010 World Cup, and Navas was one of the final players cut from Spain's squad this time around.

Another player to watch for Manchester City is Montenegrin striker Stevan Jovetic. He joined the club a year ago on a transfer from Fiorentina of more than $37 million, but a rash of injuries limited his production to just 11 appearances last season. He has been the subject of transfer rumors over the past few weeks, but could be a factor in Manchester City's attack this season.

"He's a very important player for our team," Pellegrini said. "Maybe there's a lot of rumors about his future, but Stevan will play with us here."

Milan's attack likely will be led by Giampaolo Pazzini, who represented Italy in the 2010 World Cup and has scored 17 goals in two years with Milan. Another player to watch will be wunderkind Hachim Mastour, 16, who made the team's senior squad at the end of this past Serie A season. He did not play against Olympiacos, but was available off the bench.

And even though Pellegrini will watch today with an eye toward the upcoming season, he also will keep one on the scoreboard, as well.

"... When we start the game, our mind will be just on winning that game," he said. "But I think also maybe the preparation for the game [is different] because we'll continue working the way I think is better for our team to prepare for the season."

Manchester City defender Gaël Clichy said that he has enjoyed the time in the United States, bringing the sport to a fan base captivated by the World Cup this summer.

"It's really good for us to see something like this," Clichy said. "We're used to the passion in England, but coming here and seeing people supporting the clubs, it's something amazing. It's a big competition, so like the manager said, we're here to get our fitness back, but also to win."

■ What: Manchester City vs. AC Milan, International Champion's Cup, Heinz Field.

■ When: 4 p.m.

■ TV: FS1.

■ Left: Manchester City's Bruno Zuculini scores vs. Sporting KC Wednesday night.

Heinz Field management has issued the following advisory for fans going to the game Sunday:

* Fans can enter the stadium from Gates A, B and C, which open at 2 p.m. Game time is 4 p.m.

* Parking lots open at 11 a.m. Parking is available at the West General Robinson Garage, the North Shore Garage, at parking garages downtown, Station Square and Allegheny Center.

* The North Shore connector will be operating from Downtown to the stadium.

* There will be soccer-themed activities on Art Rooney Avenue starting at 11 a.m.

* The NFL's bag policy that was implemented last season will be in effect. Fans are advised not to bring bags to the stadium. Those that do will be allowed only a small hand-held clutch or one clear, plastic one-gallon bag.

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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