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Manchester City takes over BMO Field in advance of Toronto FC friendly

05/26/2015 07:52 EDT | Updated 05/26/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Manchester City took over BMO Field for an open practice Tuesday evening, putting its stamp on the venue in advance of Wednesday's friendly against Toronto FC.

A promo for the City app flashed around the advertising hoardings. TV spots for the English Premier League runners-up flashed on the big screen. The club logo and Etihad Airways sponsor were also prominently displayed.

As the City players prepared to take the pitch on a gorgeous evening, team officials used tape to meticulously mark off a mini-field across the middle of the field.

Captain Vincent Kompany then led out a travelling squad featuring such stars as Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure, England goalkeeper Joe Hart and Spanish midfielder David Silva. Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, the Premier League's leading scorer, was due to arrive later.

Manchester City wrapped up its Premier League season Sunday with a 2-0 win over Southampton before jetting to North America. City leaves for Houston after the Toronto game to play the Dynamo on Thursday. The English team then heads to New York to take in sister club New York City FC's match with Houston.

Fans clad in City light blue sang songs and cheered their stars during the evening practice, imploring their favourites to acknowledge them during warmups and then ooohing and aahing each goal during the ensuing scrimmage.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini met the media beforehand in a five-minute exchange that drew some personnel-related questions from a travelling English reporter.

"I never knew about any debate about my future," Pellegrini said when asked about it.

Pellegrini's team, champions in 2013-14, finished second to Chelsea this season with a 24-7-7 record.

The lanky Chilean also said he expected Toure, who has been the subject of interest from Inter Milan, to remain with the club.

Pellegrini was diplomatic about MLS, saying the league is improving every year.

Both teams will have to manage their personnel amidst hectic schedules. Toronto FC, which defeated the Portland Timbers 1-0 last Saturday, hosts the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney said he plans to rotate his squad but reminded anyone listening that the friendly has a serious side, given Toronto (4-5-1) still is learning to make connections on the field.

"While we're there to enjoy ourselves and it's a little bit of desert maybe for the fans to see a great team in Man City and see our guys out there competing as well, we have to try to get something out of the game," he said after practice Tuesday at the club's training centre. "It's not just to go kick about."

Expect captain Michael Bradley to see some playing time. Italian star Sebastian Giovinco is also expected to make an appearance despite a heel bruise.

Youngsters Quillan Roberts, Jordan Hamilton and Jay Chapman will likely play for Toronto. Goalie Joe Bendik, recovering from a foot injury that has kept him out the last six games, could see some time on the pitch if he shows well in practice before the game.

Vanney said fullback Mark Bloom (back spasms) and midfielder Collen Warner (hamstring) are unavailable.

Forward Bright Dike, currently on loan to San Antonio, can play Wednesday although he cannot join the team for league action until July.

Vanney isn't sure whether the visitors will have "the foot fully on the gas" after a long season. But he expects a tough challenge anyway.

"They're world-class players, they're going to do phenomenal things," he said.

Said Pellegrini: "I don't think that the teams will play as a final but I think we can see a beautiful game."

Practice ended with the City players throwing mini-footballs into the crowd.

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