STUTTGART (Germany) • Manchester City's Premier League title ambitions have been given a reality check with just days to go till the start of the new season.
Manuel Pellegrini's men conceded four goals in 36 hapless minutes on Saturday as they slumped to a 2-4 defeat by Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart.
Although it was just a pre-season friendly, the shock result came against a side that finished 14th out of 18 teams in Germany last season.
Stuttgart took full advantage of a shambolic defensive first-half display by the visitors - who fielded a near full-strength back four of Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala, Aleksandar Kolarov and Bacary Sagna.
Serbian midfielder Filip Kostic opened the scoring after 14 minutes. Further goals followed from midfielder Daniel Didavi at the half-hour mark and fellow German striker Daniel Ginczek, who netted twice in the 35th and 36th minutes.
City hit back with two goals in the final eight minutes through 18-year-old Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho and late substitute Edin Dzeko.
"It's a tough game against a strong team, so it was a very difficult game but we shouldn't have lost," said Iheanacho, shrugging off the latest setback.
"Because we are the big team, quality players are playing but it's the game, you can lose or win. But I'm pleased with my performance (during pre-season). I've played in five games and I have two goals and two assists, so I'm happy."
The defeat wrapped up City's pre-season campaign, which also saw them concede four goals to Spanish giants Real Madrid.
It was also possibly Dzeko's last appearance in a City shirt, with media reports claiming that City and Serie A side Roma have agreed a fee of £14 million (S$30 million) for the Bosnian.
City have already let striker Stevan Jovetic go on loan to Inter Milan, and the 25-year-old Montenegro international suggested that all is not well at the Etihad Stadium.
"I had problems at Manchester City, but I wasn't the only one,'" Jovetic, who made just 28 Premier League appearances for City since signing in 2013, told Italy's Mediaset Premium. "Even when I was in good shape, the coach never let me play." REUTERS