MANCHESTER City may not have as big a following as their neighbours United in Asia but organisers of the club's first visit to Kuala Lumpur are confident the English Premier League champions have the power to draw the fans in.
If last year organiser ProEvents faced the logistical nightmare of flying in Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea within nine days of each other, this year it faces a problem of different kind -- how to fill the 90,000-capacity National Stadium in Bukit Jalil for City's friendly against the national team.
Arsenal return for a second consecutive year when they play Malaysia on July 24 and expectations are for a bigger turn-out than last year's 60,000 attendance before City take on the national team on July 30.
Unlike Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, who have long-established followings among Malaysians, the rise of City is a new phenomenon and there were initial fears that the City support may not be big enough to sell tickets.
While not wanting to underestimate K. Rajagobal's national team's capacity to draw in the fans on their own, ProEvents chief executive Julian Kam believes City's star-studded squad will be a sufficient attraction to neutrals as well.
"We began discussions with City to come here about a year ago because we wanted to lock in a big team early. City are probably bigger than United in Manchester though on a global stage, they are not quite as big.
"But with the quality of players they have in their squad, I think people would be interested to see them play. That star attraction should be able to draw the crowd in though we realise this is a big test for us," said Kam in a recent interview with Timesport.
There have yet to be new additions to City in the off-season but on the strength of last season's squad alone, the list of names are staggering.
Argentines Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Pablo Zabaleta, France's Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy, who incidentally were both here last year with Arsenal, David Silva of Spain, volatile Italian Mario Balotelli, brothers Yaya and Kolo Toure of the Ivory Coast, captain Vincent Kompany of Belgium and England's Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry, James Milner and Joe Hart are just some of the quality that will be on display.
"Manchester City will be here for the first time and with the owner being from Abu Dhabi, it made negotiations easier. The fact that Malaysia is the only country they are visiting in Southeast Asia means that fans from Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia will also be coming to KL to watch City.
"Another attraction is the manner in which City won the Premier League title (in stoppage time in the final game) which also means people want to see the side who denied United the title.
"It was also good that Kompany came down to launch the ticket sales and he was immediately taken in by Malaysia, saying he will definitely be back here for a holiday," said Kam, who added that ticket prices ranging from RM58 to RM388 for both matches were unchanged from 2011.
Fans will again get a chance to get up close to their favourite players with ProEvents in the midst of working out arrangements with City's 2,000-strong Malaysian fan club.
Arsenal Malaysian Supporters Club is organising a fan party for its members, who will get to meet selected players while a 'Super Gunner' video contest is underway where four winners will get VIP treatment on July 24 before flying to Hong Kong for Arsenal's friendly against Kitchee on July 29, which Kam says is already sold out.
"Of course, there will also be opportunities for fans to meet the players. The Arsenal supporters club is having a fans party while we are still working out the details for City fans," added Kam.