New season, new manager, new hairdo – Sunderland forward Fabio Borini is refreshed and ready for the return of the Premier League.
The fixture computer has dealt David Moyes and his threadbare squad a tough assignment on the opening day, with a teatime kick-off away at Manchester City.
The game at the Etihad Stadium (kick-off 5.30pm) will be screened live around the world.
But Borini can’t wait to get back into competitive action and believes Sunderland could be playing City at just the right time.
Ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola took charge in the summer and is still honing his players into the style of play – and system – he favours.
“They have had international players away with the Euros and Olympics and some of their players may have only been back a week,” said Borini.
“They may not have the ideas straight in their head about what Guardiola wants, I agree, there is probably no better time to play against them.
“When we play against City maybe we get the extra motivation because we know they are a big club, spend loads of money and we want to show them we are not so little.
“We have done that in the past, why not now?” added Borini, who is raring to go.
“I would have started two weeks ago!
“The manager probably wants more time, but as players we are ready to start this week.
“We worked six weeks very hard and personally I cannot wait. When you work so hard without a competitive game or 50,000 fans around the pitch, you do miss it.
“Now is that time,” added Borini.
Borini believes City are title favourites – just – but is adamant Sunderland are capable of coming away with a result, despite slow progress in the transfer market.
Sunderland have only signed defender Papy Djilobodji and Manchester United youngsters Paddy McNair and Donald Love.
Borini, though, is confident Sunderland are capable of competing in the top flight and says yet another managerial change hasn’t disrupted the preparations.
“We did it before at the end of last season, playing with the same XI for a number of games. Leicester won the league with 13 players.
“If you are focused on the pitch, on what you need to do then it doesn’t matter what else happens.
“They can bring 50 players in or just one, but if you are focused and prepare and work well and listen to the manager’s suggestions then it will be fine.
“That is what we did in pre-season by getting good results against hard teams and ending unbeaten.
“We have a limited squad but that doesn’t concern us as long as we don’t have injuries or anything else.
“It is going to be fine.”
Has Moyes had the time to make sure Sunderland are ready though?
“Yeah because he came in when physically we were in a good stage, we didn’t really need to work on physical aspects, more on tactical.
“You only need time on the pitch and he did that well in France. I find it quite good and he has settled in well, I think,” added the 25-year-old forward, who scored three goals in pre-season.
The team spirit remains strong, with Borini keen to focus on the positives, including improved fitness levels.
“Everyone came back pretty fit, the staff maybe were not expecting that and it is easier to work from a good base.
“Seeing the same faces around the players and the staff helps you because it feels like a big group and a big family, a big bunch of friends and makes it feel homely.
“The positivity has been around the dressing room for a long time, even with the changes.
“It is a good feeling to have that in the dressing room,” added Borini who is sporting a new-look hairdo, after dying his hair platinum blonde.
“I did the hair before the new season because I wanted to start the season differently, a new start and new hair!” It is a striking new look and Sunderland fans are hoping for a similarly striking performance on the pitch.