Trevor Francis reckons the new Premier League campaign "may come too early" for Manchester City.
The Citizens have splashed the cash in the transfer market this summer, prising Spanish internationals Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas from Sevilla and Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho from Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk.
But new Blues boss Manuel Pellegrini, who has also landed Fiorentina's Montenegro forward Stevan Jovetic, has had minimal time with his playing squad of late after attending his mother's funeral in Chile.
Former City striker Francis believes that could mean Pellegrini's side enter their domestic campaign, which begins on August 19 in a Sky Live encounter at home to Newcastle, undercooked.
And the Sky Sports pundit says few players stated their case for inclusion for the big kick-off during City's 1-0 over South China in the semi-finals of the Asia Trophy in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
"Pellegrini could start the season not knowing what his best line-up is and it may come too early for him, which is an advantage for David Moyes, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger and Andre-Villas Boas," said Francis.
"He has been away, which doesn't help, and has just three weeks to find his best XI so he needs to play them in the next few friendlies."
On the narrow victory over South China, Francis said: "I was disappointed by City's performance and I'm sure Pellegrini will feel the same.
"The players didn't apply themselves and, James Milner aside, they went through the motions and didn't have the motivation.
"The pitch was a great leveller and wasn't conducive to good passing but I expected better and there is great room for improvement for Man City."
England midfielder Milner created Edin Dzeko's headed goal at the Hong Kong Stadium, a strike that ensured City will meet Tottenham's conquerors Sunderland in Saturday's final, live on Sky Sports 1 HD.
And Francis thinks the ex-Newcastle and Aston Villa player could be a key man during Pellegrini's first season at the helm - provided he wins his selection battle with recent acquisition Navas.
"Milner wasn't exceptional [against South China] but he played with great attitude and shows unbelievable energy," added the one-time Birmingham manager.
"Whether it's a friendly game in Hong Kong or a World Cup final, you would get the same; he is up and down that touchline and it must be an absolute joy for the full-back behind him.
"There are similarities between him and Navas, another hard-working player who gets up and down and provides crosses.
"They are a manager's dream so it will be interesting to see who gets the nod."