Fresh from its FA Community Shield victory, Manchester City heads into the latest chapter of Premier League with the aim of defending its title once again.
Facing West Ham United in its league opener, Guardiola’s City will also kick start its quest of becoming only the second team to claim a third successive title in the Premier League era, Manchester United being the only team to have achieved it so far.
In three years of Guardiola's reign, City has managed to book itself a place among Europe's best teams, firmly establishing itself as a Champions League regular.
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Although it didn't match its previous record-best total of 100, City accumulated 98 points last season and also achieved a joint-best record of 32 wins, staying ahead of fellow title contender Liverpool by a point and finishing the season on a high. But, the club now faces the challenging task of replicating its stellar performance.
City is undoubtedly a title contender this season, however, it remains to be seen if it would be able to do it in a similar manner, simply because it is hard to maintain high levels of performance over 38 games, and factors like fatigue, injuries and fate cannot be controlled.
Guardiola's men will be wary of Jurgen Klopp's side, which came as close as one gets to kissing the winner's medal. But even the third-best points finish (97) in the league's long and illustrious history was not enough to get the Reds over the line, which just showed how monumental last season's title challenge was.
In the build-up to its campaign this year, Guardiola made two big signings in the transfer window as the Citizens welcomed Joao Cancelo and Rodri from Juventus and Atletico Madrid, respectively.
Signed for £60 million, Cancelo arrived at Etihad as Danilo moved the other way. An attacking full-back, Cancelo can also play at left-back and move up the pitch with ease. Known for his deliveries from out wide and remarkable athleticism, he fits the player profile needed at City, according to Txiki Begiristain, the club’s director of football.
As for Rodri, whose transfer fee (around £62.8 million) surpassed City’s previous record of £60 million for Riyad Mahrez last year, he comes in as a long-term replacement for 34-year-old Fernandinho. The price tag may seem hefty but with an impressive reading of the game and ability to break up opposition attacks, Rodri’s valuation in today’s market seems rather justified as the Spaniard is considered one of Europe’s most exciting prospects.
Amidst two big deals, City, however, failed to land defender Harry Maguire as a replacement for club legend Vincent Kompany who returned to his boyhood club Anderlecht, which means it heads into the season with a wish unfulfilled. Kompany would be missed, but for now, Guardiola will stick to John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of defence.
City will continue its possession-based style of play — for it is bloody brilliant at it — but what the team would need to be cautious about is not awarding space in behind for the opposition to exploit, while it enjoys all that possession high up the pitch.
With Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva, City has an attack like no other, and the ‘Shark Team’ looks all but ready to prey on the 19 opponents yet again.
Premier League fixtures
10: West Ham United v Manchester City
17: Manchester City v Tottenham
24: Bournemouth v Manchester City
31: Manchester City v Brighton and Hove Albion
14: Norwich City v Manchester City
21: Manchester City v Watford
28: Everton v Manchester City
5: Manchester City v Wolves
19: Crystal Palace v Manchester City
26: Manchester City v Aston Villa
2: Manchester City v Southampton
9: Liverpool v Manchester City
23: Manchester City v Chelsea
30: Newcastle United v Manchester City
3: Burnley v Manchester City
7: Manchester City v Manchester United
14: Arsenal v Manchester City
21: Manchester City v Leicester City
26: Wolves v Manchester City
28: Manchester City v Sheffield United
1: Manchester City v Everton
11: Aston Villa v Manchester City
18: Manchester City v Crystal Palace
21: Sheffield United v Manchester City
1: Tottenham v Manchester City
8: Manchester City v West Ham United
22: Leicester City v Manchester City
29: Manchester City v Arsenal
7: Manchester United v Manchester City
14: Manchester City v Burnley
21: Chelsea v Manchester City
4: Manchester City v Liverpool
11: Southampton v Manchester City
18: Manchester City v Newcastle United
25: Brighton and Hove Albion v Manchester City
2: Manchester City v Bournemouth
9: Watford v Manchester City
17: Manchester City v Norwich City
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