Manchester City's quest to retain the Premier League starts away to Manchester City this Saturday. Can they become only the second side in history to win three consecutive domestic crowns?
Here's a thorough look at Pep Guardiola's squad and their season prospects.
What's Man City's biggest challenge? 🏔
Mainly, the Champions will have to deal with increased expectations. A domestic treble following on from a Community Shield win and led them to deem themselves "The Fourmidables" and keeping up with those standards will be a difficult task.
Progress in the Champions League will be top of the agenda for City who fell at the quarterfinal hurdle against Tottenham in last season's dramatic quarterfinal.
Rodri looks like a smart buy 🇪🇸 🥽
City's new record signing from Atletico Madrid will bring authority and technical quality to the centre of midfield for the Champions and will provide competition to the ageing Fernandinho. A club record 70m on a defensive midfielder shows just how highly Pep rates his fellow Spaniard, a man being touted as the new Sergio Busquets.
Pep Guardiola is glowing in his admiration for the ex-Atletico midfield maestro, saying "Like Michael Carrick, like [Sergio] Busquets, [the] holding midfielder. You are thinking of what is best for the team. He doesn't play to make a good performance, he plays to make it better for the others. No tattoos, no ponytails. Perfect. Normal. That is a holding midfielder.
"He's young, strong, helps us with the long balls, he's so intelligent. He learned at Atletico Madrid with [Diego] Simeone. The work he did with Simeone is going to help us a lot this season.
"I have a feeling. Sometimes, players need more time but, after a week or 10 days, we realised that guy will be nice for us."
Star quality all over the pitch 💫
Bernardo Silva has become one of the first names on Pep Guardiola's City team sheets, such has been his brilliance in the past 12 months. There were concerns that City would struggle to replace the creativity, game management and artistry of David Silva but it appears that they have a ready-made replacement with the same surname. Raheem Sterling is now living up to his potential as a prolific wide attacker and is one of the most feared players in England.
Evergreen goal-machine Sergio Agüero shows no signs of slowing down at age 31, and he'll lead the line again with able support from Gabriel Jesus as City might shuffle their pack over the duration of a taxing nine-month season. Not many teams around Europe have the option of two world-class centre forwards. Young centre back pairing John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are two of the best ball-playing defenders in the world, and they'll be tasked with setting the tone in possession.
In terms of squad depth, Riyad Mahrez looks set for more first-team minutes after Leroy Sané sustained a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury that will keep him out of action for several months. The Algerian AFCON-winning skipper is a luxury option and indicative of how good this squad is.
Portugal right-back Joao Cancelo, signed from Juventus, looks like a great piece of business Replacing Vincent Kompany's leadership qualities might be their biggest personnel issue but there are enough experienced players in the setup to share the load. Ilkay Gundogan has signed a new contract, Kevin De Bruyne is now 28 and will pull the strings for City and the brilliant 33-year-old David Silva will skipper the side in his final season at the Etihad.
It's difficult to pinpoint weaknesses in this group.
Predicted starting XI (4-2-3-1) 🧮
Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; Rodri, D. Silva; De Bruyne, B. Silva, Sterling; Agüero
Substitute options: Carson, Otamendi, Walker, Mahrez, Jesus, Foden, Gundogan
Manchester City will retain their Premier League crown but only just, as Liverpool snap away at their heels all the way until the final hurdle again. They should make the Champions League semifinals and beyond that, it's anyone's guess. Continental glory will be the ultimate goal at Etihad Stadium.
What are you expecting from Pep's charges this season?
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