The football season is upon us once more and Premier League action returns this weekend with the blues travelling to North London to face Spurs.
It feels like the Euros have only just ended and with players only returning to training a couple of weeks ago, the season has crept up on us and it starts tonight with Arsenal visiting new boy Brentford.
City, of course are the current Premier League champions, League Cup holders and played all but one of the possible games last season, but also reached the final of the Champions League for the first time.
So, how will the blues fare this year?
Is The Champions League A Priority?
City have won the Premier League for three out of the last four season and have also taken the League Cup in each of those seasons too. It has been a trophy-laden four years, but can the blues do it again?
City became the first team in 10 years to win back-to-back Premier League titles when they won the league at Brighton in 2019. That season, they became the first English team to win a domestic treble, but it is Europe’s ‘elite’ trophy that still eludes the blues.
The Champions League must be a priority for Pep Guardiola, even if it isn’t for the fans. City came so close to winning the trophy after reaching their first CL final, but failed to overcome a Chelsea side that had already beaten them twice in recent weeks.
So, are City ready to finally claim Europe’s top prize? They will face stiff opposition if they are to progress, particularly from teams in Pot 2. The blues will face one of either Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund or PSG, with the latter looking a bit frightening.
City knocked out the French side on their way to the final, however they have strengthened in the form of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, Spanish defender Sergio Ramos, Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and former Barcelona striker Lionel Messi. Along with Angel di Maria, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, PSG look like they mean business both domestically and in Europe.
But City still have the core of the team that reached the final together and a couple of extras could be enough for them to finally secure the trophy.
Although the blues are the current holders, Guardiola must be looking at the League Cup as a chance to field some of the youngsters with a view to bringing them into the first team fold. Samuel Edozie looked sharp in pre-season and got a start in the Community Shield last weekend, and he may well be in line for a cup run.
The blues are once again favourites to retain the Premier League title, but much will depend on injuries and whether or not they can add to their squad before the transfer window slams shut.
City had two main transfer targets this summer, with the first arriving last week in the form of Jack Grealish. The former England man signed for £100m as City triggered Villa’s release clause and despite the Birmingham club offering an improved contract with a larger salary than City were offering, Grealish opted against the money and took the chance to work with Guardiola and play in the Champions League.
The Harry Kane situation is still unresolved, however the striker didn’t return to training when planned and also had to isolate when returning from holiday. And with the blues facing Spurs at the weekend, it may be likely that Kane will sit this one out and complete a transfer north after the weekend.
Scott Carson has also signed on a free transfer, offering further back-up in the goalkeeping department.
Can City go another season without a striker?
While the Harry Kane saga rumbles on, questions will no doubt be asked if the blues can play again without a striker. Last season, City played most games without a recognised number 9, however, last weekend’s match at Wembley highlighted why City need a target man.
The blues have the ability to score, however they are severely limiting themselves without someone to aim crosses at. Last season, too many balls were pumped into the box only to be cleared by the defenders. A strong, physical presence is definitely needed and City need to go all out and get either Kane or Haaland to fill that gap and put pressure on the defenders.
Who are the main threats?
After signing Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea will be City’s main threat next season. The Thomas Tuchel’s side got the better of Guardiola’s blues three times last season and City will be anxious to redress the balance.
United have signed Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane and were unbeaten away from home in the league. If they can do a similar feat at home, they must be regarded as a threat, but pressure from the fans, who are still restless with their ownership, may spill into the pitch and cause problems for the reds (not that we’d complain about it).
Liverpool have signed a centre back but are still relying on the old guard of van Dijk, Salah, Firminho and Sane to fire them to glory. But with the African Cup of Nations taking place in January, Egyptian Salah and Senegal striker Sane will no doubt feature, robbing the Mersey reds of two thirds of their main attacking force.
Leicester can pose a real threat, if only they can stop losing it in the second half of the season. The Foxes start well but peter off as the season comes to a close. They have strengthened but will it be enough?
Arsenal are not the threat they once were, but without European football to distract them, they now have a chance to focus on the Premier League and force their way back into top four contention. It’s not beyond them, just as long as they stop throwing away silly points.
This may be biased and come as no surprise, but I’m predicting City to win the league, with Chelsea a close second and United third. Leicester and Liverpool to battle for fourth.
People are tipping Brentford to go down, but this year I think Burnley’s time will be up. Sean Dyche has done a remarkable job at Turf Moor, but they have been teetering on the edge for a while and I think this year they will go. I can’t see Watford doing anything and Brighton have sold Ben White to Arsenal, so I am predicting the Seagulls to join Watford and Burnley in the relegation zone.
A huge welcome back to stadiums all over the UK as fans return to support their teams. It’s been way too long so make some noise wherever you are, stay safe and enjoy the season.