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Manchester City: Destined to Retain Premier League Title in 2018/19?


Manchester City were a class above their domestic rivals last season, finishing 19 points clear of closest challengers Manchester United. Pep Guardiola's men were simply sublime, breaking a number of long-standing Premier League records including most points (100), most goals scored (106) and the biggest deficit to second place. Many believe that City's efforts last season rank as the greatest domestic campaign in top-flight history and it is hard to dispute that belief on statistics alone.

Guardiola himself has stated that toppling last season's exploits is 'almost impossible' ahead of the 2018/19 campaign and you'd have to make him right. Retaining the Premier League crown should be City's main priority this season; anything else is a bonus. It is always harder to defend the title than winning it the first time and England's top clubs will be looking to displace City at the top of the table. Liverpool, in particular, have gone all out in the transfer window to try and topple the Blues in 2018/19.

As the title holders, the onus is on City to defend the crown this campaign. Neutrals will be expecting the Blues to fend off their title rivals over 38 matches; clawing back a 19-point deficit is going to be very difficult indeed. There was no real need for Guardiola to invest heavily in the transfer window but the Blues moved to sign Riyad Mahrez, voted the PFA Players' Player of the Year in 2015/16, from Leicester City. He is a gifted footballer and Mahrez offers a different option in the final third to that of Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling.

From Zeroes to Heroes: City's Defence Now Up There with the Best

City are set defensively and making too many changes would be foolish. Fabian Delph did a superb job for the Blues last season but he may lose his place once Benjamin Mendy is fully fit. Mendy missed most of 2017/18 through injury and he is a more conventional option at left-back; you won't find too many City fans tipping Delph to start over the former Monaco man. With Kyle Walker plying his trade on the opposite side of the pitch, City are blessed with two of the best full-backs in the business.

Ederson Moraes was exceptional in 2017/18 and some fans believe that he should have been included in the PFA Team of the Season over Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea. Since arriving at the Etihad Stadium, Ederson has matured into a competent option at the osition and Guardiola has been full of praise for his shot-stopper. Ederson's compatriot Alisson Becker will be Liverpool's top option between the sticks this season and that added rivalry could spur the City man on as he looks to win the starting spot for Brazil.

And then we have the central defenders. Vincent Kompany has had his fair share of injury issues to deal with over the years but he remains one of the best defenders on the planet when fully fit. Guardiola has a plethora of defensive options to choose from alongside the Belgium stalwart; John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte are all capable of slotting in. This defensive unit will form the basis for City's success going forward.

David Silva isn't getting any younger but he remains a pivotal figure for City and Guardiola has no immediate plans to replace the Spaniard. He has been central to City's success since moving to England in 2010 and the 32-year-old may see a reduced role. Saving Silva for the big games will be a priority for Pep, especially when the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Mahrez can fill the void. Silva is a fan favourite though and simply shunting him aside will not go down well with the Etihad faithful.

Goals, Goals, Goals: Attacking Style The Key To Pep's Success

In the wider areas, Sterling and Sane are two of City's most important players. The former received some unfair criticism during England's incredible World Cup journey whilst Sane was overlooked by Germany boss Joachim Loew. The Germans came to rue that decision when they crashed out in the group stages, much to the delight of City supporters. Expect both men to shine under Guardiola once again this campaign; it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Sane and Sterling top 20 Premier League goals.

The hardest question in this City side: who do you start in attack? Guardiola is a big fan of Gabriel Jesus but Sergio Aguero's goal scoring record since moving to England is something else. The former is your more typical Guardiola centre-forward but Aguero is a City legend and he is always capable of scoring a goal. Fitting both men into Pep's usual system is hard and one may be sitting on the bench for most of the campaign. Opting to select on form and form alone may be the best option for Guardiola in 2018/19.

Fortunately for City, they have a relatively straightforward start to the campaign. An away trip to Arsenal on the opening weekend is hardly ideal but a run of fixtures against Huddersfield Town, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Newcastle United, Fulham, Cardiff City and Brighton & Hove Albion gives Pep's side a chance to build momentum. That trip to Newcastle is a potential banana skin but most fans are expecting the Magpies to struggle this season; Oddschecker have tipped Rafa Benitez's side for relegation this campaign.

With that in mind, City could be sitting pretty on 19 points after seven matches. The Blues are going to be very difficult to stop this season and plenty of punters will be backing Pep's men to prevail in their pursuit of back-to-back Premier League titles. Getting off to a fast start is key here; the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United will all be looking to pile the pressure on City's shoulders in the early exchanges. Guardiola rarely feels pressure though and City are well placed to cope with the initial onslaught.

Liverpool Still Not Quite on City's Level

Liverpool have gone big in the transfer window to try and reduce the gap but City are still well equipped to keep Jurgen Klopp's side at bay. The Reds have enough quality to put City under pressure but backing an overhaul at the top of the Premier League table would be foolish to say the least. Manchester City are some way clear of their rivals on paper and it would take a brave man to back against the Blues in their pursuit of domestic glory. We could see City dominate all the major honours in 2018/19.

Manchester City have no obvious weaknesses and that bodes well for future success. On the whole, Pep's squad is young and hungry to succeed at the highest level – City could be about to dominate the Premier League for a considerable period. The Etihad Stadium fans almost expect success these days and it is hard to play down their chances of defending the title after such a dominant 2017/18 campaign. Watch this space, City are going to be right in the mix once again; it is their title to lose.

Are City going to top the 100-point mark this campaign? Probably not. For Guardiola, the top objective is Champions League glory. The club appointed Pep with the prime intention of winning Europe's elite club competition and City have shown glimpses of challenging since the Spaniard arrived at the helm. This could be their time to shine on the biggest stage of all but defending the Premier League crown is also an absolute must. Falling short after winning the title by 19 points last season would be bitterly disappointing.

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