One of the most exciting parts of any football season is the opening set of fixtures, especially in the Premier League, as it gives the fans and the media their first chance to get a glimpse of new players and new managers in competitive action. Of course, they have also had all of pre-season to take a gander at player and management changes, but as we know, judging on pre-season can be a risky business. So, as such, more focus is placed on the early competitive fixtures, especially at bigger sides.
Once again this season, all eyes will be on Manchester City as people look to see how they recover from the disappointments of last season, with new players and a new manager in Manuel Pellegrini. The Blues finished 11 points behind neighbors United in the title race last campaign and also succumbed to defeat in the FA Cup Final against Wigan Athletic, to add to the woes of last season. Just days after the deserved loss at Wembley, Italian manager Roberto Mancini was sacked by the board of directors at City and was replaced by Chilean boss Manuel Pellegrini, formerly of Real Madrid and Malaga.
Pre-season has been a relatively successful affair for Pellegrini’s new team, with a 5-3 win over AC Milan being the highlight of the friendlies while signing Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo from Sevilla, Fernandinho from Shakhtar Donetsk, and Stevan Jovetic from Fiorentina. Blues fans are confident ahead of the new Barclays Premier League season, starting with their opening game on Monday night against Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium.
Manuel Pellegrini is among a trio of new managers at England’s top three clubs - Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea - and much of the focus going into the new season is being placed upon the three new men as their progress at their new jobs will be closely monitored going into the league campaign. Pellegrini seems to have taken well to his new role and looks set to challenge David Moyes and Jose Mourinho for the title in the coming months.
One of the weaknesses outlined in pre-season was a leaky defense, which conceded twelve times in just seven pre-season outings. Matija Nastasic’s injury during the Barclays Asia Trophy last month, which will rule him out for several weeks, has not helped to plug the gaps, and City will need to make sure these problems are fixed before the Newcastle game on Monday. Several center-backs have been linked with a move to the Etihad as the Blues now only have Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott fit. Players like Pepe and Martin Demichelis are two such defenders targeted by Manchester City, but so far there have been no permanent moves.
As a City fan, I am very optimistic about the upcoming season, and I feel we can mount a serious challenge for the title despite the return of Jose Mourinho to Stamford Bridge. Manchester City have made some very good signings this summer and have looked good in pre-season despite their four losses. There also seems to be a lack of pressure being placed on Manuel Pellegrini, especially from opposition fans. This means there will be less unrest if he doesn’t start particularly well in the City dugout, and this could help him if they do get into that struggle.
However, if City are to mount a challenge for the title again this year, then they need to have a good start, beginning with the game against Newcastle on Monday night. Whilst Newcastle may not have brought in too many players in the transfer window so far, they could still pose a threat, as they have done in recent times. Strikers Papiss Cisse and Loic Remy could prove to be difficult to handle for City’s defenders, with both having proved themselves in the Premier League over the last couple of years. Upfront is where the major threat will come from Newcastle, but should City nullify it, their task could be made a whole lot easier.
It’s no secret that City’s attacking players possess a vast quantity of talent, and this has been shown on many occasions over recent seasons, especially by the likes of players like Sergio Aguero. These players have torn apart Premier League defenses countless times, and I get the feeling they could be in line to do it again on Monday night. As good as some of Newcastle’s defenders are, the attackers for City should prove too hot to handle and seriously pay off in the Blues’ favor.
On paper, this game looks like it should be a fairly routine victory for Pellegrini’s men, but as we know, football isn’t played on paper, and we might get an unexpected result in Monday’s fixture. I may be biased, but I am personally predicting a three or four goal winning margin at the Etihad, as I don’t feel Newcastle have strengthened enough, whereas City are much stronger than they were last season. However, this is the Premier League, so who knows what’ll happen?