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Manchester City season preview - predictions, fixtures, summer signings, starting XI

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Manchester City ahead of the start of the 2020-21 Premier League season.

For the first time since 2017-18, Manchester City go into a new Premier League season as challengers rather than champions after surrendering their title to Liverpool last term.

Pep Guardiola's side finished 18 points off the pace but are still regarded as favourites to regain their crown this season by most bookmakers.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at City ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.



How did they fare last season?

Manchester City midfielder David Silva celebrates with teammates after scoring against Newcastle on July 8, 2020© Reuters

Below expectations.

Man City went into the 2019-20 campaign as firm favourites to win a third straight Premier League crown at the very least, having amassed a staggering 198 points over the previous two seasons combined.

However, by December they had already dropped more points in 2019-20 than they had in both of those two previous seasons and they went on to finish a whopping 18 points adrift of champions Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola's side lost nine times throughout the campaign - more league defeats than he had ever suffered in a single season throughout his managerial career before that - and that included losses to Norwich City, Southampton and home and away against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The title was officially surrendered with defeat at Chelsea on June 25, a record seven games before the end of the season, although they did bounce back from that with a cathartic 4-0 win over the newly-crowned champions in their very next match.

It was not an entirely disastrous season, though; Man City won a third successive EFL Cup, finished as top scorers and still amassed 81 points - a tally which would have been enough to win the title in six previous seasons.

However, compared to their standards of the previous two years it was a sharp drop-off, and that extended into the other cup competitions too as Guardiola's side were knocked out in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The latter was particularly galling as they were stunned by underdogs Lyon, having knocked out Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate in the previous round.



Biggest improvement needed

Lose fewer games.

It may sound like an obvious suggestion, but Man City easily outscored Liverpool last season and only conceded two more than the champions, ending the campaign with a goal difference 15 greater than Jurgen Klopp's side.

However, they also ended the season 18 points adrift, largely due to their tally of nine defeats - the same number as seventh-placed Wolves suffered.

Seven of those losses came on the road, although they were off the pace of Liverpool both home and away.

Outside the Premier League, success in the Champions League remains the great objective.



Manager: Pep Guardiola

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on July 2, 2020© Reuters

Regarded by many as the best manager in the world, Pep Guardiola has enjoyed success wherever he has gone during his trophy-laden managerial career so far.

Winner of two Champions Leagues and eight domestic titles in three different countries, Guardiola has taken English football to new heights since arriving in 2016 and his Man City teams still boast a number of all-time top-flight records.

A fifth season at the helm means that Guardiola has spent longer with Man City than at any previous club, although his contract is currently due to expire at the end of the campaign.



Key player: Kevin De Bruyne

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne pictured on June 17, 2020© Reuters

In a team full of star names, Kevin De Bruyne still manages to stand out above everyone else for Manchester City.

Arguably the Premier League's best player and quite possibly the best midfielder in world football, the newly-crowned PFA Player of the Year equalled the record for most assists in a season last term by setting up 20 goals for his teammates.

De Bruyne also got his own name on the scoresheet 13 times, directly contributing to more goals than any other player in the top flight.



Summer transfer business

Nathan Ake signs for Manchester City in August 2020© Manchester City FC

In
Yan Couto (£5.4m, Coritiba)
Issa Kabore (£4.1m, KV Mechelen)
Ferran Torres (£20.7m, Valencia)
Nathan Ake (£40.8m, Bournemouth)
Ruben Dias (£61.2m, Benfica)

Out
David Silva (free, Real Sociedad)
Leroy Sane (£40.5m, Bayern Munich)
Luke Bolton (loan, Dundee United)
Fisayo Dele-Bashiru (undisclosed, Sheffield Wednesday)
Issa Kabore (loan, KV Mechelen)
Ko Itakura (loan, Groningen)
Aleix Garcia (released)
Claudio Bravo (free, Real Betis)
Jack Harrison (loan, Leeds United)
Gavin Bazunu (loan, Rochdale)
Yeboah Amankwah (loan, Rochdale)
Angelino (loan, RB Leipzig)
Arijanet Muric (loan, Girona)
Pablo Moreno (loan, Girona)
Yan Couto (loan, Girona)
Marlos Moreno (loan, Lommel SK)
Nicolas Otamendi (£13.5m, Benfica)
Luka Ilic (loan, Twente)
Patrick Roberts (loan, Middlesbrough)
Joel Latibeaudiere (undisclosed, Swansea City)
Matt Smith (loan, Doncaster Rovers)

Man City total spent to date: £141.1m
Man City total received to date: £54m

Man City net transfer balance: -£87.1m




Squad

2. Kyle Walker (DF)
5. John Stones (DF)
6. Nathan Ake (DF)
7. Raheem Sterling (MF)
8. Ilkay Gundogan (MF)
9. Gabriel Jesus (FW)
10. Sergio Aguero (FW)
11. Oleksandr Zinchenko (MF)
14. Aymeric Laporte (DF)
16. Rodri (MF)
17. Kevin De Bruyne (MF)
20. Bernardo Silva (MF)
21. Ferran Torres (MF)
22. Benjamin Mendy (DF)
25. Fernandinho (MF)
26. Riyad Mahrez (MF)
27. Joao Cancelo (DF)
30. Nicolas Otamendi (DF)
31. Ederson (GK)
32. Daniel Grimshaw (GK)
33. Scott Carson (GK)
34. Philippe Sandler (DF)
47. Phil Foden (MF)
49. Arijanet Muric (GK)
50. Eric Garcia (DF)
- Patrick Roberts (MF)



Possible starting XI

MNCXI



Fixture list

Man City's season will get off to a delayed start due to their involvement in the latter stages of the Champions League, with their opener against Aston Villa being postponed to leave a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers - against whom they lost twice last season - as their first game.

Leicester City visit the Etihad Stadium in Man City's first home game of the campaign, and they will welcome champions Liverpool to their own patch in November too.

Their trip to Anfield is part of a difficult February which also sees them face North London duo Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal in succession, while the Manchester derbies are scheduled for December and March.

City end the campaign at home to Everton, where they will hope to dethrone Merseyside's other top-flight club in the title race if they have not already.

Manchester City's Claudio Bravo reacts after Wolverhampton Wanderers' Raul Jimenez scores their second goal on December 27, 2019© Reuters

SEPTEMBER

12: Aston Villa (h) POSTPONED

19: Wolves (a)

26: Leicester (h)

OCTOBER

3: Leeds (a)

17: Arsenal (h)

24: West Ham (a)

31: Sheffield United (a)

NOVEMBER

7: Liverpool (h)

21: Tottenham (a)

28: Burnley (h)

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling in action with Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka on March 8, 2020© Reuters

DECEMBER

5: Fulham (h)

12: Man Utd (a)

16: West Brom (h)

19: Southampton (a)

26: Newcastle (h)

28: Everton (a)

JANUARY

2: Chelsea (a)

13: Brighton (h)

16: Crystal Palace (h)

26: West Brom (a)

30: Sheffield United (h)

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring against Liverpool on July 2, 2020© Reuters

FEBRUARY

2: Burnley (a)

6: Liverpool (a)

13: Tottenham (h)

20: Arsenal (a)

27: West Ham (h)

MARCH

6: Man Utd (h)

13: Fulham (a)

20: Wolves (h)

APRIL

3: Leicester (a)

10: Leeds (h)

17: Aston Villa (a)

24: Southampton (h)

Chelsea players celebrate Willian's goal against Manchester City on June 24, 2020© Reuters

MAY

1: Crystal Palace (a)

8: Chelsea (h)

12: Newcastle (a)

15: Brighton (a)

23: Everton (h)



Prediction: 2nd

Man City are favourites to lift the Premier League title this season, but the big question mark remains over whether the addition of Nathan Ake is enough to plug the gaps which cost them so much last season.

Aymeric Laporte staying fit would certainly help in that regard, but just as the departure of Vincent Kompany proved to be even more significant than many anticipated, David Silva's exit could also have a big impact on and off the field.

At the very least Man City will expect to run Liverpool a lot closer this season and it would be a surprise if they lost anywhere close to nine games again, but it is hard to ignore that 18-point gap from last season and their summer business may not have been enough to bridge it, particularly with Champions League glory still the number one priority.


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Manchester City players celebrate during their Premier League clash with Huddersfield Town on January 20, 2019
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Friday's key events


ATHLETICS
· The athletics schedule begins, with 100m sprinter Dina Asher-Smith among the names in action on the opening day. The men's 10,000m final concludes the action, with Team GB's Sam Atkin and Marc Scott taking part in the absence of 2012 and 2016 champion Sir Mo Farah (1am-2.30pm)

ROWING
· Victoria Thornley is Team GB's representative in the women's single sculls final (1.33am)
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SWIMMING
· Team GB duo Molly Renshaw and Abbie Wood take part in the women's 200m breaststroke final, but new Olympic record-holder Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa is the hot favourite (2.41am)
· Luke Greenbank has very realistic ambitions of picking up a medal in the men's 200m backstroke final (2.50am)
· There is also British representation in the women's 100m freestyle final, although any medal for Anna Hopkin would be a surprise (2.59am)
· With one gold and one silver already under his belt at these Games, Duncan Scott goes again in the men's 200m individual medley final (3.16am)

TRAMPOLINE
· Bryony Page will be looking to repeat her 2016 heroics in the women's event (5am-7.30pm)

CANOE SLALOM
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FOOTBALL
· The women's tournament enters the quarter-finals, with Great Britain facing Australia at the Ibaraki Kashima Stadium (10am)

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