Empowered by a close-season transfer splurge of some £200 million ($264.8 million, 233.5 million euros), Manchester City are the early favourites to topple Premier League champions Chelsea.
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Pep Guardiola endured a bruising first season in English football as City failed to challenge for the title, eventually finishing 15 points adrift of Chelsea in third place.
The club reacted with a glut of new signings — three new full-backs in Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo, plus goalkeeper Ederson and playmaker Bernardo Silva — and now look a force to be reckoned with.
“I think Manchester City are the team to beat,” said Manchester United great Ryan Giggs in a recent Sky Sports column.
“I looked at them towards the end of last season and the forward players they’ve got is scary.”
While City shimmered in attack, they frequently looked vulnerable in defence and resculpting the back four has been Guardiola’s main priority.
Brazilian Ederson replaces the error-prone Claudio Bravo in goal, while dynamic pair Walker and Mendy will add thrust on the flanks after becoming the world’s two most expensive defenders.
City also have John Stones and Eliaquim Mangala on their books, giving them four of the most expensive defenders ever, but with total spending in the league having exceeded £900 million, Guardiola is unrepentant.
“I would like to pay less for the club, for everybody, but the market is the market,” said the City manager.
“All the clubs spend a lot of money — not just us.”
– Mourinho’s second season –
Across town at Manchester United, Guardiola’s old sparring partner Jose Mourinho is also looking to kick on after ending a difficult debut season with a silver flourish.
United finished outside the top four for the third time in four seasons, but secured a Champions League berth by winning the Europa League and also tasted glory in the League Cup.
Mourinho’s teams traditionally peak in his second season and he has strengthened in each department with the acquisitions of Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku.
Mourinho won the league in his second seasons at Porto, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, as well as in both of his stints at Chelsea, but he expects this season’s title race to be an almighty scrap.