Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
James Milner says opponents will lift their game against Manchester City this season.
James Milner says opponents will lift their game against Manchester City this season.

Retaining the title will be 'twice as hard' for Manchester City

James Milner says Manchester City knows that every team the defending champions play will be aiming to knock them off.

James Milner, Manchester City's England international, expects it to be even tougher for the club to defend the Premier League title than it was for them to win it.

The task of keeping hold of the trophy they won in May begins on Sunday for City when they get their 2012/13 league campaign under way by hosting promoted Southampton.

Asked if he thought staying at the top was harder than getting there, Milner said: "I can't speak from experience because I haven't had that pleasure, but I'm sure it is.

"Everyone says that. You're there to be shot at and teams are going to come for you.

"It's up to us to keep on improving and not rest on our laurels. We are working harder in training, everybody wants to get better and the competition for places is there.

"Being champions is a great feeling but it will be twice as hard to retain [the title].

"Teams will now lift their games even more than they did before so it will be a tough experience, but hopefully we'll keep improving as a team and doing well."

Milner says the memories of last season's triumph and having the tag of champions may help boost City this term, but thinks the real key will be down to hard work.

"Winning is a habit - you want to win matches and you want to win trophies," Milner said.

"You gain that belief and I think we gained a lot of belief from winning the FA Cup [in 2011], which gave us the belief to go on and win the Premier League.

"Winning the Premier League is not easy. There are a lot of top teams in there challenging so it's a fantastic achievement.

"But it's an even bigger test to go out there and do it again, so it's down to us to keep working hard."

Nigel Adkins, the Southampton manager, knows there are few tougher opening fixtures than a trip to City but is relishing the challenge of trying to upset the English champions.

Just three years after teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, the South Coast side are back in the Premier League after a seven-year absence.

Adkins led Saints to back-to-back promotions from League One and now faces the unenviable task of trying to overcome Roberto Mancini's men at Etihad Stadium.

"What a great, great fixture," Adkins said. "Southampton against Manchester City, away from home, the first game of the season, the league champions.

"They have started pre-season ever so well again they're the benchmark for everybody now. They are the team that everyone has got to go and catch.

"On paper one would expect Manchester City to win the game, but, as we all know, we don't play on paper. We've got to go there with a belief that we can go and win the game."

Southampton will need some of that belief if they are to prosper not only today but in their opening four fixtures, which includes a trip to Arsenal after welcoming Manchester United to St Mary's.

"What a fantastic start. You drool over that," said Adkins. "You've got Manchester City away, Wigan at home, Manchester United at home and then Arsenal away.

"They are massive, massive challenging games, but games we should relish.

"That is what we're in football for."


twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 The seventh edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament was kicking off at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday with plenty of excitement in store. Ravindranath K / The National

In pictures: IPL 7 kicks off in Abu Dhabi

The first match in the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, between Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders, was held at Zayed Cricket Stadium amid plenty of colour.

 Al Rayyan's Yakubu Ayegbeni, left, tries to escape the attention of Jazira's Khamis Ismail. Karim Jaafar / AFP Photo

Late strike qualifies Al Jazira for last 16 of Asian Champions League

A dramatic late goal gave Al Jazira a 3-2 victory at Al Rayyan of Qatar in the Asian Champions League (ACL) on Wednesday night and it was just enough to push Walter Zenga’s side into the knockout stages.

 Zayed Cricket Stadium had not witnessed so electrcic an atmosphere before Wednesday evening. Pawan Singh / The National

Packed house gathers in Abu Dhabi for Indian Premier League opener

In less than half a day, Zayed Cricket Stadium witnessed the force that is Indian cricket, with the sound drowning out the controversies that have dogged the Twenty20 tournament, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 Lionel Messi of Barcelona looks down after being defeated during the Copa del Rey Final between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at Estadio Mestalla on April 16, 2014 in Valencia, Spain. David Ramos/Getty Images

Plenty of life still in Barcelona, says Gerardo Martino

Barcelona coach maintained his side can still return to their former glories after they were beaten 2-1 by a Gareth Bale-inspired Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

 Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton, left, and Nico Rosberg at the official press conference following qualifying for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 15, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. Mark Thompson/Getty Images

F1: Toto Wolff says Mercedes have all the right ingredients in place

With Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the wheel, Mercedes have so far dominated the first three grands prix going into this weekend’s fourth round in China.

 Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, left, reacts as Manchester City's manager Manuel Pellegrini looks on during their English Premier League football match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on April 16, 2014. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. AFP PHOTO/Andrew YATES

Poyet says ‘I am sure that Luis Suarez is going to be happy’ after Sunderland draw at Manchester City

Sunderland’s survival chances remain slim because now they face Chelsea away at the weekend but manager Gus Poyet insists they are not trying to benefit Liverpool or his fellow Uruguayan, Luis Suarez.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National