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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 19 August 2018

Premier League preview 2018/19 - Manchester City: More history on horizon for Guardiola's dominant squad

Richard Jolly is analysing all 20 teams competing in the Premier League and giving his verdict on how they will fare. Here he looks at if the champions can retain their crown

Pep Guardiola faces the challenge of trying to improve on Manchester City's record-breaking season. EPA.
Pep Guardiola faces the challenge of trying to improve on Manchester City's record-breaking season. EPA.

Lowdown: The Premier League is the most competitive of Europe’s top leagues. Or so the theory went before City won it by 19 points last season.

Repeating such unparalleled dominance will not be easy – not least when City’s huge World Cup contingent may not be ready for the start of the season – but City look well equipped to keep their crown.

After overhauling the squad in the previous two years, it is now about evolution more than revolution, with City making a solitary signing.

Riyad Mahrez increases the forward options for a club who scored 106 goals last season but who are likely to face plenty of packed defences.

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Key player: Kevin de Bruyne – But for Mohamed Salah’s extraordinary season last year, De Bruyne would surely have added the individual honours to the team awards. The World Cup offered further evidence of the quality of a player who has reached new levels under Pep Guardiola. He manages to be both driving force and classy passer.

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Manager: Pep Guardiola – If the Catalan’s first season in England was the toughest of his managerial career, his second was a resounding success, bringing two trophies and a flurry of records.

His time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich shows Guardiola has a habit of retaining league titles and carrying on improving players.

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Talking point: How do City get better? After getting 100 points, perhaps they do not need to. Yet there are areas where a perfectionist like Guardiola may eye potential progress.

Having Benjamin Mendy fully fit will give him a specialist left-back this season while more can be expected of Aymeric Laporte, in his first full campaign.

Perhaps John Stones, excellent in the first half of last season, can build on his terrific World Cup, and reduce the reliance on Vincent Kompany while the ages of Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane indicate that they can get better again.

Prediction: 1st.

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