THE Manchester City juggernaut continues to roll on, and today they engage a team with serious ambitions of wresting the Premier League title from the Etihad.
City clash with Newcastle United, the team perched at the top of the table after the first round of fixtures last weekend.
It also comes after Pep Guardiola guided the treble winners to triumph in the Uefa Super Cup midweek.
The Citizens saw off the challenge of Sevilla when they won 5-4 in a penalty shootout. Youssef En-Nesyri gave the Spanish side the lead, only for Cole Palmer to level it with a fine header at Karaiskakis Stadium in Greece.
And if City can add the Club World Cup crown in December to the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League titles, they will have won five of a possible six trophies in 2023.
The FA Community Shield slipped through their fingers when Arsenal won on penalties at Wembley a fortnight ago.
Against the Magpies, City will be weakened somewhat by the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, who is expected to miss the rest of the year with a hamstring injury sustained in the season opener at Burnley.
But Rodri’s take on the Belgian’s injury gives us some idea as to the mindset of City’s changing room.
The influential holding midfielder said that De Bruyne is “one of the most important players for sure” and that they will miss him a lot, yet also “try to support him” through his recovery process.
Guardiola, who will almost surely turn to Phil Foden as cover, said the England international “can play there (in place of De Bruyne) but play outside as well”.
“We have alternatives in Mateo (Kovacic). The club gave me a really good squad, and we’ll find a solution.”
A question mark hangs over the availability of Bernardo Silva. The industrious midfielder-winger missed the Uefa Super Cup victory through illness.
Notwithstanding this, City will still be expected to collect three points at the expense of Eddie Howe’s young and enterprising squad.
Newcastle, who broke into the top four last season following the takeover by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the acquisition of some genuine talent, have shown clearly that they can mix it with the big guns and give as much as they take.
The start they made last weekend – a comprehensive 4-1 win over Aston Villa – will not have surprised many. And for that reason, City will be wary of a side that will cause them great harm should they become complacent.
But one can rest assured that Guardiola will not allow his charges to fall into that trap. And if anything, he will use that to motivate his players, who know what is expected of them.
Testimony to this is borne out in the five league titles won over the last six seasons, all under the tutelage of Guardiola.
Brighton and Hove Albion, who made some real money in the transfer market and got their campaign off to a winning start with the 4-1 thrashing of newly promoted Luton Town, face Wolves at Molineux Stadium today.
The Seagulls, who let star midfielder Moises Caicedo go to Chelsea for £115mil (RM680mil) last week, are playing in Europe this season, having come off their best campaign yet.
They finished sixth in the Premiership in May and will be as keen as ever to do better.
With Roberto De Zerbi at the helm, they certainly look like they could.
Wolves will have been inspired by their performance against Manchester United, who narrowly won 1-0.
And that was after Wolves dominated the game and were denied an obvious penalty late on. How new manager Gary O’Neil responds to their opener could give us some insight into what to expect from Wolves this season.
We know what to expect from Manchester City and Newcastle, and that’s why many believe that the Etihad will be the setting of a thriller today.