Citizens will be early favourites

Sterling scored 20 league goals for Guardiola’s side last season.

MANCHESTER City’s build-up to the start of the new Premier League season has been a mix of both good and bad.

And for that reason, the favourites for the title will surely approach their opening fixture at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sept 21 with a greater degree of caution.

Their match scheduled against Aston Villa today has been postponed due to their late run in the Champions League last season.

Kevin De Bruyne was at last proclaimed the 2020 Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year and that would have given their star drawcard a massive lift, as well as the team itself.

But the confirmation that winger Riyad Mahrez and central defender Aymeric Laporte have tested positive for Covid-19, and the indiscretions of young Phil Foden will have dampened the spirits around the Etihad somewhat.

Mahrez and Laporte are reportedly observing self-isolation and are expected back in time for the Wolves clash – albeit with little or no training prior to the game.

Foden’s fate has yet to be decided by manager Pep Guardiola, if indeed he will take any action against the player who was expelled from the England set-up while on international duty in Iceland.

When things do get underway, there will be fair amount of interest taken in the performances of 20-year-old Spanish winger Ferran Torres, who arrived from Valencia in a £20.8mil (RM115mil) transfer as a potential replacement for Leroy Sane – the German opting to return to his homeland.

Nathan Ake’s £40mil (RM220mil) signing from Bournemouth should attract more attention though. It is this department that has been City’s weakest for some time.

It wouldn’t have helped much either to hear that efforts to bring in the highly-rated Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli to shore up the back-line have stalled, according to some reports.

Guardiola would also have been irked by the news that 19-year-old wing-back Eric Garcia wants to return to Barcelona – a player who many say has tonnes of potential to rise to the top of the sport.

Notwithstanding the bad news, Guardiola will almost surely turn to the tried and

tested star, led by De Bruyne, Argentine striker Sergio Aguero (when he is fully fit), attacking midfielders Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva, defensive midfielders Rodri and IIkay Gundogan, right-back Kyle Walker and Brazilian goalkeeper Edersen.

This is the squad, perhaps with one or two more additions, that many believe will win the Premier League again this season. And I do, too.

It would be a fifth league title for City in just 10 years.

Shaun’s Top Four Picks:

1. Man City

2. Liverpool

3. Chelsea

4. Man Utd

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