Guardian writers’ predicted position 1st (NB: this is not necessarily Will Unwin’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)
Last season’s position 1st
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker) 13-18
Winning the Champions League is the focus for City, although anything less than top spot domestically will be a disappointment for a team aiming to set higher standards each season.
Pep Guardiola has shaken things up a bit and acquired something akin to a traditional No 9 in the form of Erling Haaland. He is the man to make the difference in those tight European matches and gives City an option they have lacked since Sergio Agüero was at his best. Winning trophies is what City do nowadays and doing it in style is the only way.
Despite the comings and goings, Kevin De Bruyne will still be the focal point of everything in the team and his performances will be critical to City’s chances in all four competitions. The Belgian dragged City to the Premier League title last season and will be hoping for a little more support from his teammates this time around.
Liverpool’s evolution and improvement will keep City on their toes and will ensure there is, at the very least, a two-horse race for the title. City embrace the challenge and there is never any doubting they will rest on laurels, they will be hoping to do better than last season and have the tools to do so. When you are used to dominating, letting up is not an option and the additions of a few new faces should re-energise a team at the top of their sport.
There is not much new to say about Guardiola. He will demand perfection and anything less will leave him furious. A backroom staff shake-up has been required after the departure of assistant Juanma Lillo to Qatari club Al Sadd. The former West Brom midfielder Enzo Maresca left his role as Parma’s head coach to return to City as the Spaniard’s replacement after previously working as the club’s Under-23 head coach. It should bring a few new ideas and a different voice in the dressing room to freshen things up. Guardiola is starting his seventh season in charge at the Etihad, more than many were expecting when he took the job in 2016 and will be desperate to add a fifth Premier League title. He has allowed Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus to leave but he will be optimistic their replacements can surpass their achievements.
City’s tiny flaws in recent seasons have been clear for all to see: they have lacked a clinical striker. The club thought they were going to miss out on Haaland to Real Madrid partway through last season so will be very pleased to see him at the Etihad. He has suffered a number of injuries in recent times but when he is on the pitch rarely does a game go by without him scoring. The Norway international is only 22 but has plenty of experience in the Champions League and Bundesliga, so City will be confident he can hit the ground running in England.
World Cup impact
It is going to be a quiet month at the Etihad Campus. As with all elite clubs the majority of City’s squad will decamp to the Middle East in hope of being able to return to Manchester with some form of bragging rights. Gareth Southgate will almost certainly call up five City players. That big guy Haaland will be kicking about though and Scott Carson can ensure they can at least put out a team at The Pits in Ardwick once a week. They start back on Boxing Day away to Leeds, who will have enjoyed a more peaceful month off.
Alternative attractions during World Cup
If you are missing football then why not travel to the National Football Museum in the city centre. Afterwards, you can have a gluhwein and novelty-sized bratwurst at one of the plethora of Christmas market stalls to get you in the mood for another World Cup match.
Leading the shirt sales
It is quite hard to be more popular than Kevin De Bruyne in east Manchester. For seven seasons he has astounded fans with his range of passing, driving runs and ability to rifle shots in with either foot from distance. If he carries on the same vein for another couple of seasons he will join his former teammates by having a statue erected at the Etihad once he departs with a plethora of medals in his rucksack, which he hopes will include a Champions League triumph sooner rather than later.
Jack Grealish. The England winger always seems to be having fun on his social channels. From grabbing Carson on the Premier League trophy parade after a shandy to going viral for being lovely to fans, Grealish knows what the public want and there is lots of general lighthearted banter from the Brummie. He has racked up millions of followers across the big three socials as his stock rises with the champions on and off the pitch. Who wouldn’t want to see Grealish doing a jig on the Etihad pitch while Louis Theroux raps? Jiggle jiggle.
If City were a Netflix doc …
Jack Grealish: The Holiday. City have already done their lovely and shiny doc a few years back and no one wants to see that again. Grealish would make enjoyable viewing but his PR team might not allow too many scenes to air. It would probably end up being five minutes at the airport before taking off for Las Vegas followed by his private pre-season of dribbling topless in the sunshine.