Following their first Premier League triumph, Manchester City step into the new season as champions and not keen on letting go of their grip on the title. They host newly promoted Southampton, who could not have asked for a tougher opening day opponent.
The Etihad Stadium was a place of joy on the final day of the 2011/12 season as Sergio Aguero’s last minute winner against QPR saw City fans delirious. In a closely fought race with rivals Manchester United, the blue half of Manchester was left smiling and now the Premier League is waiting to see if City can do the same. There is no doubting the strength of their squad, to which they have only added Jack Rodwell from Everton, but they could potentially do with strengthening their backline.
Captain Vincent Kompany will be the bedrock of the club, having signed a new six year deal this summer, and Joleon Lescott is adequate company. The City fans would love to see world-class players in every position and the signing of a brand new centre back will almost guarantee the title. Roberto Mancini signed a new five year deal with the club too and the main priority is not only to challenge on a domestic scale, but to make sure they improve European performances.
Their title defence begins against Southampton, a team who have performed remarkably to get from League One strugglers to the top-flight. The Saints went up through automatic promotion last season, finishing second to a Reading side who went on a run of form to fire them to the title. A seven year absence has left the club hungry for the Premier League and with the Cortese family backing manager Nigel Adkins financially, they have the squad to keep themselves in the league.
Jay Rodriguez has been the big summer acquisition, moving for £7m from Burnley, and Adkins has strengthened his side with the signing of Northern Ireland midfielder Steven Davis and young right back Nathaniel Clyne from Crystal Palace. Southampton’s forward line is young and talented with Rickie Lambert epitomising the progression from lower leagues to the big time. Lambert’s goals fired Southampton to back-to-back promotions and Adkins will need his tall striker to continue in the same vein of form.
City started their campaign last season with a 4-0 win at the Etihad Stadium over another newly promoted side in Swansea.