Star man: In this squad?! You could make a case for striking superstar Sergio Agüero, the schemers Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Bernardo Silva, tricksy wingers Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling, or the central midfield totem Yaya Touré.
On the pitch
But nothing runs quite so smoothly if the captain, Vincent Kompany, is missing. Calm and dignified, he’s still City’s main man, despite all the millions spent.
Biggest summer buy: The rampaging left-back Benjamin Mendy nearly joined Sunderland as a raw 18-year-old in 2013 but the move was hijacked by Marseille. So instead of spending four years under the tutelage of Gus Poyet, Sam Allardyce and David Moyes, he’s been mentored by Marcelo Bielsa, then Leonardo Jardim at Monaco. City are now beneficiaries of one of the great sliding-doors moments.
Breakthrough season: Gabriel Jesus scored seven goals in 11 appearances last season. Had the Brazil striker not broken a metatarsal in February, there’s an argument that City could have won the league. As things stand, he’s merely hinted at his potential, and may rattle in an absurd number this season. He’s a penalty area predator of rare quality. How high can the 20-year-old go? Robbie Fowler? Gerd Müller?
Bad boy: A toss-up between Nicolás Otamendi, never comfortable against pace and with a large collection of yellow cards to prove the point, and the fiery Fernandinho. The Brazilian midfielder got himself sent off three times in six matches last season, covering most of the disciplinary bases: persistent fouling, throwing hands during a brouhaha, and reckless tackling.
Boo boy: John Stones made three errors leading directly to goals last season, while constantly inviting pressure on City’s back line with his rococo dribbles. Patience with the £47.5m centre-back may begin to wear thin should the penny fail to drop: even Franz Beckenbauer knew to hoick it clear sometimes.
Destination Russia: Ilkay Gündogan missed Germany’s World Cup win with a back problem, and Euro 2016 with a dislocated kneecap. Having subsequently suffered knee-ligament damage, he returns this season hoping dreadful luck doesn’t come in fours.
Glass half-full: A league title would be nice, but a first Champions League is the dream. City would finally scratch the itch they’ve had ever since Fenerbahçe turned them over half a century ago, while Pep Guardiola would prove beyond doubt he can do it without Messi.
Glass half-empty: A treble for United. Or, from the manager’s point of view, for José.
Off the pitch
The manager: Pep Guardiola is in only his second year at the club, his first with a team significantly tailored to his own progressive specifications. Another year without a trophy wouldn’t be the end of the world providing significant progress is made against the big boys in Europe. He won’t hear the end of it should that happen, mind you; such are the downsides of being a superstar manager.
The owners: Sheikh Mansour, member of the Abu Dhabi ruling class and owner of a magic bottomless purse, has transformed City, to the point where they’ve finished above United for the past four years. His investments have also regenerated large sections of east Manchester.
Lloyd Scragg’s fan’s view: This should be our year, given the money spent and the overwhelming quality in the squad. The key signings are the full-backs: Walker, Danilo and Mendy. Prediction: 1st. Follow Lloyd @lloyd_scragg
Title odds 3-1
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