Manchester City
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 04: Pep Guardiola the head coach / manager of Manchester City applauds the fans during the FA Community Shield fixture between Liverpool and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on August 4, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

Manchester City will face many challenges in their quest to once again defend the Premier League title. They will have to overcome the loss of Vincent Kompany and prepare for the loss of soon-departing David Silva. They have to improve and adjust to new roles and faces; while still playing the beautiful football all have come to expect.

However, it is the Champions League that will ultimately define this season. Pep Guardiola has not won the UCL since 2011, and Manchester City have never won it before.

But after three years together Man City has been unable to get past the quarterfinal. No matter what happens domestically it is imperative that City make some serious Champions League noise this season.

Manchester City: Champions League or Bust?

Defending the Title

Pep Guardiola and everyone at Manchester City will tell anyone how their first priority is retaining the Premier League. And to be fair, that is what Pep’s teams tend to do.

He has eight league titles in ten seasons as a manager, nobody else can sniff that kind of dominance. His style combined with the right players is too overwhelming for any league title.

However, to those who say Pep should change something about his approach or style, don’t get your hopes up. If there is one thing Pep has proven over the years is his commitment to doing things his way, no matter what anyone else thinks.

This team will dominate possession, take risks all over the field, turning their opponents into dust time and time again. It will be interesting to see which players stand out this season.

Will Kevin De Bruyne get back to his best? Will John Stones take hold of the right centre-back spot? What kind of seasons will Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus have?

Not to mention the integration of two new players, Rodrigo Hernandez and Angelino. The former is a highly touted Spanish defensive midfielder, the latter a good young left-back. It’s really hard to envision just how big of a role they could play in what is an incredibly crowded squad.

Squad Management

The toughest task Manchester City will face will be their squad management. Manchester City have 13 players to interchange between the six attack and midfield positions. How happy will Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez be coming off the bench? What happens to Ilkay Gundogan’s minutes with Rodri here to deputise for Fernandinho?

This is one of the few squads in the world where there is genuine competition at all attacking positions. Having the ability to play a different eleven every week can be both a blessing and a curse.

Having that much flexibility can keep you alive in multiple competitions. But it also keeps you from developing the rhythm and timing that can only be found by playing together week in and week out.

Juggling the fine line between rhythm and rest will be the most important aspect of Manchester City’s season. Pep Guardiola has failed to get that balance right in each of his three seasons in Manchester.

Player Development

Despite what most people on Twitter would tell you, winning isn’t the only thing Pep Guardiola and his staff are concerned with. Pep and his staff expect each of their players to take positive steps in their development each season. And there are plenty on the Man City squad poised to take a giant leap.

Those names start with Phil Foden. Guardiola has been buzzing about Foden all summer and it’s easy to see why. The smooth walking, slick ball-playing midfielder is going to take a big step next season. If Guardiola is right about him, there may an English Iniesta nickname in his future.

But he’s not the only player taking big steps this summer. Gabriel Jesus was outstanding for Brazil in the Copa America triumph. Playing out on the right, Jesus put in multiple standout performances. His best, of course, was a goal and an assist game in the final; in which he was also sent off.

He’s taking over the number nine for Manchester City this season. He wants the pressure of that shirt number; he thinks he’s ready to be relied upon for 20 or more goals a season. This is the time for him to prove it. He’s 22 years old and he should get some early season opportunities when 31-year-old Sergio Aguero is rested.

Manchester City Predictions

The easy prediction to make is that Manchester City will be one of the best teams in the Premier League. They are the favourites to win it, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they prioritized the Champions League.

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