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Peerless Man City hunt Premier League hat-trick

There are few weaknesses in City's balanced squad, which combines title-winning nous with an enviable depth of talent.

Manchester City players celebrate a successful penalty kick in the shootout with Liverpool during their Community Shield match at Wembley Stadium in London on 4 August 2019. Picture: @ManCity/Twitter

LONDON - Manchester City have quietly gone about their business in the close-season in the knowledge they do not need radical surgery after amassing 198 Premier League points in the last two campaigns.

Champions City, who have dropped only 30 points over that period of sustained domestic dominance, were pushed all the way by a hungry Liverpool last season but held them off to win by a single point in a thrilling climax.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Basically, more of the same - it is difficult to see any side other than Liverpool preventing City from becoming the first team to win a third straight Premier League title since Manchester United from 2006/07 to 2008/09.

There are few weaknesses in City's balanced squad, which combines title-winning nous with an enviable depth of talent.

The most significant departure from the Etihad is that of Belgian defender Vincent Kompany, who has moved to Anderlecht after 11 years of sterling service, taking with him his valuable leadership skills.

Defensive midfielder Rodri, 23, has joined from Atletico Madrid for a club-record fee and Pep Guardiola will have a virtual new signing in Kevin De Bruyne, who spent so much of the last campaign injured.

The question asked at the beginning of last season was 'where do you go after winning the Premier League with 100 points'?

The driven Guardiola emphatically answered that by winning the domestic treble for the first time in English football history.

City could switch their focus to winning the Champions League for the first time, but the manager might point to their narrow quarter-final defeat by eventual runners-up Tottenham as evidence his team are not that far away from European glory.

Guardiola, whose side beat Liverpool on penalties in Sunday's Community Shield, the season's traditional curtain-raiser, is expecting Jurgen Klopp's team to be his main rivals again.

"There are two real contenders, Liverpool and us, to win the Premier League. (Manchester) United with (Harry) Maguire and the other players they bought, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham can be there," he said.

NEW FACES

What do you buy the man who has everything?

The answer is a new defensive midfielder who can give the club another option alongside veteran Fernandinho, who is 34.

Spanish international Rodri said the chance to learn from Guardiola was a vital factor in his decision to make a club-record move to City from Atletico.

"For me it's a great opportunity," he said. "It's a great team with great players in every area of the pitch. I think Pep is the greatest coach in the world and that's what made me come."

Rodri's composed style on the ball at the base of the midfield has earned comparisons with Barcelona and Spain midfielder Sergio Busquets.

KEY MAN

It is easy to forget Manchester City had to make do without Kevin De Bruyne, their player of the season the previous year, for large chunks of their 2018/19 campaign.

A clutch of injuries meant the Belgium playmaker, 28, was a peripheral figure in City's pursuit of glory, making just 11 starts in the Premier League.

But when he plays he gives City a new dimension and put in a man-of-the-match performance in the FA Cup final despite only coming on in the second half.

"We hope that we can keep him healthy, this is a guy who loves to play football and is a huge competitor," said Guardiola.

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