The start of our title defence. Just over three months after securing the Premier League trophy in the most dramatic of circumstances, City’s campaign to retain top spot begins and for the second time in successive seasons, the first encounter sees the visit of a newly-promoted club. Whereas Swansea were the opponents last year, a year that promised much and eventually delivered, Sunday will see Southampton visit the Etihad Stadium for their first game in the top flight for seven years.
Memories of the QPR match last May still linger to say the least, but it’s time for attention to turn towards this season and the opportunity to lift the Premier League title once again. That has to be the priority and a home tie against the unfancied Saints gives the Blues the perfect opportunity to get the season off to a flying start.
City’s home record during the last campaign was remarkable, with just two points dropped from a possible 57 and more of the same is needed this time round. Southampton will be no pushovers – nobody expects them to return from Manchester will anything so that may well give them a sense of freedom and adventure but all signs point towards a home victory.
With regards to team selection, Roberto Mancini faces a choice between sticking with the 3-4-1-2 formation that has been deployed in pre-season or reverting back to last year’s style, with four at the back. Joe Hart is likely to return to the side having missed the Community Shield as a precaution due to injury, but Micah Richards and Gareth Barry are still sidelined. Joleon Lescott is sure to replace Stefan Savic, with Gael Clichy and Aleks Kolarov battling it out for a place on the left hand side.
David Silva is expected to start on the bench and he continues to build on his fitness having returned late from the European Championships, so that could hand Samir Nasri another opportunity to thrive in the Spaniard’s absence. The strike duo of Carlos Tévez and Sergio Aguero have looked bright in pre-season and their link-up play and movement will be a feature of our play.
Here is the side Mancini could select:
The visitors secured automatic promotion to the Premier League last season and impressed with their vibrant attacking football, but many expect them to struggle this season in the top division. The likes of Adam Lallana and Ricky Lambert will be key to their hopes going forward whilst their defence will need to be on top of their game to deny our creative threats.
Referee: Howard Webb – He was in charge for five City fixtures last season and we won four of those, drawing the other.
Prediction: MAN CITY 3 – 0 Southampton – It’s always tough to predict the first game of the season, especially as Southampton are somewhat of an unknown quantity but I’d expect our extra quality to shine through. Goals to be scored by Carlos Tévez, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Touré.