Can the Premier League champions repeat the feat? Can they become kings of Europe?

Last Season: 1st
In: None

Out: Vladimir Weiss (£3.5m, Delfino Pescara), Wayne Bridge (Loan, Brighton & Hove Albion), Owen Hargreaves (released), Stuart Taylor (released)

If they were an Olympian: Peter Wilson. Like City, Britain's Olympic Double Trap champion owes much of his success to a wealthy Middle-Eastern businessman.


Logic suggests that Manchester City should retain the Premier League with minimal difficulty. The club sauntered through the first third of the season; blowing teams away with an expansive and devastating style that culminated in an unforgettable 6-1 victory at Old Trafford. Yet the remainder of the season indicates that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it will be far from a procession for City even with the pressure of winning a first title off their shoulders.

Manager Roberto Mancini's pre-season preparations have not been entirely satisfactory as was made clear when he made a series of unsubtle references to the club's sluggish movements in the transfer market. This was further exacerbated when earlier this week Mancini intimated that long term target Robin Van Persie would be unlikely to join.

There is a clear contrast in priorities between Mancini and those above him. Mancini wanted to have his squad in place in plenty of time for the start of the season which begins in just over a week, with Community Shield match against Chelsea this Sunday. This now seems unlikely, although the pursuit of Daniel Agger seems to be picking up pace but City are baulking at Liverpool's £27m valuation. A deal involving serial bench warmer Adam Johnson has been mooted.

While Mancini chases Van Persie and Agger, his superiors have been more focused on removing players from the club's bloated wage bill, most of whom are the remenants of Mark Hughes' rein at the club. Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz are still on the wage bill, costing the club in excess of £300,000 a week in wages. Both are happy to leave but understandably there are few clubs willing to pay such exorbitant salaries and the pair are unwilling to take a pay cut. Wayne Bridge has left for Brighton but his wages will be heavily subsidised by City. Adebayor's prospective move to Tottenham seems to have stalled due to Spurs being unwilling to match his wages and pay a £5m fee to City. A move still seems likely but will most likely go down to the wire.

City have two clear aims this year. Retain the title and make a significant impact on the Champions League. The club should benefit from being promoted to a second seed in the draw for the group stages which should improve their chances of progression, though they could still face either Barcelona or Real Madrid.

For City to realise these goals, the squad will have to be carefully managed as the burnout that David Silva suffered last season, as well as the Carlos Teva saga nearly derailed the club's title bid. For all the talk of City's strength in depth, like every other team they are still heavily reliant on certain individuals and long term injuries to Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure or Silva would be hugely detrimental.

Even if both Santa Cruz and Adebayor are sold, City still have a strike force which cost them in excess of £100m. How Mancini goes about keeping Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Tevez happy will be interesting. Aguero is the only one who can be totally confident of his place and the other three will be competing to play alongside the Argentine, who finished the season with 30 goals. Although Tevez's return from his 4 month strike was a catalyst for City's title charge, it seems that his relationship from Mancini is far from fully healed.

Realistically City should win the league but their two closest rivals have so far strengthened more than they have. United have brought in Shinji Kagawa and are seemingly closing in on Van Persie, not to mention having Nemanja Vidic back from injury and Paul Scholes available from the start of the season. Chelsea too have spent big whilst City have yet to add to their squad.

United's record for bouncing back after losing their title is exceptional and only one other side have successfully retained the Premier League title, with Jose Mourinho's Chelsea achieving it in 2005/2006.

City could retain the league this year but  Mancini will want to make an impact on Europe where his record with both City and previous club Inter Milan is poor. If City can progress through the group stages in Europe and still be in touch at the top of the league then they have every chance, however the perils of retaining the Premier League, especially with Sir Alex Ferguson desperate to silence his "noisy neighbours", means it may well be a bridge to far.

Predicted Finish: 2nd

Key Man: Sergio Aguero. Any number of City players could be picked out here as Hart, Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva are all essential to City's ambitions this year but Roberto Mancini's hopes of retaining the title and winning the Champions League rest largely on Sergio Aguero's shoulders. With 23 league goals last season, Aguero will be expected to improve on what was a hugely impressive debut season. A good bet to be named player of the season.


Underrated: Gareth Barry. In a team of superstars and egos Gareth Barry quietly goes about his work. Still maligned by many for allowing Mesut Ozil skip past him in Bloemfontein 2 years ago, Barry was one of City's most consistent performers last term and one of the first names on Roberto Mancini's team sheet for big games. Barry provides a balance to midfield alongside Yaya Toure and his lack of pace is rarely exposed due to his excellent positional play. Barry was immense in the 1-0 victory over Manchester United at the Etihad in May which set City on the way to glory.


Watch out for: It is hard to see any youngsters or unknown players being given any great playing time this season. So we'll just say to look out for a young Italian striker called Mario Balotelli, he can be quite entertaining from time to time...