The ultimate Man City season preview: Haaland offers hope of fulfilling Champions League dream

Erling Haaland Pep Guardiola Champions League GFXGetty/GOAL

You have to back 14 years for the last time a team won three successive Premier League titles but Manchester City are ready to give it a good go.

While some may have concerns that City are turning the Premier League into a monopoly, the reality is the rivalry with Liverpool is only intensifying and only their best will see off Jurgen Klopp's side for a fifth time in six years.

Pep Guardiola has allowed influential senior players to leave the squad with Raheem Sterling heading to Chelsea and Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko both switching to Arsenal.

But that has been counter-balanced by beating top clubs in Europe to the marque signing of star striker Erling Haaland while Kalvin Phillips and Julian Alvarez will bring a freshness and energy to the squad.

It could mean City's approach looks slightly different, but who would bet against Guardiola getting it right once again and delivering yet more success?

  • julian alvarez manchester city america amistoso 20072022Logan Riely/Getty Images

    Squad Goals

    City have been searching for a striker since club legend Sergio Aguero left and in Haaland they have managed to recruit the most exciting young striker in world football.

    The thought of players like Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish providing opportunities for such a deadly marksman is mouth-watering, although Guardiola is trying to play down the Norwegian's hopes of making an instant impact, insisting the 22-year-old needs time to adapt after joining from Borussia Dortmund.

    The one missing piece in the jigsaw is at left-back, a position that City were always short in even before Zinchenko left the club.

    Joao Cancelo has been outstanding in the role but with Kyle Walker the only other senior full-back, City look like they need more cover and, after withdrawing from the race for Brighton's Marc Cucurella, will look for an alternative before the transfer window shuts.

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    The Hopes

    City have reached a level where they are expected to challenge for every trophy on offer every single season, so targets will be set high once again.

    The Champions League trophy has remained frustratingly out of reach and to finally claim their 'Holy Grail' would be the culmination of an extraordinary period at City for players such as De Bruyne, Kyle Walker and Ilkay Gundogan, who have gone close so many times in the past few years.

    But they won't take their eyes off the Premier League and will expect another huge challenge from Liverpool as they aim for a 'three-peat'.

    Expect the title to be won by a team reaching more than 90 points again, and that will mean Guardiola pushing his side to the maximum to hold off the relentless Reds.

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    The Fears

    Like most club managers, Guardiola worries about the demands put on his players when they are away on international duty and the mid-season World Cup will be an unknown.

    No club on the planet sent more players to the 2018 World Cup than City and they will be heavily represented at Qatar 2022.

    With players from Germany, England, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Belgium and Portugal expected to go far in the competition, the Premier League champions will hope they escape without too many injuries.

    At least Haaland and Riyad Mahrez are guaranteed some time off ahead of the second half of the season.

  • Erling Haaland Manchester City 2022Getty

    The Hero

    Plenty of players have gone on to become superstars at City, but the signing of Haaland was a real statement by the club to show where they now sit in world football.

    With European giants like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United chasing him, the striker chose the Etihad Stadium as his next destination and there is understandable excitement at attracting such a player.

    His figures at Dortmund were simply phenomenal, with 85 goals in 88 appearances, so Guardiola was understandably delighted to land a player that could quickly become a club legend.

  • Klopp Guardiola

    The Villain

    There is only one person stopping City's dominance at the moment and that's Jurgen Klopp. The German has built a brilliant squad at Liverpool and will be again City's biggest rivals.

    Finish above the Reds and you are more than likely to claim the Premier League title but there's no signs it's going to get any easier, as the Community Shield curtain-raiser showed.

    Anfield remains the toughest destination on the calendar and it would be a blessing if City could avoid making the 30-mile journey westwards in the Champions League.

    But there remains a great respect between Klopp and Guardiola, with both coaches pushing their sides on to greater heights.

  • Cole Palmer

    NXGN Player to Watch

    One of the reasons that Guardiola allowed Sterling and Jesus to leave the club was the emergence of Cole Palmer.

    The 20-year-old forward from Wythenshawe is a supremely gifted talent and has impressed the City boss and his coaches in training.

    Palmer got his opportunity last season and looked more than at home alongside his stellar team-mates, scoring his first goal in August and he later got his first in the Champions League.

    "Prem soon come" was his answer when asked about a league goal after a brilliant performance in the FA Cup and there's a good chance his prediction will prove correct.

    Expect him to follow a similar path to Phil Foden with a slow integration, picking up minutes and appearances here and there on his way to becoming a regular.

  • Guardiola Champions League

    Last-chance Saloon

    As it stands, Guardiola has his final shot at winning the Champions League with his contract finishing at the end of the season.

    Everyone at the club hopes that the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach will extend his seven-year stay even further.

    "We're achieving great things together and this conversation will be had at the right time, at the right pace, and with the pace, time and framework that works for Pep," chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said in May.

    The Champions League is the one trophy Guardiola has yet to win at City and his critics will label his time at the Etihad a failure if he does not deliver European success.

    Only he knows if this will be his last crack at the trophy with City, but his team will undoubtedly kick off their continental campaign as one of the favourites, having reached the final and semi-final in the past two years.

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    How Are The Fans Feeling?

    With Guardiola in possession of a settled squad brimming with quality, most City fans are confident that their side will be challenging for silverware again.

    The arrival of Haaland as well as Alvarez and Phillips has added to the sense of anticipation ahead of the new season with the possibility of City scoring even more goals.

    The only concern is the lack of a left-back but a specialist will hopefully arrive before the close of the transfer window.

    Of course, Guardiola has previously succeeded without a fully balanced squad – first being short of a centre-back, and then a central striker.

    The addition of a new full-back would finally give him cover and quality in all positions, putting Pep in a perfect position to finally land the trophy he and City crave more than any other.