Can Anyone Take the Fight to Manchester City Next Season?


Last season was the crowning moment in the history of Manchester City Football Club. Ever since their money-spinning Abu Dhabi-based takeover back in 2008, The Blues have aimed at becoming the very best team in world football. Last term, they finally achieved their goal. 


For the fifth time in six seasons, Pep Guardiola’s unstoppable winning machine claimed the Premier League title. They were pushed all the way by Mikel Arteta’s upstart young Arsenal side however, in the end, the Gunners ran out of steam, and City capitalized to maximum effect. Fast forward a couple of weeks and the Etihad club added the FA Cup to their collection, defeated cross-city rivals Manchester United in the Wembley showpiece to boot. 


When City took over on that dramatic day 15 years ago, they immediately brought in Robinho from Real Madrid and proclaimed that their aim was to win the UEFA Champions League. It may have taken them longer than they wanted, but last season, they finally achieved their goal. Back on June 10th, City met Inter Milan in Istanbul to contest the final, a final they would narrowly secure victory in courtesy of Rodri’s second-half strike. 


After never-ending heartache on the continental stage, City finally climbed the European summit. Now, however, they aim to stay there. Let’s take a look at the clubs looking to knock them off their perch, both in the Premier League and further afield. 

Domestic Contenders 

Next term, Manchester City should be battling it out with a familiar foe for domestic honors. Throughout the course of the last five years, the Blues have been neck-and-neck with Liverpool, battling it out for the Premier League title on three occasions as well as meeting in a Champions League quarterfinal. Last term, Jürgen Klopp’s Reds had to endure a disappointing campaign and could only manage a fifth-place finish while their usual rivals went on to secure a coveted treble. 


The Merseysiders have strengthened considerably throughout the summer transfer window, however, and one can expect them to contend for honors once more. They have finally strengthened their midfield, a bolstering that has been due for years. RB Leipzig midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai has arrived for €70m while Argentina World Cup Winner Alexis Mac Alliser has arrived from compatriots Brighton for a bargain-looking €42m. 


Elsewhere, Arsenal have also strengthened, aiming to go one better than they did last term as well as being contenders on their return to the Champions League. West Ham United captain Declan Rice has joined the club for a whopping €116m in a deal that has impressed many pundits and experts. Chelsea’s Champions League winner Kai Havertz and Ajax fullback Jurrien Timber have also headed to the Emirates Stadium for a combined €115m. 


While Liverpool and Arsenal are the immediate challengers, both Manchester United and Chelsea will be aiming to narrow the gap. The Red Devils have been steadily improving under Erik Ten Hag, while Mauricio Pochettino will be looking to implement the tactics that saw him turn Tottenham Hotspur into Champions League finalists at Stamford Bridge. 

Continental Challengers 

There are always plenty of contenders aiming to take home the famous ‘Big-Eared’ trophy that one claims when they win the Champions League. Immediate pressure will come from two of those aforementioned domestic rivals, namely Manchester United and Arsenal. With Liverpool missing out on qualification last season, many will be wondering whether those two can take the fight to City on the continental stage. England’s fourth and final team dining at the most elite dinner table in world football next term will be Newcastle United, who secured a return after two decades away. 


From around the rest of the continent, it’s hard to see anyone who will be able to stop City from claiming a second consecutive Champions League crown. French Champions Paris Saint-Germain are in turmoil. Lionel Messi has left the club, Neymar could well follow suit and Kylian Mbappé looks dead set on sealing a move to Real Madrid, either for a nine-figure fee this summer or on a free transfer next. 


And speaking of Los Blancos, they don’t look primed and ready for yet another assault on the Champions League. They were dismantled by City by an aggregate score of five goals to one in last season’s semifinals and to make matters worse, their talismanic captain Karim Benzema has left on a free transfer to Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Ittihad. They have however forked out €103m to bring in English prodigy Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund, and there will be plenty of pressure on the 20 years old’s young shoulders. 


Spanish Champions Barcelona were unable to make it out of the group stages last season and they too are a team in transition after losing stalwarts Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. German Champions Bayern Munich stumbled their way to an eleventh consecutive Meisterschale last term and they will need to strengthen significantly should they have a chance at glory. Meanwhile, Italian champions Napoli were dumped out in the quarterfinals last season by AC Milan. 


As such, it seems like the City’s domestic rivals will be their biggest threat on the continent as well. But it’s no surprise that online bookmakers currently make The Blues the overwhelming favorites to secure yet more silverware next term. 

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