Premiership Champions Manchester City begin the defence of their title on Sunday with a home game against newly promoted Southampton. As ever, Roberto Mancini is playing down their chances of winning back-to-back Premier League titles by insisting that United should be regarded as favourites. He believes that the addition of Robin van Persie can only strengthen United’s challenge, the Dutch international having signed for the Red Devils after a protracted transfer saga involving City and Juventus.
Mancini’s only new signing of the summer is Jack Rodwell from Everton for a fee believed to be in the region of £12 million. Rodwell has been struggling with hamstring problems recently but could be involved in Sunday’s game. Mancini is also waiting on the fitness of goalkeeper Joe Hart who missed the 3-2 Community Shield victory over Chelsea with a back injury. Defender Micah Richards and midfielder Gareth Barry will definitely miss the season’s curtain raiser.
Mancini has made no secret of the fact that he is not happy with the lack of summer signings but insisted that City’s efforts were frustrated by being expected to pay a premium. Everyone knows that when Manchester City or Chelsea come calling, they can push for more. Even so, Mancini expects the club to do more business in the remaining week of the transfer window.
City go into their first game against Southampton as 1-5 favourites with William Hill but must face a different kind of pressure as champions. Nigel Adkins would probably not have wanted such a severe test of his side on their return to the Premiership with many pundits forecasting a thrashing for last season’s championship runners-up. Nonetheless, Adkins will try to take positives from the fixture and exploit any early-season nerves that afflict the champions. He has been building quietly through the summer with the addition of Jay Rodriguez, Nathaniel Clyne, Steven Davis and Paulo Gazzaniga. He is also hoping to complete the signing of Gaston Ramirez from Bologna within the next few days. Many regard Southampton as one of the favourites for relegation but they have built up a lot of confidence over the past couple of seasons and could prove the pundits wrong.
Adkins has insisted that Southampton will continue to play in the same entertaining style that has won them promotion. He could point to the success of Norwich and Swansea last season as an example of what can be achieved. It is a measure of the gulf between the championship and the Premier League that Bet365 are offering 16-1 about the Saints pulling off a shock win on Sunday and 6-1 against them holding out for a point.
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