We spoke with Ric Turner from Bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk and Simon Bajkowski from the Manchester Evening News, to get a proper take on Pep Guardiola’s side, see what they had to say here.
How has the summer treated Manchester City, have they had much chance to get match fit?
RT: I guess it’s been a strange pre-season for most teams, but City’s preparations have been far from ideal.
Aymeric Laporte and Riyad Mahrez both had to isolate after testing positive for Covid-19, whilst Guardiola has only just returned from quarantine after visiting Spain.
As far as I’m aware we’ve had no pre-season friendlies to get up to speed, which is a little surprising. Our last competitive game (against Lyon) was over five weeks ago.
SB: Poorly, and not really. Perhaps understandable given the state of the world but City haven’t had much of a pre-season at all and with two key players being forced to self-isolate after positive Covid tests and Pep Guardiola having to quarantine for two weeks after holidaying in Spain most of the squad will have had a week together at most.
New signings Nathan Ake and Ferran Torres should be ready to hit the ground running and there are always the more naturally fit players such as Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva, but City will be going into this one under-prepared (although it isn’t like any side has had a perfect summer).
Obviously City were handed a later start to the season, will the side have benefitted much from that in your opinion?
RT: I don’t think so, to be honest. I’m expecting a fair bit of rustiness at Molineux!
SB: In the sense that it has given more rest to the likes of Kevin De Bruyne it should but many players will have been on international duty.
I feel for Wolves not being able to get a later start given their marathon efforts last year but they are up and running already at least.
I think the later start is one of those things that will only be deemed good or bad based on results.
What sort of transfer business have we seen conducted by City this summer, and what have you made of that business?
RT: We started the window with two excellent signings in Nathan Ake and Ferran Torres. It felt like a statement of intent, but our subsequent inactivity is a cause for concern.
We haven’t really addressed some of the problems in the squad from last season.
SB: Ferran Torres and Nathan Ake look to be excellent buys. Torres should provide the threat that Leroy Sane did before he a) got injured and b) moved to Bayern Munich while Ake can both strengthen the centre of defence and also give cover on the left.
However, the pursuit of a second centre-back has stalled. City wouldn’t pay Harry Maguire’s valuation last summer and ended up looking at least one centre-back short.
They don’t appear to have learned that lesson and head into this campaign with the same issue and also the same questions at left-back. Optimism at the start of the window has faded away in recent weeks.
Obviously last season was a disappointment for City fans, with Liverpool romping home to win the PL title, what are the expectations this year?
RT: We’re currently favourites with the bookies to regain the title, but I think we could be in for a difficult season.
Guardiola’s future remains unclear (his contract expires next summer) and there are some glaring weaknesses in the squad, whilst our main rivals have all seemingly strengthened.
Thiago will be a great signing for Liverpool, whilst Chelsea have recruited well. We’re still the best team in the country on our day, but it will take a huge effort to finish above Liverpool.
SB: To win everything, as per.
City significantly underperformed last season and there is now increased scrutiny on the team and the manager to see how they respond.
Obviously, that will depend on how Liverpool and other teams fare too but the important thing will be hammering out the inconsistency.
The 4-0 win over Klopp’s side in July showed that the gap between the top two isn’t what the table suggested, but then going and losing to Southampton showed exactly why the gap was as big as it was.
What sort of starting XI can we expect to see against Wolves?
RT: Ederson, Walker, Fernandinho, Ake, Mendy, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Sterling, Mahrez, Jesus
SB: Tough to call on any given week but especially after so little pre-season.
I’d go for something like this: Ederson, Walker, Laporte, Ake, Mendy, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Torres, Sterling, Jesus
Wolves caused all kinds of problems for City last season, will Pep Guardiola have that in his thinking going into this game?
RT: You would certainly hope that Guardiola will have learnt from the mistakes made last season, but I’m not sure we’ve really addressed our defensive frailties over the summer.
Wolves’ brand of fast, counter attacking football is precisely the style of play that we struggle most with.
SB: Yes and no.
Guardiola doesn’t like to get too hung up on past games but, as the Champions League knockouts showed, he does put an awful lot of focus on opponents.
I think it will be a good early test for Guardiola and his players.
They’ve not won at Molineux so as they go out to start a campaign that they hope will bring the title back to Manchester, it’s a great opportunity for the manager to tell his squad to go out and show they’ve got the quality and belief to do that by getting a result against one of the toughest teams in the league at one of the hardest places.
What have you made of Wolves from afar, do you think they have what it takes to challenge for Europe this season?
RT: I’ve got a lot of time for Wolves, and certainly think they have to quality to challenge for Europe.
Personally I am always happy to see new teams threatening the established cartel.
That’s why it was a bit disappointing that Wolves put their name to the letter sent to the Court of Arbitration for Sport regarding City. I thought if any club could see FFP for the protectionist racket it is, then it would be Wolves.
SB: I’m not sure I’d enjoy it as much if I had to cover Nuno’s press conferences every week but I really, really like Wolves.
I think they’ve been a great addition to the league, they’ve got a clear identity, a cracking ground when the fans are allowed in and they should absolutely again challenge for the European places.
I was lucky enough to be in China last summer for the Asia Trophy and was really impressed by how much effort the club put in out there on and off the pitch.
It’s a club that seems to balance the old and new really well and gets a lot right.
Your match prediction?
RT: An entertaining 2-2 draw.
SB: I’ve said elsewhere 2-1 City so I’ll stick with that.
I think more than ever City won’t be expected to get a result so on that logic I think they may just pop up with one.