City en­ter Pep era with Black Cats visit Fact­file of seven PL ti­tle con­tenders

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

AF­TER a four-year ges­ta­tion pe­riod, the Pep Guardi­ola era at Manch­ester City be­gins in earnest to­mor­row when his side tackle Sun­der­land in their open­ing Premier League fix­ture.

City be­gan prepar­ing for Guardi­ola’s ar­rival in 2012, when they ap­pointed his for­mer Barcelona al­lies Fer­ran So­ri­ano and Txiki Be­giris­tain as chief ex­ec­u­tive and di­rec­tor of football re­spec­tively.

Guardi­ola dis­ap­pointed City by join­ing Bay­ern Mu­nich in 2013, but the sus­pense fi­nally came to an end last Fe­bru­ary when it was an­nounced that he would suc­ceed Manuel Pel­le­grini on a three-year con­tract.

Fol­low­ing a fourth-place fin­ish in Pel­le­grini’s last sea­son, Guardi­ola is un­der pres­sure to mount a ti­tle chal­lenge.

He has re­ju­ve­nated his squad with a glut of young sign­ings, in­clud­ing John Stones and Leroy Sane, and is ex­pected to get City play­ing the kind of slick, pos­ses­sion­based game that he in­stilled in his Barcelona and Bay­ern teams.

It has been a pre-sea­son of sig­nif­i­cant up­heaval at City, who have also re-de­signed their club crest, and Kevin De Bruyne has warned that it will take time for Guardi­ola’s meth­ods to take ef­fect.

“It’s to­tally dif­fer­ent, ob­vi­ously. You see a lot of new things com­ing,” said the Bel­gium mid­fielder, who only re­cently re­turned to train­ing fol­lowed a post-Euro 2016 break.

“When you are later (ar­riv­ing) there’s a whole new thing, but I think I am get­ting most of it.

“I need some more play­ing time to know it per­fectly well. But this is nor­mal when you have lots of new things — new coach and new play­ers. We have time and it will come.”

Guardi­ola has coached at the Eti­had Sta­dium twice be­fore.

His Bay­ern team pro­duced a scin­til­lat­ing performance to beat City 3-1 in a Cham­pi­ons League group game in Oc­to­ber 2013, which then club pres­i­dent Uli Hoe­ness said was “the best football I’ve seen in my life”.

City claimed re­venge a year later when Ser­gio Aguero scored twice in stop­page time to snatch a 3-2 win.

Aguero will pro­vide the fo­cal point of Guardi­ola’s newlook at­tack.

City’s fans will have to wait a lit­tle longer for a glimpse of Sane, how­ever, with the £37 mil­lion (ap­prox­i­mately R643 mil­lion) sign­ing from Schalke nurs­ing a mi­nor ham­string in­jury.

Ger­many mid­fielder Ilkay Gundogan, signed from Borus­sia Dort­mund, is side­lined with a knee prob­lem, while Gabriel Je­sus is on Olympic duty with Brazil and Mar­los Moreno has been loaned to De­portivo La Coruna.

Stones, whose £47.5 mil­lion (ap­prox­i­mately R826 mil­lion) trans­fer from Ever­ton made him the world’s sec­ond-most ex­pen­sive de­fender, and Spain winger Nolito could be the only new sign­ings to fea­ture against Sun­der­land.

Stones’s ar­rival is timely, with cap­tain Vin­cent Kom­pany re­cov­er­ing from groin surgery and fel­low cen­tre-back Eli­aquim Man­gala out of favour.

Guardi­ola had to de­ploy a makeshift cen­tre-back pair­ing in City’s fi­nal friendly game, a 3-2 loss to Ar­se­nal in Gothen­burg, where mid­fielder Fer­nando played along­side left-back Alek­san­dar Ko­larov.

In an ex­tra com­pli­cat­ing fac­tor, City visit Steaua Bucharest on Tues­day for the first leg of their Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fy­ing play-off.

Guardi­ola has de­scribed it as “the most im­por­tant game for our sea­son”.

Re­turn­ing to Manch­ester with a lit­tle less fan­fare is Sun­der­land’s David Moyes, who filled the va­cancy at the Sta­dium of Light af­ter Sam Al­lardyce was ap­pointed Eng­land coach.

Moyes spent 10 un­happy months as man­ager of Manch­ester United and returns to the Premier League af­ter a sim­i­larly un­der­whelm­ing spell in Spain with Real So­ciedad.

He has signed young­sters Paddy McNair and Don­ald

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