As ‘Super Saturday’ Olympic euphoria subsides, Manchester City supporters will be reliving ‘Sublime Sunday’ when they return to the Etihad for the first time since that fateful May 13 ‘Agueerrooooo’ afternoon.
The Champions flag will flutter proudly over the stadium amid a plethora of gold Barclays badges proudly displayed on thousands of replica shirts as City begin the defence of their title.
The campaign begins in similar vein as last season – a home fixture against newly promoted opposition. A Sergio Aguero double was the highlight of a 4-0 demolition of Swansea – a similar start against Southampton on Sunday will do just fine.
Coming off the back of a highly convincing Community Shield win against Chelsea, City are bristling with attacking intent and ready to start up where they left off – continuing the six game winning streak that catapulted them to the title.
Whether £12million new boy Jack Rodwell will feature at any stage is debatable, but either way City will be a massive odds on favourite to put Nigel Adkin’s team to the sword after the Saints’ seven year absence from the top flight.
The newly emerging 3-5-2 formation proved particularly effective against the Champions of Europe last Sunday – and that was without Lescott to partner Kompany – so it should improve even more.
Milner was a revelation in the right wing back role and, along with Richards and Zabaleta, City have real strength in depth. With Clichy and Kolarov competing on the opposite flank, the meanest defence in the Premier League is poised to become a whole lot stingier.
Whether this formation is Mancini’s Plan A or B is not yet known, it may well be deployed against teams who come to park the bus, so it could well get an airing.
Southampton’s scoring machine Rickie Lambert and the prolific Billy Sharp have well over 300 career goals between them but they’ll be hard pressed to breach a back line that conceded just 29 last season. New £7m man, Jay Rodriquez will be making his debut but the match will come too soon for proposed record buy, Uruquayan playmaker Gaston Ramirez at £11.8m from Bologna.
City are undefeated in the last 29 PL games at home (27 of them wins) but one statistic out of leftfield is Southampton have won 3 of their last 4 visits to City – but those were a long time ago.
Even with just the addition of Rodwell, City’s squad is still acknowledged as the strongest in the PL and there is the real prospect of the truly world class Daniele De Rossi arriving from Roma for £30m.
The City fans would massively prefer the consonants DDR to those of RVP and it would add real steel and unsurpassed quality to the Blues’ PL and CL campaigns.
Back to matters at hand, City’s fast fluent attacking play with Nasri, Silva, Aguero and Tevez should prove too much for the PL newcomers and a successful beginning to the quest for back-to-back Premier League crowns is virtually assured.