After a disappointing start to the season, with the team only 11th in the Premier League table back in November, Manchester City’s resurgence in form has swept away all opposition. In April, the team lifted the Carabao Cup for the fourth consecutive year after beating Tottenham Hotspur 1-0. Last night, City won the third Premier League title of manager Pep Guardiola’s five-year reign after Manchester United’s defeat to Leicester City left them ten points behind City with three games left to play.
50-year old Guardiola, who has won 31 trophies during his managerial career, has acknowledged that the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic have been extremely challenging, saying “This has been a season and a Premier League title like no other. This was the hardest one”. Now the Catalan’s attention turns to the Champions League final on 29 May when City will play Chelsea in the hope of landing a treble for the second time in five years.
Perhaps it is no surprise then that Manchester City are favourites to win the Premier League next season, with best odds of 4/5 from UK bookmaker BetVictor. The club has all the aces in the pack just now: a squad of immense talent with a relentless drive for success, Guardiola – considered the best manager in Europe – together with director of football, Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano, both of whom Guardiola worked with previously in Barcelona. The appointment of Juanma Lillo as assistant manager last June has also proved a factor in the exceptional progress made this year. The club has been owned by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi since 2008 and over £850 million has been invested in the club under the clear-headed leadership of club chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak.
Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has talked about City’s performance this season, saying “If you want to take up the challenge with them we need to strengthen our squad. Second is not a position we want to be in but we pushed them until the last 10 or 12 days of the season.”
But at the moment, pundits reckon City’s main rival next season will not be runners-up Manchester United but Chelsea. The two teams are due to play the Champions League final later this month and, based on recent form, Guardiola and his players will have a great deal of respect for their opponents. As recently as last week Chelsea defeated City 2-1 in a Premier League encounter and this follows on from Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over City in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley last month.
New Chelsea manager, Thomas Tuchel, has been instrumental in Chelsea’s renaissance. When the German moved from Paris Saint-Germain to replace Frank Lampard in January, the team was languishing at mid-table but now they have now sprung forward to reach the FA Cup Final (to be played this Saturday against Leicester City), the Champions League final and they heading for a top-4 finish in the League. Chelsea legend, Michael Essien, reckons the Blues will win the Premier League next season and says ‘They’re my first choice for the title, then it’s obviously going to be Man United, Liverpool and Man City who will be right up there with them. With the players Thomas Tuchel has got at his disposal, I think he’s got all the tools needed to challenge for the title next season”. Bookie 10Bet offers odds of 11/2 that Chelsea will win the Premier League next time round with the odds of a Liverpool win a little more distant at best odds of 13/2 from Skybet and 8/1 for Manchester United from the same bookie. The unprecedented level of injuries suffered by Liverpool players, including Jordan Henderson and Virgil Van Dyck, have had a serious effect on the team’s performance and the current odds may be considered good value, assuming key players return to the pitch by August.
Pep Guardiola is ready to embrace the challenge from his Premier League rivals next season, having agreed with Al Mubarak to extend his contract to summer 2023. In the meantime, there is the small matter of the Champions League final to win. And the opportunity to share the Premier League win with up to 10,000 fans when Manchester City play their final home game of the season, against Everton, on 23 May. The trophy will be presented to the champions and, this year, captain Fernadinho will share the honour of lifting the trophy with Sergio Aguero, who is leaving after ten years at City, to acknowledge the Argentinian’s immense contribution to the club.