Pep Guardiola talks up Man City’s title challenge

Pep Guardiola is convinced Manchester City will make a stronger challenge for honours this season.

City have spent more than €230 million rebuilding their squad over the summer after an underwhelming and trophyless 2016-17 campaign.

Guardiola has particularly strengthened in defence, bringing in three younger full-backs in Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, and Danilo, and a new goalkeeper in Ederson — as well as signing midfielder Bernardo Silva.

With the core of the squad also likely to be better after a year attuning to Guardiola’s methods, the Spaniard has high hopes.

He said: “I think if you see the team last season and this season, (from) the four (pre-season) games we played, the fundamentals are the same. But we cannot forget that when we do something better than last season it’s because we’ve been one year together.

“Hopefully the work we did last season — when being champions was not possible — we can see it this season because the work is done.”

“The fundamentals are completely the same. We try to make a good build-up, try to do high pressing, monopolise the ball, move the team through the ball, attack outside and inside.

“The difference is the quality of the players.”

Guardiola stressed this was not a slight on the players that had left but rather he wanted to lower the squad’s average age. “For just the age... I have a lot of respect for the players I had. I never complained for one bad game or bad defeat.

“Of course now the full-backs are younger, they have energy in their legs and we are going to use them. Kyle is so energetic, Mendy is such an energetic player, Danilo too.”

Ederson is likely to face extra scrutiny following the problems of Claudio Bravo last season. Guardiola wants a goalkeeper comfortable playing out from the back, but one also strong on fundamentals such as shot-stopping.

“He wants me to keep doing the same style of game, starting the build-up,” said the €40m keeper. “He said that as of now I’m going to have more options in the build-up, to play both short and long balls.

“I don’t think there’s extra pressure on me. I know it’s a big responsibility considering I have become one of the most expensive goalkeepers but that doesn’t influence me.”

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