This Day (Lagos)

16 August 2014

Nigeria: Man City Start Premier League Title Defence

After a not impressive performance in the Community Shield last Sunday in which Manchester City lost 3-0 to Arsena, Manuel Pellegrini's side will start their title defence with a difficult trip to St. James' Park to take on Newcastle United on Sunday as the new campaign kicks off. The Sky Blues have an excellent record against the Magpies having won nine out of the last 10 encounters. Newcastle's only favourable result came against City last year in the League Cup with a goalless draw at St. James' Park

Newcastle endured a yo-yo season last term that left fans furious with the management of Alan Pardew on the pitch. After a poor start, the Magpies then went on a run of seven wins and a draw in nine matches in November and December, reaching 40 points before seemingly giving up for the season, winning just five of their final 20 matches and scoring only 14 goals. Pardew faced boycotts, boos and banners on a weekly basis and knew he had his work cut out if he was ever to win the fans over again. Pardew has moved quickly to make a number of impressive-looking signings to strengthen his squad and challenge for a top half finish. Remy Cabella was Newcastle's biggest signing of the summer for a reported fee of £12m. He scored 14 goals from the wing last season. He'll be looking to have the kind of impact that former French wingers David Ginola and Laurent Robery had on Tyneside. Fellow new signing Siem de Jong can play in a variety of positions; behind the striker, on the wing or up front. His goal record is good without being outstanding, but it's his clever link up and team play is what will have fans excited - he's already been named Pardew's vice-captain.

The man most likely to threaten City's defence is Emmanuel Riviere, the versatile striker filled in admirably for Radamel Falcao after the Colombian star got injured for Monaco last season. Only 24, Riviere could take time to adapt to the Premier League but has the potential to develop into an exciting goalscorer. The Champions will start their title defence against Newcastle, looking to move on from their 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Arsenal in last weekend's Community Shield. City have been active in the transfer market this summer and their shrewd moves hint that they are taking their title defence very seriously. Manuel Pellegrini has added a few players to his team and is taking the axe to some of the deadwood around the club. The minimal tinkering the Chilean has done is keep a solid core of players, and enable the team that succeeded last year to continue their winning ways. The Citizens have added depth to their midfield with the likes of former Chelsea player Frank Lampard and Fernando who signed from FC Porto.

Fernando whose nickname "The Octopus," alludes to how the ball is constantly sticking to his feet from the many tackles he makes in his midfield destroyer role. Pellegrini has also added Bacary Sagna to challenge the outstanding Pablo Zabaleta at right back. The former Arsenal player was brought in by the club on a free transfer and is a great signing with his proven experience in the Premier League. Manchester City's sixth and most recent signing, centre-back Eliaquim Mangala, could be their most important one. The French international signed who from FC Porto could slot straight into the starting line-up ahead of the inconsistent duo of Martin Demicheles and Matija Nastasic. Samir Nasri, who was left out of the French national team will be City's main ingredient of creativity. City's stand out player is undoubtedly Yaya Toure. The Ivorian scored a superb 20 goals for City last season. His steady presence and prolific scoring papered over many of the hairline cracks in City's foundation, both defensive and offensive. He will be an important player for City this season and could cause a number of problems for the Magpies' shaky defence. City fans will be hoping to see the best of Sergio Aguero this season. When Aguero is fit, he is one of the most lethal strikers on the planet. The trouble is, as the Argentine national team could attest, he is not always fit. The striker scored 17 goals in 23 Premier League appearances for City last season.

The Citizen's excellent record against Newcastle in the league includes two 4-0 thrashings and a 2-0 win in the last three meetings. Newcastle will struggle to prevent City from doing what they do so brilliantly and that's destroying their opponents with ease How Manchester United will fair under new manager Louis van Gaal has been dominating headlines all summer, so it's only fitting that the Red Devils bring the curtain up on the 2014/15 campaign against Swansea City today. United looked like their former selves during pre-season, maintaining a 100 per cent record and landing the International Champions Cup in the process. While friendlies are hardly the most competitive of fixtures, the way that Van Gaal set his side out will have brought endless encouragement to United fans, who still have the embarrassment of 2013/14 looming over them. Nothing went right for the Red Devils last term, but you get the sense that a drastic reverse of fortunes is well within the realms of possibility. As Liverpool showed last season, not having European football to worry about can be an enormous advantage, and how United would love to follow in the footsteps of their bitter rivals this time around. Swansea will be hoping to spoil the Old Trafford party, but their top-flight record against the Red Devils is hardly decorated in glory. United romped to a 4-1 victory at the Liberty Stadium during last season's fixture, back when David Moyes was still considered the "Chosen One."

Van Gaal would love to start his league tenure in similar fashion but maintaining the strong performances throughout the season is where he can really prove that filling the boots of Sir Alex Ferguson is within his capabilities. The headline grabber that is Luis Suarez has been up to his usual tricks this summer, from controversy in the World Cup to departing Anfield, Liverpool just can't seem forget their former Uruguayan. Though Suarez's £75 million fee has given manager Brendan Rodgers the license to spend this summer, how the Reds will cope without last season's top scorer is one of the biggest head-scratchers in football right now. The clash with Southampton on Sunday will give the world a good clue, though, and it'll be particularly special for some of Liverpool's new arrivals. Rodgers has enjoyed a raid on St. Mary's since the transfer window opened, landing Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren from the Saints. Two of the three will likely be playing some part at Anfield against their former club, with the spotlight firmly on defender Lovren.

The 25-year-old is Rodgers' most-recent acquisition from Southampton, and the Liverpool boss believes that he's finally found the man to replace Jamie Carragher at the back for the Reds. "He is exactly what I've been looking for since Carragher left. He is a dominant, No. 1 centre-half, who reads the game well, offers good guidance to the back four and the rest of the team-and shows his qualities of range of passing too." Rodgers isn't the only one that believes as much, as Carragher himself said that Lovren is the perfect player for Liverpool-as the club's official Twitter feed revealed: The Croatian's job will be keeping his former colleagues at bay at Anfield, and he's unlikely to have much of a problem doing just that. With Lallana and Lambert now in red, the threat of goals from the Saints has decreased somewhat, and it could just be a question of how many Liverpool can put past them.

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