Sport: Will Man City win the Premier League 2022/23? Five reasons to back Pep Guardiola's champions, from signing Erling Haaland to unleashing Jack Grealish

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  Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich result: Erling Haaland debut goal decides match at Lambeau Field Erling Haaland scored on his Manchester City debut and it proved the game-winner against Bayern Munich as the Premier League champions return home with two wins on their U.S. tour. Big matches await both teams next weekend.The match was interrupted by a lightning delay just one minute after the Haaland goal and when it resumed 55 minutes later, Haaland returned to the field. He almost scored a second goal had it not been for a last-ditch sliding tackle by a Bayern center back.

Manchester City marked the 10th anniversary of Sergio Aguero's final-day heroics with another improbable turnaround to snatch the Premier League title in May.

Pep Guardiola's side were 2-0 down inside the final 15 minutes against Aston Villa before Ilkay Gundogan's goals either side of a Rodri stunner inspired unbridled delirium at the Etihad Stadium.

Thanks to Netflix, we're now all well-versed in the terminology around Michael Jordan's era-defining Chicago Bulls. Can City become the only team alongside neighbours Manchester United to pull off a "three-peat" in the Premier League era? And will this be Guardiola's "last dance", given his contract expires at the end of the season?

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There's been an uncommon amount of close-season upheaval when compared to other summers of the Catalan's tenure, but the evidence of recent weeks shows a team and a manager revitalised, ready to push on and breach new ground.

With Saturday's Community Shield clash against Liverpool on the horizon, here are five reasons to expect City to retain their title.

Haaland, Haaland!

In terms of teammates showing their enthusiasm for a new arrival, City's players singing the chorus of Borussia Dortmund's terrace chant for Erling Haaland during a team dinner on the recent tour of the United States was pretty emphatic. For all City's well-documented spending, Haaland is the first ready-made superstar of the Guardiola era. If it all clicks, the results should be truly frightening.

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Even if it doesn't completely — the experiences of Robert Lewandowski and Sergio Aguero show that even the most successful strikers under Guardiola have to go through a range of teething problems — City can expect a considerable uplift. Gundogan was their top scorer when they won the 2020/21 Premier League title with 13 league goals, while Kevin De Bruyne topped the charts with 15 last time around.

Haaland's formidable record in front of goal means he should overhaul those figures with relative ease, with his poacher's effort after 12 minutes of his first appearance in sky blue against Bayern Munich at Lambeau Field a tantalising glimpse of what is to come.

MORE: How will Erling Haaland fit in at Man City? Will he be Pep Guardiola's top earner?

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Kevin De Bruyne fit and firing


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After needing painkilling injections to take part in Belgium's Euro 2020 quarterfinal loss to Italy, De Bruyne limped into last season as something of a husk. It took until some time after the midway point for him to reach anything like top gear. However, the master playmaker then fired himself into player-of-the-year conversations.

Before the March 6 Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium, De Bruyne made 28 appearances across all competition, 22 of which were starts, scored seven goals (xG 4.13) and provided seven assists from 69 chances created. He scored twice in the first half of a 4-1 win over Manchester United and, from that point, he went into overdrive. In his final 15 games, De Bruyne scored 11 times (5.25 xG) and chipped in with seven more assists over that shorter period from 54 chances created.

"Last preseason, he arrived in bad conditions because of injuries. He took a long time to get his best condition, but the start of this season was the opposite,"  Guardiola reported from City's preseason tour. "We saw in sessions he's sharp and strong and he continued with the same level as last season, it was his best season in terms of scoring goals and he's started really well." It serves as a chilling warning to the rest of the league.

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Jack Grealish SZN

For all Guardiola's frequent praise of his contribution to City's overall play, Jack Grealish's first season as the club's record signing underwhelmed as he chalked up just six goals and four assists in the country's most free-scoring team. The England international being left on the bench for key matches such as April's home game against Liverpool, both legs of the Champions League semifinal with Real Madrid and the finale versus his old employers Villa was also notable.

However, Grealish certainly looked in the mood this preseason, relishing his link-up with Haaland and De Bruyne on City's US tour where he was the standout performer. Lewandowski, Aguero, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo are among the numerous examples of players who have taken a leap forward in their second season under Guardiola's management. Expect Grealish, already a very popular member of the dressing room, to do the same.

Alvarez and Phillips: New signings made to measure

As discussed, Haaland might have a similarly mixed acclimatisation period, but City's other preseason arrivals certainly look made to measure. Julian Alvarez caught the eye in his first City runout against Club America, with his link-up play, eye for a pass and rabid pressing amounting to something like the archetypal Guardiola forward.

Erling Haaland greedy for goals, ‘a bit s—‘ in not completing hat trick

  Erling Haaland greedy for goals, ‘a bit s—‘ in not completing hat trick Erling Haaland was upset to see the final 25 minutes of Man City's 2-0 win over West Ham not include an Erling Haaland goal. Keep in mind he subbed off with 12 minutes to play. [ MORE: What we learned from West Ham 0-2 Man City ] “It’s about 30 minutes since I scored my last goal, so I have to keep going,” Haaland said. The 22-year-old Norwegian was a menace in his first Premier League match on Sunday, winning and converting a penalty before latching onto an incisive Kevin De Bruyne pass for a combination that seems likely to be as repeated as any in the league this season.

Alvarez cut his teeth under Marcelo Gallardo at River Plate, a coach for whom Guardiola has a deep admiration. The same can be said for Brighton and Hove Albion boss Graham Potter, doing much to explain City's pursuit of their Spanish left-back Marc Cucurella. In Kalvin Phillips, City have signed the standout player of Leeds United's era under Marcelo Bielsa, one of Guardiola's key mentors.

Phillips, Alvarez and, if he arrives, Cucurella all have schoolings that suggest they can hit the ground running at City. They will need to do just that after the departures of valuable servants Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

MORE: When is Julian Alvarez joining Man City? Transfer fee, playing style and career titles so far

Sadio Mane leaving Liverpool

Much has already been made of the potentially titanic centre-forward battle between Haaland and Liverpool's new signing Darwin Nunez, with each of the Premier League's leading teams set to trade more fluid forward lines for the benefits of a traditional No.9.

However, Liverpool were able to play so effectively in this style last season because Sadio Mane took his game to another level. The Senegal international scored in all three of the games against City and was their star attacker as Mohamed Salah's goalscoring form faded during the run-in.

Salah remains a formidable operator and his new contract is fantastic news for Jurgen Klopp, but Mane's departure to Bayern Munich is likely to be felt far more by Liverpool than any of City's outgoings.

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