The upcoming 2023-24 Premier League season initiates with a riveting clash between champions – Manchester City – and reigning Championship victors, Burnley, at Turf Moor on Friday evening.
Pep Guardiola’s squad embarks on the fresh campaign following an indelible treble-winning season. Their pursuit of more historic accomplishments commences against one of the club’s most illustrious figures, Burnley’s manager Vincent Kompany.
In the annals of the Guardiola era, the 2022-23 season stands out profoundly for Manchester City, who swept past all adversaries.
The azure half of Manchester now stands side by side with their red counterparts as the sole English clubs to conquer the revered treble encompassing the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League. This season marks their maiden grasp of the latter accolade.
The immediate task at hand is to continue scaling unparalleled summits. While clinching consecutive domestic titles has posed no issue, the Champions League has remained the club’s ultimate goal. There is often a decline in performance after ascending the pinnacle.
Despite signs suggesting Manchester City won’t waver, the season beckons with them being favorites to secure the Premier League title anew. Should they achieve this, they would etch their name in history as the first team ever to capture four successive English top-flight titles. Such an accomplishment would further affirm their claim as the nation’s premier team.
However, a formidable journey lies ahead before these aspirations can be entertained. Perturbed by losses against Atletico Madrid and a Community Shield defeat to Arsenal on penalties, Guardiola might allude to their similar setbacks in preceding seasons. Nevertheless, with rivals bolstering their ranks significantly, optimism pervades that City’s supremacy might encounter substantial challenges this term.
The champions have also fortified their squad during the summer transfer window with the acquisitions of Josko Gvardiol and Mateo Kovacic. Simultaneously, they bid adieu to key contributors from their recent success, including captain Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez.
Uncertainties hover over the futures of Kyle Walker and Bernardo Silva. While additional recruits are anticipated, a valid discourse revolves around whether Manchester City’s strength has been diluted during the ongoing summer.
The crucible for testing this notion arrives on Friday when they share the inaugural spotlight of the new season with Burnley. This ensemble is led by the esteemed former club captain, Kompany.
The Burnley confronting the Premier League this season vastly differs from the relegated squad of 2021-22. Kompany orchestrated a swift transformation in football philosophy, guiding the Clarets to Championship glory last season.
In the notoriously challenging second tier, Burnley amassed an impressive 101 points, tasted defeat only thrice (once at home), netted an unmatched 87 goals, and conceded a meager 35. Their triumph transpired with a 10-point buffer over their nearest contenders.
Undoubtedly, Burnley reigned supreme in the Championship last season. Yet, Kompany repeatedly emphasized that this stature only ranked them as the 21st-best team in England.
The Belgian maestro now has the opportunity to underscore their true standing within England’s elite. Most pre-season forecasts prophesy their evasion of relegation.
Burnley’s response to the higher echelons is exemplified by their active engagement in the transfer market. A series of acquisitions, including Zeki Amdouni, James Trafford, Jordan Beyer, Dara O’Shea, Michael Obafemi, Luca Koleosho, Nathan Redmond, Lawrence Vigouroux, Jacob Bruun Larsen, and Sander Berge, collectively costing around £75 million, have fortified their ranks.
Pre-season exhibitions have generally been favorable, harmonizing the newly arrived talents as they strive for cohesion before the season’s onset. A sole setback against Genk mars their otherwise flawless record across five fixtures. Triumphant exploits against Benfica, Burton Albion, and Sheffield Wednesday offset the defeat, culminating in a final friendly draw against Real Betis.
Kompany is acutely aware that his squad faces an arduous initiation in their Premier League return. The fervent Turf Moor crowd, ignited by floodlights, is anticipated to inspire the hosts toward a noteworthy upset.
Historical accounts are hardly in Burnley’s favor. The last 16 encounters between the two sides have seen Manchester City triumphant in 15, with an aggregate scoreline of 40-1 in the most recent 11.
In truth, Manchester City have notched five or more goals in five of those last 11 clashes. Burnley’s most recent goal against Friday’s adversaries dates back to December 2019, a span of eight meetings.
Burnley’s pre-season sequence: WWLWD
Manchester City’s pre-season performance: WWLL
A surprise inclusion of Kevin De Bruyne in Manchester City’s Community Shield matchday squad after his Champions League final injury stirred hope. Despite a penalty miss in the shootout, the Belgian cameo raises prospects of his starting presence. Nathan Ake remains the sole lingering doubt for the visitors.
Erling Haaland spearheads the attacking line, aiming to rival his debut season figures. An extraordinary tally of 36 goals in 35 appearances marked his inaugural English campaign.
Walker appears inclined towards a Man City stay, despite Bayern Munich’s interest, potentially securing his place at right-back. Newcomer Gvardiol may require time to integrate into the first-team setup.
The return of Joao Cancelo offers an option at left-back, although Manuel Akanji remains a probable starter in that position.
Kovacic could seamlessly slot into the lineup, succeeding the departed Gundogan.
Burnley faces a challenge to replace the goal contribution of last season’s top scorer, Nathan Tella, now back at parent club Southampton. Experience might guide Jay Rodriguez to lead the line in the season opener.
Likely Burnley starting lineup:
Trafford; Roberts, Beyer, O’Shea, Vitinho; Cork, Cullen; Redmond, Brownhill, Zaroury, Rodriguez
Possible Manchester City starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Akanji; Kovacic, Rodri, De Bruyne; Bernardo, Haaland, Grealish
Prediction: Burnley 1-3 Manchester City
Turf Moor emerged as a fortress in the Championship, set to reverberate under floodlights for the Premier League return. While we anticipate the hosts to pose a formidable initial challenge, the treble-winning Man City juggernaut is formidable. An energetic atmosphere alone might not deter their triumphant march.
The match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK. It will also be available to stream on Sky Go, NOW TV, and JK Sports360.