Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he expects this season’s Premier League title race to be more open than last season’s when his side pipped Liverpool to the line in a two-horse race after an epic tussle.
City beat Liverpool on penalties in Sunday’s Community Shield at Wembley – the traditional curtain-raiser to the season – after a high-tempo clash ended 1-1.
The two sides look likely to go toe-to-toe again when the season begins at Anfield on Friday with Liverpool’ home clash against Norwich City before City open away to West Ham United a day later.
Last season City won the title with 98 points to Liverpool’s 97 after Guardiola’s side won their last 14 Premier League games. Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester United completed the top six.
Guardiola played down suggestions a similar story would unfold.
“I think at the beginning of the season, all six of these teams are contenders,” he said.
“I don’t know if it will be like last season, two real contenders, I think United with (expected new signing, Harry) Maguire and the other players, Arsenal too, Chelsea and Tottenham.
“I think there will be many, many contenders this time.”
City dominated the first half against Liverpool with Raheem Sterling giving them an early lead.
But Joel Matip levelled late on and Liverpool would have won but for the excellence of City keeper Claudio Bravo who made several fine stops and saved Georginio Wijnaldum’s penalty in the shootout which City edged 5-4.
Both teams struggled for intensity at times, Liverpool before the break and City after it and Guardiola suggested the demands on players over the summer were unreasonable, especially with many of his squad being involved in the African Cup of Nations and Copa America tournaments.
“The show must go on and I’m optimistic if they listen to the players,” the Spaniard said.
“The NBA has an incredible amount of games but then five months off. Riyad Mahrez had 10 days off.
“People say about the amount of money we earn but it’s not normal.”