Can Manchester City break into the top four?

Manchester City are 14/1 to win the Premier League and 6/5 to come top of the “small 16.”

Manchester City’s potential starting line-up for the opening match of the Premier League season with Blackburn on August 15 is: Shay Given; Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, John Terry, Wayne Bridge, Gareth Barry, Nigel de Jong, Stephen Ireland, Robinho; Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor.

With the likes of Vincent Kompany (currently injured), Shaun Wright-Phillips, Roque Santa Cruz, Elano, Martin Petrov and Craig Bellamy to call upon if things go awry, Mark Hughes undoubtedly has a squad good enough to challenge the very best.

Whilst some may point to the fact that Joleon Lescott and John Terry are by no means signed up for next season, especially as both Everton and Chelsea will fight tooth-and-nail to keep both central defenders, chances are the sheikhs will bring in two centre backs of similar quality.

When one looks at the attacking talent on offer at Eastlands for the coming campaign, the odds on City to win the Premier League (14/1) look fairly generous. The strike partnership of Tevez and Adebayor will have City fans salivating and some incredible football could be played at Eastlands with Robinho and Ireland buzzing in behind.

But, with the Big Four so entrenched in the Champions League positions for what seems like eternity, City will have a difficult job to win the league. A jump from 10th and 50 points, to first and 90 points (last season) is beyond even a team with unlimited funds, a la cheat mode on Championship Manager.

It is fair to say that the spending spree embarked on by Hughes this summer has stunned the world of football and undoubtedly leaves the bookies open to losing some cash. The Abu Dhabi United Group will likely have invested more than a billion dollars on transfer fees and wages in their first year in charge which outstrips the first year of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea.

Aligned with the attacking talent which has been brought to Eastlands this summer, there are also some workmanlike players who provide the stability for a consistent campaign. Shay Given is as solid a keeper you could wish for and Gareth Barry should provide leadership and consistency in the middle of the park. And, we can also expect City to splash the cash yet again in January to boost a possible title bid or a push for a Champions League position.

Compared to all of City’s main rivals, they don’t have European football to worry about and they have three winnable games to start the campaign off. Blackburn (a), Wolves (h) and Portsmouth (a) represent three of the teams that will likely be battling relegation next season and three victories are imperative before Arsenal visit Eastlands on September 12 and the trip across town to Old Trafford eight days later.

Of course, the pressure on Hughes and his big-money signings will be huge, especially if City start badly but the signings this summer have included players with experience of playing for the top clubs in England and this should leave them in good stead.

Crucially, the “Big Four” have arguably made English football boring and similar to Chelsea’s rise under Abramovich in the early years, there may be a lot of neutrals who back City to end a period of dominance.

At this early stage of the summer, Chelsea and Arsenal are looking vulnerable and Manchester City could well take advantage.

Manchester City are 14/1 to win the Premier League and 6/5 to come top of the “small 16.”