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Sunday 12 August 2018 14:23, UK
Pep Guardiola has warned that his players must better last season's performances if they wish to win back-to-back Premier League titles, as Manchester City prepare for Sunday's season-opening clash with Arsenal.
Under the guidance of the Spaniard, City blazed a trail to the title in 2017/18, breaking nine records and equalling another in a season that saw the division's first-ever 100-point haul.
City begin their title defence against Unai Emery's Arsenal - who are led into the new season by a new manager for the first time in 22 years - and speaking to the club's official website, Guardiola said: "Doing the same as we have done will not be enough."
"That's my experience at Bayern Munich and Barcelona - you always have to demand more to keep that level," he explained. "First, you have to win the first one, and after that win the second one. In every competition we play we must try to win."
Sunday's curtain-raiser marks the beginning of a new era for the Gunners and in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports earlier this week, the Spaniard alluded to the manner in which his side will set-up in their quest for success this season.
"Our style with the ball is to be protagonists, to do things with combinations, to control the match with the positioning of the ball. And then when we have the space, to be aggressive going forward," he said.
"We need two things: quality players, which we have, and then organisation. Together I think we can improve, to win in our way. I repeat: organised, then play."
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New Arsenal head coach Unai Emery will be hoping Aaron Ramsey is fit for Sunday's match.
Ramsey, whose contract expires at the end of the season, suffered a slight calf injury but has returned to training and could be fit.
Sead Kolasinac (knee) and Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) are definitely out as summer arrivals Bernd Leno, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi all push to make their competitive debuts.
Guardiola confirmed in his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon both Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne are available for selection for City, despite only returning to training this week following their three-week post-World Cup break.
Bernardo Silva has impressed in midfield this summer and could start, and though Ederson is another player yet to feature ahead of the new campaign, he should replace Claudio Bravo in goal, despite the Chilean's clean sheet in the Community Shield triumph over Chelsea.
Danilo (ankle) has been sidelined since picking up an injury during the World Cup with Brazil, while David Silva is also on the treatment table, having been absent throughout City's pre-season campaign.
If you had asked me last Saturday I'd have fancied Arsenal, but City were outstanding last weekend against Chelsea. I feel with the new manager, there will be a plan this time from Arsenal, whereas last year they got absolutely rinsed.
But I think City will have too much for them. With these Arsenal players on the training ground, you've got to make drills monotonous to really ram home the message, but I don't think they've had the time yet.
PAUL PREDICTS: 1-3 (12/1 with Sky Bet)