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Premier League: Pep Guardiola's new contract keeps Manchester City on right track

Manchester City are overwhelming favourites to retain their Premier League title, and things only seem to be getting better with Pep Guardiola penning a new deal.

The former Barcelona boss has signed a new one-year contract, understood to include an option for a further 12 months, that could extend his successful tenure at the Etihad until the summer of 2025.

Murmurings regarding Guardiola's future have added a backdrop to a steady start to the season for City, with his existing deal known to be coming to an end at the conclusion of the current campaign.

But despite losing two of their last five games before the World Cup break, the champions, 4/9 in the Premier League Outright market, will return to domestic duty well poised for an assault on top spot, currently held by revelations Arsenal with a five-point cushion to boot.

Arsenal in Manchester City's sights

With both clashes against the Gunners still to come, City's fate remains firmly in their hands as they look to secure a fifth title under their Catalan manager, who guided them to glory in 2017/18, 2018/19 and in both of the last two seasons.

The news of Guardiola's signing breaks weeks before the key January transfer window opens, meaning that City now have ample time to peruse their options in order to close the gap on Mikel Arteta's side.

Business boomed over summer, with the acquisition of Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund proving a masterstroke well worthy of activating the Norwegian's £51.2 million release clause.

The 22-year-old is thumping in the goals without reserve, scoring 13 times in City's 18 league games – six clear of the league's next-best, Harry Kane. In doing so, he is laying down a credible threat to the 34-goal hauls of Andy Cole and Alan Shearer, achieved in 42-game seasons before the Scandinavian striker was even born.

While his Golden Boot honours seem as good as sealed even at this relatively early stage of the Premier League term, Haaland also leads the odds to finish this year's Champions League Top Goalscorer. He is currently 15/8, ahead of 9/4 Kylian Mbappe and 5/2 Mohamed Salah.

Could Guardiola news boost Bellingham hopes?

And speaking of transfers, and of the Champions League, another man who has proved himself on the continental stage – and in doing so, attracted the attention of Europe's other elite clubs – is Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham.

The 19-year-old, who continued his stellar form by netting for England on his World Cup debut on Monday in the 6-2 win over Iran, hit four goals across his five European outings this campaign, contributing one assist. He also played a key part in keeping the English champions quiet in a 0-0 draw in Manchester.

Such performances have seen Bellingham linked with a move back to his native country and City lead the betting at 2/1 in the Jude Bellingham - Club on 01/09/2023 market.

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Further clarity on Champions League target

And on the subject of the Champions League, which returns for Bellingham with a double-header against Chelsea, and for City with a two-way tie with RB Leipzig, it is Europe's primary club tournament that might just be the reasoning behind Guardiola's decision to stay on as boss.

An eight-year stint – as it will be once Pep sees out his next contracted season – is not in keeping with the Spaniard's previous career choices.

Typically, Guardiola has opted for short, successful stints, moving on after four seasons with Barcelona and three with Bayern Munich.

In Manchester, he has won far more domestically than his three La Liga titles at the Camp Nou or his trio of Bundesligas in Bavaria.

But City's failure to cap their most successful era with victory in the Champions League, a quest which culminated in an agonising extra-time defeat to Real Madrid at the semi-final stage last season, risks undermining their otherwise undisputed greatness in the annals.

Well-placed for European success

Had their tight loss in the 2021 final at the hands of Chelsea followed the opposite tack, it begs the question of whether the Guardiola dynasty would have ended before now.

But while that elusive trophy – one that Guardiola lifted twice in his managerial career at Barcelona – continues to elude Manchester City, few will be surprised to hear the news of his extension at the Etihad.

City's unbeaten run through Group G and a favourable draw against the Germans of Leipzig sees them topping the betting stakes, listed at 13/8 in the Champions League To Win Outright market and provide Guardiola with the final piece in the puzzle.

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