Newcastle (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini thinks he has a stronger squad than last season as the champions prepare to begin their Premier League title defence at Newcastle on Sunday.
City start their campaign with a trip to St James' Park having added a number of new faces to their ranks since last season's Premier League and League Cup triumphs.
Pellegrini signed French defender Eliaquim Mangala and Brazilian midfielder Fernando from Porto, Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero from Malaga and French right-back Bacary Sagna on a free transfer from Arsenal.
City have also loaned veteran midfielder Frank Lampard, released by Chelsea during the close season, from their sister club New York City FC.
Pellegrini believes those acquisitions put City in a strong position to retain the title and make a sustained challenge in the Champions League as well.
"Last season we had a very good squad and a very successful year," Pellegrini said.
"But that is the past and that is history. Now we must try this season to have a strong squad and I think that players such as Willy, Bacary, as Mangala, Fernando, Frank Lampard will make us a strong squad. We try to have a stronger squad this year.
"I think this Premier League will be exactly the same as the last title, we will have five or six teams with a very strong squad.
"All of them want to win the title. We also want to retain it. So we will see during the year who works better."
Argentine forward Sergio Aguero, who signed a new five-year contract this week, may also be rested after struggles with injuries during the World Cup, while Spain striker Alvaro Negredo has been ruled out until September with a broken foot.
"Mangala needs to work more with the team to be able to play. It will not be this weekend," Pellegrini added.
"I think that always this team needs Sergio Aguero, but it is also important for him to make a good pre-season. He has so many months without playing normally.
"I think we are ready to start. Maybe some players need some more days to be 100 percent but the squad is ready to start the season."
Newcastle have been among the busiest Premier League clubs during the close-season transfer market, with nine new arrivals at a cost of almost £40 million.
Of those, French duo Remy Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere, former Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback and Dutch defender Daryl Janmaat are set to make their league debuts against City.
Another of those recent signings, former Ajax midfielder Siem de Jong is ruled out by a calf problem.
Ivory Coast international Cheick Tiote, who has been linked with an £8 million move to Arsenal, is sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Newcastle hope to end a 16-game winless streak against City stretching back nine years, which has seen them lose their last 10 games in this fixture, claiming two points from a possible 45.
"We've got a couple of notable absences from the squad through injury, and last season we wouldn't have been able to cope with that," Magpies manager Alan Pardew said.
"But with the signings we've brought in, we're able to deal with it and that shows the strength in depth we've got.
"We go into the game in good spirits with a fit, strong team and hopefully we'll give City a good test."