Former Manchester City midfielder Patrick Vieira believes the club are good enough to retain their Premier League title - even if winning it a second time will be harder.
Speaking at a media event at the launch of the Western Union PASS education scheme, Vieira added that City need not fear Europe's best teams in the Champions League.
They find themselves in a formidable group with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax, but Vieira said the only way to improve was to play the best, adding that he hoped City could be a surprise package in this year's competition, after exiting at the group stages last season.
“I think City’s chances to win the league will be more difficult than last year but I still believe that City will be the team to beat because I think last year we proved to everybody it is a really strong football club on and off the field as well,” he said on Monday.” It will be more difficult but I believe that City are good enough to win the league again.”
Turning to the Champions League, he said: “I believe that the the group in the Champions League is the most difficult group of all, but I think it is really exciting. I think the fans must be really pleased and really happy because three years ago City was playing against small teams and fighting not to go down. Now we are going to receive Madrid, Ajax and Dortmund. Last year we had Bayern Munich. I think that is what the fans want. When you participate in the Champions League you have to expect to play against these kind of teams. I think that is the way you learn, the way you progress, that is a big stage, against this kind of football club you want to perform. It is really exciting. I think it is a good group, difficult but great.”
Vieira said he thought Barcelona were favourites to lift the trophy, but hoped City could join the aristocrats of European football.
“So the favourites for the Champions League, it will be really, really difficult because you are talking about a few teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona like Bayern Munich, who I believe will be in the last four, last eight,” he said.
“I hope that City will be one of the surprises of the competition even if I know that we are far behind these kind of clubs. The history behind these kind of clubs is really quite important but we are far away behind. But if I really have to give you a name, I will go maybe for Barcelona.”
Now City’s football development officer, Vieira defended the club’s dealings in the transfer market this summer.
Manager Roberto Mancini has been criticised for missing out on the likes of Robin van Persie, but Vieira said the current squad was more than strong enough.
“I don't know if City are disappointed at not signing some big names that the press were releasing, but I believe that the team are strong enough to challenge all the competition they will be getting involved with,” he said. “When you look in the last few days we signed Maicon, who is one of the best players in his position, we signed Javi Garcia a young talented player as well. I believe that the team is strong enough to challenge any other teams in the league or Champions League.”