This weekend the most-watched league in the world kicks off for another nine months of goals, red cards, spats and controversy. The Premier League claims to be the most exciting on the planet, but in terms of predictability does it live up to the hype? Here we predict which teams will be smiling and which will be sad come the end of the campaign.
CHAMPIONS Manchester City:
It is probably no shock we have gone for Pep Guardiola’s men to retain the title. They were so far ahead of the pack last season and the addition of Riyadh Mahrez will only add to their superiority. There may be some worry that their World Cup stars — Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, John Stones, to name only three — will start the campaign slowly, but the squad has such strength in depth that City will cope with any early-season fatigue. Expect more fireworks from Pep’s players.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SPOTS Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham:
Again you can accuse us of lacking originality, picking the same top four as last season, but we cannot see either Chelsea — under a new manager, Maurizio Sarri, the Blues could lose Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, and suffer from a lack of a potent goal threat — or Arsenal — the Gunners have a lot of rebuilding to do under new boss Unai Emery — breaking into the European places.
Liverpool are the most likely to challenge City for the title. They have done well to keep Mohamed Salah and, with the addition of Naby Keita, will once again have an attack to worry any side. The purchase of Alison in goal strengthens their only glaring weak spot and they will finish second as a result.
For all the doom and gloom hanging over United, who got their season underway last night, the fact remains they have a great squad with plenty of options. Alexis Sanchez did not go to the World Cup and will be fresh. His form could well determine how soon the mood changes at Old Trafford. If they can keep Paul Pogba, and Jose Mourinho gives him freedom, the Reds will do better than their manager seems to believe.
Spurs are the only side in Europe’s top five leagues not to make a single signing this summer, and the only professional side in England not to bolster their squad ahead of the new season. The saying is that you always buy when in a position of strength, bolster competition for places and in doing so go up a gear. That tends to be true, but what the North London club does have is a strong squad and a belief and understanding of Mauricio Pochettino’s system. If Harry Kane can pick up where he left off from the World Cup, they should pip the other two London powerhouses for fourth spot.
THE DREADED DROP Newcastle United, Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town:
Every summer Rafael Benitez can be heard to moan about lack of transfer activity hindering the chances of whatever side he is in charge of achieving success.
This year he actually has a point. The Spaniard worked wonders last season and deserved money in the window to ensure Newcastle could challenge for Europe. Instead
the despondency is understandable and they are destined for the trap door.
Huddersfield, likewise, produced wonders to stay up last season. They have bought in eight players, but focused on youth rather than experience and will struggle as
Of the promoted sides, Wolverhampton and Fulham have the star quality and squads to stay up. The same cannot be said of Cardiff, who have bought in little quality and will end up last.