By Niall Clarke & Neil Leverett
- Manchester City begin their defence of Premier League title away to Arsenal
- Citizens set to be rivaled for successive league titles by Liverpool and Chelsea most keenly
- Newly promoted Wolves, Cardiff and Fulham make their return to top-flight
PREMIER LEAGUE – The new Premier League season is upon us and as the excitement builds, the Britwatch football team has weighed in with their predictions for the upcoming season.
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With less than a month having passed since the World Cup concluded in Russia over the summer, the domestic season swings back into action this weekend for the 2018/19 campaign.
Spending has again surpassed its’ own record for season’s past, which should see competition in the Premier League hotter than ever at both ends of the table.
On the eve of the start of the campaign, the Britwatch football team have got together to collate their predictions for the coming season.
Niall: Manchester City
Manchester City were dominant winners last season so it is difficult to go against them this time around. No team has retained the Premier League in a decade, showing how competitive the top of the English top flight is, but this is a team that is more than capable of doing that.
I doubt last seasons dominance will be replicated and with Liverpool improving over the summer, there should be a bigger challenge this time around, but Pep Guardiola’s side are still the best team in the country and they will prove it once again.
I am hopeful that this season’s battle for league honours will be hotly contested, but Sunday’s Community Shield was a tad depressing. Nevertheless, as Niall states no side have retained the league crown in over a decade, and for that reason I am tipping Liverpool to win their first Premier League title.
The Reds have spent extremely well in the post-season aside from the arrival of Naby Keita in a deal that was concluded a year ago. Fabinho will add muscle to Jurgen Klopp’s midfield, and though Xherdan Shaqiri’s addition has raised eyebrows, the Swiss has the tools and now the manager to get the best potential out of a to date inconsistent performer.
With Alisson coming in to replace the calamitous Loris Karius between the sticks for world record fee for a goalkeeper, Liverpool now have a man they can rely in, similarly to when Ederson arrived at the Etihad last season.
My only concern is who might step into Mohamed Salah’s boots should the Egyptian suffer injury, but I have sneaky suspicion that Sadio Mane could fire this season, so I am sticking with the Merseysiders to break their league title duck.
Niall: Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur
Liverpool have had one of the best transfer windows this summer and I expect them to be Manchester City’s biggest rivals. Alisson will bring extra stability in goal, whilst Fabinho and Keita will bring more quality into midfield. Salah may struggle to replicate the heights of last campaign, but overall this Liverpool squad have improved and should launch a title bid.
The rest of the top four is harder to predict, but with a new manager in Maurizio Sarri I think the Blues will improve on a poor showing last season. The former Napoli man will bring a more attacking and pleasing style to Stamford Bridge and that may get the best out of Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata. The addition of Jorginho will add extra stability to the midfield and may allow N’Golo Kante to play a free role. It will be close but I believe Chelsea will edge into the top four.
Tottenham will be their usual consistent selves and barring any injuries I think they will finish in the top four once again. Harry Kane’s goals will be vital and if he can hit 25 or more again then I believe with Spurs’ defence that they should have enough to play Champions League football again.
Neil: Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea
I have City to finish runners-up, and am tipping two London clubs to complete the top four. Perhaps rather surprisingly I am going for the Gunners to finish third and Chelsea in fourth.
Unai Emery has a massive task again of him to turn around the fortunes of the North Londoners, but the Spaniard has bought well and I fancy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to fire this season, with Alexandre Lacazette to also be amongst the goals. Defensively there will issues, however I have the feeling their attacking ability may be a more telling factor.
Chelsea have had infinitely more drive under Sarri in what I have seen from the Blues in pre-season, and I expect the west London side to complete the top four.
Manchester United could yet come good, buy boss Jose Mourinho has the sort of tone and body language that ended his first tenure at Chelsea and the Portuguese could be an early managerial casualty. In the case of Spurs, the effect of the World Cup could have an effect on the Lilywhites in the early going this term and having not recruited in the close season, I see them finishing outside the top four with the Red Devils.
Niall: Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and Brighton & Hove Albion
Cardiff are almost a lock to go down. They did well to make it to the Premier League, but to stay in the top flight is a different beast. I do not see enough quality in this squad compared to their rivals and Neil Warnock does not have a good record in the Premier League.
Huddersfield left it late to secure their survival last season, but I do not see them pulling out another miracle. The Terriers have invested in some good players, but when you look at teams above them you see much more quality in their squads compared to Huddersfield.
Brighton’s home record was enough to keep them in the Premier League last season, and whilst I still think the AMEX will be somewhat of a fortress, they have not invested enough to maintain their Premier League status. There are a number of teams that could go down this season, but unfortunately for the Seagull’s they are one of the prime candidates.
Neil: Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and Brighton & Hove Albion
I may never agree with Niall more here. I just don’t the Bluebirds either keeping out goals or scoring enough and for my money will finish bottom of the pile.
Both Huddersfield and Brighton enjoyed mixed campaigns last term, but I’m not sure either can replicate their form of an in-form target man in the striking department, which despite two decent back lines that wont concede hatfuls of goals will probably see both go down to the Championship after a difficult sophomore season. As a proviso to this, I will say that I feel Burnley could be dragged toward the drop zone due to their European involvement, but the Clarets should just about stay away from any danger.
Niall: Harry Kane
The Golden boot was hotly contested last year with Salah’s amazing goal-scoring season winning out in the end. The Egyptian will do well to match that tally this time around and whilst he will be still in the conversation, his strike rate may drop. Kane is almost guaranteed to score 25 goals unless he picks up a big injury so I have the Englishman as the top scorer for the upcoming season.
Neil: Pierre Emerick-Aubameyeng
As mentioned briefly I am plumping for the Gabonese striker to take the golden boot this season. Kane and Salah will no doubt be in and around the upper echelons of the goal charts – if they remain fit, but I just see Aubameyang as the man who could take Arsenal to the next level. Could score upwards of 25 goals this term.
The Championship winners had a lot of quality in their squad last season and probably could have survived with that team alone. But their summer investment has been excellent, bringing in a quality goalkeeper in Rui Patricio for free and adding Joao Moutinho for only £5million. Wolves have a squad that if they gel well enough could contend for a Europa League place. A top half finish could be on the cards for the newly promoted side.
I am again(!) in agreement with my colleague. Nuno Espirito Santo has assembled a strong squad in the West Midlands in light of their return to the top flight and expect them to do well this season. The key men for could be Moutinho central midfield partner in Ruben Neves but perhaps a potential star this upcoming season could be Diogo Jota.
The Spaniard had an impressive season in the second tier, but as an Atletico Madrid youth product the boy has talent and we should see that this term, as possible false number nine also. Despite the surprise sale of the dynamic Barry Douglas, Wily Boly and Conor Coady are a very decent defensive partnership and will be hard to break down. I predict good things this season.
Niall: Manchester United
Manchester United may struggle this season. There seems to be a lot of negativity surrounding the club and the manager Jose Mourinho at the moment, and if that continues into the new season they will struggle to secure a top four place never mind challenging for the title. I would not be shocked if Mourinho does not make it to the end of the season and we see a new manager in charge at Old Trafford.
Neil: Manchester United
There is something very wrong at Old Trafford right now. Mood is at an all-time low at the club, with players clearly not happy with the way United are moving forward under Mourinho, but the Portuguese’s attitude is lethargic and does little to inspire optimism in the fanbase.
Defensively, United are sound, but having failed to recruit in the centre-back department, have come under fire for a lack of ambition. Mourinho could of course be playing up – or down – to the cameras and media, but for my money he could be gone by Novemeber which could write off their league hopes this season.
The 2018/19 Premier League season begins this weekend, as Manchester United host Leicester City at Old Trafford on Friday night.
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