In less than two weeks, the Premier League returns for a new season with six teams vying for the top four places and the limited silverware on offer.
Following a World Cup summer, a host of players have been unavailable for pre-season training, as they recover from the mental and physical demands, disrupting some of the contending clubs’ plans.
In addition, the Premier League transfer window is set to close on the 9th August, but the rest of Europe can still purchase players from England’s top flight until the 31st August; leaving several clubs exposed to losing key players, without being able to find a replacement.
Last season’s record-breaking champions Manchester City will be looking to reaffirm their position as the top dogs of English football, after Pep Guardiola’s side blew its competition away last season to all but seal the title before the end of January.
New signing Riyad Mahrez is unlikely to be fit to start the season after picking up an ankle injury. But once he returns, the former 2016 PFA Players’ Player and Fans Player of the Year offers the Citizens another match winner to count on.
Expectations: Premier League Title & Champions League Glory
Manchester United, like Manchester City, have had their pre-season massively interrupted by the lack of availability of several key players. But emerging from the clouds of disrupted preparations is Andreas Pereira.
Aside from his stunning long-range free-kick in United’s demoralising 4-1 loss to Liverpool, Pereira has demonstrated that he has the aptitude to be a part of José Mourinho’s first team. Between Pereira and new recruit Fred, the Red Devils will be hoping they can find the balance in midfield that has been lacking in recent years.
Mourinho’s strained relationship with the media will only intensify should his team fail to compete for major honours.
Expectations: Premier League Title & Champions League quarter-finals
Is this Liverpool’s year? Every year the Reds feel it will be their year, but this year there is a different sense of belief at Anfield.
After completing the signing of Virgil van Dijk £75m last January, Jürgen Klopp made Alisson Becker the most expensive goalkeeper in transfer history, addressing his teams’ frailties, which cost them the Champions League final last May.
Naby Keïta and Fabinho also bulk up their options and quality in midfield, whilst Xherdan Shaqiri at just £13m might just be the steal of the season. His overhead kick against Man Utd in Liverpool’s 4-1 preseason win, sees Klopp’s men bouncing into the new season.
Expectations: Premier League Title
As the teams around them continue to add to their squads, Mauricio Pochettino is set to go again with the same group of players that have impressed, but are still to win any silverware under his tenure.
Lucas Moura has impressed in preseason and will need to make a telling contribution if Spurs are to maintain their place as one of the England’s top four clubs. It has been ten years since Tottenham won the league cup, 27 years since they won the FA Cup, and over 57 years since they were champions of England.
Expectations: Top 4 league finish & FA Cup or League Cup
Maurizio Sarri has brought a new wave of enthusiasm with him from Italy and a very talented midfielder in Jorginho. The minimum expectation will be that Sarri transforms Chelsea from a pragmatic counter-attacking team, to a side that likes to press high and control possession like Manchester City.
But Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was Pep’s City, so Sarri-ball might take some time for his new club to master. Hindering the Blues will be the host of giant clubs targeting key players Willian, Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard, whilst they also face the poisoned chalice of the Europa League
Expectations: Top 4 league finish
“We’re working harder than we used to work,” Hector Bellerin declared in preseason. Had the Gunners become stale under the guidance of Arsène Wenger? Arsenal fans have been wanting a change for several years, and now they get to see where that change takes them.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos has been acquired to bring some defensive steel to their ranks, and links up with former Borussia Dortmund club mates Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The latter had 10 goals in just 13 games last season, and has all the tools to take the Premier League by storm.
Unai Emery, like Sarri, will have to deal with the challenge of Europa League football, although he won the trophy for three consecutive years between 2014-16 for Sevilla.
Expectations: Top 4 league finish