Premier League: Manchester City to defend title? Jose Mourinho's United to fall out of top four? Firstpost predicts new season

The Premier League is back! Football returns to its bread and butter after a summer of Russian extravaganza. Truncated pre-season, early closure of the transfer window and players on vacation have affected the preparations of the Premier League clubs, but it does little to rob the league of its aura.

It was records galore for Manchester City on the way to their third Premier League title in six years last season. Jose Mourinho's Manchester United could only become leaders of the chasing pack. Liverpool showed plenty of promise, while Tottenham displayed their usual consistency. Chelsea's title defence was a dismal one and Arsenal said goodbye to Arsene Wenger after 22 years. The previous campaign had everything, but a title race.

But with Liverpool, Chelsea spending big, Arsenal under new management, and Jose Mourinho's United always in the mix,  City may not have it all their own way this time. With less than 24 hours to go for the first kick-off in the Premier League, we put our in-house experts on the spot as they predict the champions, top-four teams, relegation candidates and individual heroes.

Aashray Hariharan's predictions

Champions: Manchester City
Top four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal
Relegation: Brighton and Hove, Huddersfield, Cardiff
Top scorer: Harry Kane
Player of the season: Kevin de Bruyne

No team has won back-to-back Premier League titles since 2009. Enter Pep Guardiola. Domestic success may not be what Guardiola is — really — after, but you get the feeling that it's likely to be another season of European heartbreak. Domestically, however, expect the Sky Blues to romp past everybody like an out of control juggernaut.

Arsenal have gone missing from Europe's elite for the last two seasons, but under Unai Emery, expect them to find their purpose and verve, style and efficiency, storming back to where they truly belong: Fourth place.

In doing so, they will pip Tottenham Hotspur, who have approached the transfer market the way a burn victim approaches a fire. By ignoring it and staying as far from it as possible. They still have a very good first team, but lack of squad depth means it's another year of over reliance on Harry Kane.

At the other end of the table, Huddersfield and Brighton managed to just about escape the drop last year, but there is something they say about lightning striking twice. They have done little to strengthen their squads and will find it tough to not suffer from the (dreadful cliche alert) second season syndrome. It will be a gladiatorial battle for the ages between and Cardiff for 17th place, but expect Watford to survive on goal difference. They just look like an incredibly lucky team.

Manchester City began the season with win in the Community Shield and will start the Premier League as favourites. Reuters

Manchester City began the season with win in the Community Shield and will start the Premier League as favourites. Reuters

Anish Anand's predictions

Champions: Manchester City
Top-four teams: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea
Relegated teams: Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Southampton
Golden Boot: Sergio Aguero
Player of the year: Kevin de Bruyne

For all the optimism surrounding Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, Pep Guardiola and his team of Manchester City will not let the league title slip away from them. City did not have to do much in the transfer window, with the exception of bringing in Riyad Mahrez, but the team's squad is well-equipped to defend their title. Kevin De Bruyne showed last season and at the World Cup that he's one of the world's best midfielders. Last season, he missed out on PFA Player of the Year to a rampaging Mohamed Salah, but this season, he's most likely to grab that prize.

Liverpool ensured they dealt with their weaknesses with the signing of goalkeeper Alisson Becker and increasing the squad depth by bringing in players like Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Naby Keita. Klopp will push City for the league title but it will not be enough. Maybe next season belongs to Liverpool?

There's a lot of negativity around Manchester United, but Jose Mourinho's team will end up in the top three. A team consisting of quality players like Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, David de Gea and Alexis Sanchez will not fall out of top four. Though, it will be interesting to see if Mourinho will keep his job post his third season at the club.

Tottenham's failure to compete with other clubs financially will come back to haunt them. It's not like a tragedy will strike them, considering they still have a decent squad but it's most likely that they will not qualify for the Champions League. But Harry Kane will score goals.

To be honest, it's difficult to choose between Arsenal and Chelsea for the one Champions League spot. Both clubs will start afresh under a new manager and they did reasonably well in the transfer window. Chelsea might end up fourth because have little more quality in their ranks.

Jigar Mehta's predictions

Champions: Manchester City
Top-four teams: Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal
Relegated teams: Watford, Newcastle United, Cardiff City
Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah
Player of the year: Kevin de Bruyne

After a long time, we will see a Premier League team win back-to-back titles. Manchester City's greatest strength is its squad depth. The attacking quality they have in their armoury is lethal. I don't think they will run away with the title like the last time (Liverpool will be their biggest competitors) but they do have the quality and manager to make sure that City edge the other teams to the pinnacle.

Arsenal will be back to where they belong — the top 4. And to be even specific, they will grab their very dear fourth spot again. They are in a rebuilding phase and it will take a couple of seasons to reach the pinnacle. Aaron Ramsey will be the key along with the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang-Alexandre Lacazette combo. I feel Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United will struggle to keep up with Manchester City's pace. Liverpool will come close, very close but it will again be a case of 'Haath ko aaya par muh (I should say MO) na laga' for The Reds. (May be for Manchester United it will be 'Haath nahi aaya and MOU ka bhi laga')

The competition at the bottom of the table is strong with promotions of Fulham and Wolves. I expect them to keep their place place in the top flight with some good business in the transfer window. But Cardiff will miss out. With the departure of Richarlison, Watford look weak, especially in attack and they won't manage to keep themselves afloat. Newcastle are always on the edge of the precipice and this time they will get the final push.

Mo Salah will continue his form for the second season running and end up with the Golden Boot and expect Kevin de Bruyne to mesmerise the football world with his magical long and through balls and incisive passes, controlling the midfield and propelling Man City to the title.

Liverpool are likely to be Manchester City's main challengers for the Premier League title. AP

Liverpool are likely to be Manchester City's main challengers for the Premier League title. AP

Karan Pradhan's predictions

Champions: Liverpool
Top-four teams: Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United
Relegated teams: Wolves, Cardiff City, Huddersfield
Golden Boot: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Player of the year: Kevin de Bruyne

It's been nearly 30 years since Liverpool last won the league title and barring any major slip-ups — sorry — I predict them to lift their first Premier League title this season. The project started by Jurgen Klopp back in October 2015 almost bore fruit last season and the race could've been much tighter if Manchester City hadn't been the best team in the land by such a long way. The club has conducted some astute business in the transfer window which will help them close the gap on City, and eventually surpass the champions.

At the other end of the table, there will be little joy for just-promoted sides Wolves and Cardiff City on account of how much nearly every team in the Premier League have strengthened their squad over the summer. Sadly for David Wagner, his plucky Huddersfield Town will find the quest to stay in the top flight for the fourth consecutive season a bridge too far.

Elsewhere, Aubameyang's first full season with Arsenal will reap rich dividends with a 30+ goals season well and truly on the cards. Meanwhile, De Bruyne's all-round play — with goals and assists aplenty — will be one of the biggest reasons City will stay in the race for the title till the very end.

Kaushal Shukla's predictions

Champions: Manchester City
Top-four teams: Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United
Relegated teams: Watford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Cardiff City
Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah
Player of the year: Kevin de Bruyne

Manchester City were head and shoulders above everyone else last season and although Liverpool have strengthened well, expect City to defend the title. Liverpool will perhaps be their only challengers but a lack of experience in a title race could prove to be their undoing.

The other sides in the top six could struggle to keep pace with the top two. There seems to be a lot of negativity at Manchester United, but they have a strong enough team to make the top four. I expect Tottenham to miss out on a top-four place, having not strengthened their squad at all. Chelsea should have secured a top-four spot if not for the negativity that surrounded the club. The new recruits will help Maurizio Sarri's side to return to the Champions League the following season.

Arsenal will be a lot closer to the top-four places, but might not have enough to make the cut.

Brighton look good candidates to suffer the second season syndrome while Watford's stay in the top-flight could come to an end this season owing to regular instability at the club. I expect Mohamed Salah to score truckloads of goals, but the player of the year award will this time go the Kevin de Bruyne for successfully leading City to their second title.

Kevin de Bruyne will be central to Manchester City's progress this season. Reuters

Kevin de Bruyne will be central to Manchester City's progress this season. Reuters

Shivam Damohe's predictions

Champions: Manchester City
Top-four teams: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea
Relegated teams: Watford, Southampton, Cardiff City
Golden Boot: Harry Kane
Player of the year: Mohamed Salah

It feels great to defend the title. Look no further than 4 miles, to the red half of Manchester. Pep Guardiola's well-oiled Manchester City gear up for yet another quality season after smart investment in the summer. The Guardiola-led side broke several records last season and there's a gulf of quality between City and the rest of the Premier League teams. They are the favourites to defend the title.

In the other half of Manchester, Jose Mourinho is frustrated with United's transfer activity thanks to club CEO Ed Woodward. The Portuguese manager had asked for five new additions but the board is busy wrapping up commercial deals rather than players. Clearly, there are disagreements between the manager and the board. However, Mourinho still has his core squad plus new signings – Fred Rodrigues, Diego Dalot and Lee Grant. Fred is expected to solve the midfield conundrum but United are still vulnerable at the back. A place in top three would be an achievement.

The only team that can challenge City is Jurgen Klopp's organised Liverpool. They were outstanding last season and with the strengthening of its midfield and attack, the Merseyside club will be ready to come out all guns blazing.

Under Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea's attacking football will flourish. However, the only worry for the Londoners is their defence. The midfield looks extremely strong with Jorginho, Matteo Kovacic and N'Golo Kante. Alvaro Morata must deliver or it's time for Chelsea to realise that Olivier Giroud is a much better option than the off-colour Spaniard.

Meanwhile, Arsenal don't look like a balanced team ahead of the season. Coach Unai Emery can make the difference with the oldies in the squad but it's still a gamble. Is it worth the risk? Only time can tell. They could struggle to match up to the pace of other top four teams.

With zero additions so far, Tottenham Hotspur still come across as a force to reckon with. Despite being unsuccessful in signing new players, the core team can still manage to ruffle a few feathers. However, they won't be able to compete with the top guns.

Cumulative predictions: 

Champions: Manchester City

Top-four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea

Relegation: Watford, Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City

Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah

Player of the year: Kevin de Bruyne


Updated Date: Aug 10, 2018 10:46 AM

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