|FIRST BLOOD: Manchester City picked up the first trophy of the season on Sunday, beating Liverpool 5-4 on penalties to lift the Community Shield. — AFP Photo|
At around 2am on Saturday morning Liverpool will play Norwich City in the opening game of the new Premier League.
And let’s be honest, if this season is half as good as last, then we are in for a treat. This time last year I put together a list of my predictions for the season ahead, and not to sugar coat it, they were rubbish. So time to go again.
CHAMPIONS – Liverpool
I know, I know. I sound like a broken record. But let’s be honest here, Liverpool were damn unlucky last season. Losing once and finishing with 97 points would, and should, have been enough to win the league. It would have been enough in just about all the seasons previously in Premier League history. But last time around, it wasn’t to be due to an incredibly strong Manchester City. But, and I accept I’ve been saying this since as far back as I can remember, I think this will be Liverpool’s time. City will have their eyes on another prize which I’ll get to later.
TOP FOUR – Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea
Once again I think it will be a two-horse race with City and Liverpool vying for the top spot. As for third place, well sorry to sound boring, but again I will think Tottenham will do it. In Mauricio Pochettino I think Spurs have a first-class coach, and while they have not managed to make any massive signings so far, keeping the manager who led them to the Champions League final last season is amazing. Spurs will improve this year, albeit not enough to win the league. As for the final Champion’s League spot, I fancy Chelsea. Young coach and Stamford Bridge legend Frank Lampard is the right man to get the best out of the team. He just needs a little trust from the usually trigger happy owner, Roman Abramovich.
FIFTH AND SIXTH – Arsenal and Manchester United
Sure, they have both spent heavily in the transfer winder, United signing Harry Maguire for a bank-busting amount of cash and Arsenal splashing out on striker Nicolas Pepe. Both great players in their own right, but will they be enough to kick-start two teams who massively underperformed last season? No, not in the slightest.
FA CUP – Everton
Marco Silva has quietly gone about his business well in the transfer window. Moise Kean has come in from Juventus and midfielders Fabien Delph and Jean-Philippe Gbamin are both good additions. Everton have also done well to keep hold of Brazilian Richarlison who showed promise last season and will grow this year.
LEAGUE CUP – Manchester United
United are clearly no longer the force they were and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a tough job on his hands rebuilding. Maguire will obviously improve the defence but there are much bigger, deep-rooted problems at Old Trafford. That said, I do think if they get the right draws, United could do well in this second string cup competition. Other teams around them certainly won’t be taking it too seriously as they have much bigger fish to fry. This could be United’s best chance of a trophy.
RELEGATION – Newcastle United, Norwich City and Sheffield United
Out of the three teams promoted, all but Aston Villa will go straight back down. Villa have that little bit more in the tank I feel to stay up this season but as for the Canaries and the Blades, sorry guys, the Premier League will be a step too far. And I feel it will be Newcastle who will join them dropping out of the top tier. Steve Bruce taking over from Rafa Benitez is a massive disappointment for the Geordie faithful. And while they may possess amazing supporters, it won’t be enough to avoid the inevitable.
DARK HORSE – Wolverhampton Wanderers
Last season Wolves were amazing, qualifying for Europe for the first time since 1981. While I don’t think they will be challenging for any of the major trophies on offer, none of the top teams will fancy away days at Molineux Stadium. Wolves, along with Everton, I feel will be challenging Arsenal and United for a top six place.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – Manchester City
Watching Pep Guardiola pace up and down looking as cool as they come in his white t-shirt and cargo pants in Sunday’s Community Shield, I thought to myself this year could be his year to finally lift with City the one trophy that’s eluded him, the Champions League. As the season goes on, I feel City will more and more concentrate on lifting Europe’s top prize. And who would bet against them facing Pep’s old club Barcelona in Istanbul next year? Not me. — VNS