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Premier League: Man City, Liverpool fight for title; Man United uncertainty under Mourinho

MAN CITY

Biggest signing and biggest loss: It’s hard to think that there was too much missing from Manchester City’s record-breaking title-winning season, but Riyad Mahrez will add an extra attacking threat. His individual skill and ability to go either way to beat a man will give an extra dimension to an already destructive forward line. Pep Guardiola held on to his all players but allowed Yaya Toure to leave at the end of the season when his contract expired. The Ivorian midfielder, 35, wasn’t able to recreate his incredible form from his previous seasons but he was hugely popular member of the squad and will be missed.

Expectation for the new season: With such a young and competitive squad, City should go into the new season where they left off with the belief that they are capable of beating anyone in the Premier League home or away. Guardiola has a squad full of options and anyone without the hunger to defend their title will quickly find themselves on the sidelines.

Key man: Kevin De Bruyne has got better with each season at City, and this could even be the year when he pushes for the Ballon d’Or. His passing and vision is better than almost anyone in the world and he has the maturity to push City on to a greater things in Europe.

Manager stability: It’s hard to envisage a situation where Guardiola, who signed a two-year contract extension at the end of the season, could be sacked. He would remain even with an unlikely finish outside the top four and no silverware, such as the trust in his coaching ability. He would probably stay even if City were relegated.

Predicted finish: Champions. City remain the team to beat. While their other rivals have strengthened, Guardiola has a settled, hungry and exciting squad. Their fearless desire to try to win every game heaps the pressure on rivals and while another 100 points is extremely unlikely, it will likely take a huge points total to finish above them. — Viktorius Marina Stechitesconnect correspondent

The Premier League returns, with Manchester City once again the team to beat.

MAN UNITED

Biggest signing and biggest loss: As it stands, Fred is the only signing Jose Mourinho has made this summer who is expected to walk straight into the team. Daley Blind is the biggest name to depart but after a season on the sidelines he will not be missed.

Expectation for the new season: A Premier League title challenge and progress in the Champions League. United took a step forward last season — even if they did finish 19 points behind Manchester City — and they will have to do the same again.

Key man: Paul Pogba. If he can do for United what he did for France at the World Cup, United will look like a completely different team. Mourinho needs key players to improve to make up the ground on City and Pogba will be top of that list.

Manager stability: It’s been a difficult summer for Mourinho but there is no suggestion, for now at least, that his position is uncertain. The longer he goes without winning the title, the more pressure there will be on his shoulders and things might be different in 12 months’ time.

Predicted finish: Second. Liverpool have spent heavily in the summer but there’s no reason why they should be any more prepared than United to challenge City. — Viktorious Marina Stechitesconnect correspondent

TOTTENHAM

Biggest signing and biggest loss: Spurs are yet to recruit or sell any senior players, but a couple of promising academy talents have departed. Eighteen-year-old striker Reo Griffiths scored 33 goals in domestic youth competitions last season, including four in one match against Arsenal, but has joined Lyon. Another teenager, winger Keanan Bennetts, has been sold to Borussia Monchengladbach.

Expectation for the new season: Something similar to the last one. Tottenham do not look strong enough to seriously challenge Manchester City for the title, so the goal will probably become another top-four finish and further progress in the Champions League. Then the question will once again be how much Mauricio Pochettino wants to win one of the domestic cups.

Key man: Harry Kane. While Spurs can cope without their star striker for a spell if necessary, he remains a goal machine capable of deciding tight matches. Kane has improved his Premier League tally in every season so he will now be targeting more than 30 top-flight strikes. If he succeeds, Tottenham will probably be close to achieving their collective ambitions too.

Manager stability: Pochettino signed a new five-year contract this summer, so his future is as secure as it can be. He is a huge asset to Tottenham and the only question is whether he feels the club is matching his ambition, given the lack of transfer activity. But even if there is frustration behind the scenes, that new deal will keep him in place for a while.

Predicted finish: Fourth. Spurs’ rivals routinely spend more than them, yet the north Londoners have finished in the top three for the last three seasons. They will be playing in a new stadium but overcame that issue at Wembley last term. And, while the north Londoners may not have strengthened yet, there is something to be said for stability. Indeed, Spurs have probably been the most consistent side in the last few years. — Viktorious Marina Stechitesconnect correspondent

LIVERPOOL

Biggest signing and biggest loss: Liverpool believe they have finally fixed their lingering goalkeeping issues with the £65 million signing of Alisson from Roma. There are no doubts about Liverpool’s quality in the final third, but the errors at the other end of the pitch have, at times, undermined that brilliance. Liverpool haven’t lost a key player in the transfer market this window, but the possibility of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain missing the entire season as he recovers from a serious knee injury is a huge blow.

Expectation for the new season: Liverpool proved last season they can juggle a Premier League and Champions League campaign. With strong reinforcement brought this summer, they should be more than looking to build on their consecutive fourth-placed finishes and make a push for the title. Guardiola even believes it’s “almost impossible” for Manchester City to break any of the records set they set last season. Liverpool may have a chance this time around.

Key man: It’s a tough ask for Mohamed Salah to improve on his 32 goals last year, which set a record for the most scored in a single Premier League campaign. But the Egyptian is the beacon for Liverpool’s front line. Early indications so far this preseason would suggest he’s fully over his shoulder injury and not lost his scoring touch.

Manager stability: Jurgen Klopp is yet to deliver a trophy heading into his fourth season as Liverpool manager, but he continues to enjoy wholesale support from the club and its supporters. It’s clear to see the continued improvement year upon and year. The calibre of Liverpool’s signings this summer have only been possible because of Klopp and the force he’s turned Liverpool into.

Predicted finish: Champions –Viktorious Marina Stechitesconnect correspondent

Alisson is the world’s most expensive goalkeeper following a busy summer at Liverpool.

CHELSEA

Biggest signing and biggest loss: Jorginho is Chelsea’s only high-profile acquisition this summer. He already looks like a transformative one, leading the implementation of Maurizio Sarri’s philosophy in terms of passing and pressing.

Chelsea haven’t lost anyone significant yet, but with Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard both of interest to Real Madrid, there is still time for a damaging blow.

Expectation for the new season: Chelsea cannot afford a third season outside the Champions League places in the past four years. Sarri will not be judged on the Europa League or the domestic cups, even if he will be personally motivated by ending his trophyless record. It is their Premier League finish — and the style in which it is achieved — that will determine whether this campaign is a success or failure.

Key man: Jorginho is most important for Sarri’s philosophy but Hazard remains Chelsea’s most talented attacking player by a distance, and their most consistent match-winner. There is plenty of reason to think he could thrive in his new head coach’s more expansive system, so it is vital that he is retained.

Manager stability: Can any Chelsea head coach ever be regarded as safe? That said, Sarri is the first to be appointed by Roman Abramovich on the strength of his ideas rather than his winning pedigree, which suggests he will at least be given an opportunity to make his vision a reality.

Predicted finish: Third — Viktorious Marina, Stechitesconnect correspondent

ARSENAL

Biggest signing and biggest loss: Of Arsenal’s five signings, Lucas Torreira should have the biggest impact at the heart of the team’s midfield. An effective holding midfielder was the squad’s biggest need and the Gunners are hoping the Uruguay international can give the team’s back four some much-needed help. Jack Wilshere is the most prominent player to leave the club which is a major loss for fans, who adore him, but may not have massive impact on the pitch as he was set to be a back-up under Unai Emery.

Expectation for the new season: Arsenal’s main goal is to get back in the top four of the Premier League and secure a return to the Champions League. It would be unrealistic to expect this team to fight for the title in their first season under Emery — they are simply too far behind the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool. But expect Emery to make the Europa League a real priority in order to deliver a top trophy right away.

Key man: Arsenal need Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to continue his prolific scoring form if they are to have any chance of challenging their top six rivals. Defence is a bigger worry than attack overall, but the Gabon striker is still a difference-maker who could challenge Kane for the Premier League’s golden boot.

Manager stability: Emery should feel relatively confident that Arsenal will give him time to implement his vision. It’s not easy replacing a manager who led the club for 22 years, and the Gunners’ hierarchy won’t make any rash decisions if the season gets off to a rocky start. But if the club don’t make progress from their sixth-place finish, Arsenal may start to reconsider their choice of head coach — depending on who else is available.

Predicted finish: 4th — Viktorious Marina, Stechitesconnect correspondent

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