The 2020-21 Premier League season is upon us, kicking off this Saturday when Mikel Arteta's Arsenal visit recently-promoted Fulham at Craven Cottage.
After failing to lift the title by a whisker in the 2018-19 campaign, Liverpool rallied towards their maiden Premier League crown last term with a record points tally. The Reds romped to their first domestic top-flight success in 30 years by breaking a host of records including the earliest title win, as they claimed it with seven matches to spare.
No other team posed a threat to the league leaders as second-placed Manchester City finished 18 points behind while Manchester United and Chelsea finished on 66 points, with the former grabbing third on goal difference.
Liverpool and City were by far the best two teams last season and are going into the new campaign full of confidence. Chelsea's ruthless, aggressive spending in the transfer window is a testament to them being adamant to break the two-horse race and close the gap.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United rebuild continues as they will be looking forward to replicate their solid third-place finish last term. Meanwhile, the chasing pack of Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City and Wolves are expected to give a more sustained challenge for the Champions League spots.
Who will finish in the Premier League's top 4?
All these points towards one of the more exciting and competitive Premier League campaigns in recent memory. Without further ado, here are my early predictions for the upcoming season.
4th - Manchester United
This might seem as a step down from their third-place Premier League finish last term but it's not. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was tipped to get the sack after Manchester United's horror show against Burnley back in January, but the signing of Bruno Fernandes saved his job and more importantly, the club's season.
Donny van de Beek is a smart piece of business and if it wasn't for Chelsea's £50 million coup of Timo Werner, it probably would have been the bargain of the summer. United now have a stacked, upgraded midfield and this should probably signal the end of Andreas Pereira.
The partnership of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof will never be a title-winning one as they hardly complement each other. They are both too slow and similar, and United need a fast left-footed centre-back to pair-up with the former.
United also desperately need Jadon Sancho to fill in their right-wing void. A front three of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Sancho would surely guarantee them a top four spot.
A holding midfielder, left-back and centre forward are positions that need to be addressed eventually, if they want to be Premier League title challengers. Solskjaer is an inexperienced manager and has a young side at his disposal, thus he needs time, but certainly has United on the right track.
3rd - Chelsea
Anything less than third in the Premier League will be deemed a disappointment for Frank Lampard's Chelsea as Roman Abramovich has once again delivered the goods in the transfer market.
Coming off a fresh transfer ban and impressive top-four finish last season, consistency will be key for the Blues this time around. Lampard plays easy on the eye, exciting football and having an attack involving Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz makes them an even more potent threat.
Chelsea need a major overhaul in defence. Ben Chilwell is good going forward but his defensive ability is a concern. It also needs to be seen how a 35-year-old Thiago Silva with no prior experience in the Premier League bolsters their shoddy defence.
2nd - Manchester City
Pep Guardiola has brought immense domestic success to the blue side of Manchester and has raised the standards so high that the Community Shield and a League Cup last season somehow appears underwhelming.
Phil Foden's emergence softens the void left by club legend David Silva, while Ferran Torres will need time to settle in the Premier League.
Guardiola has never had a Plan B and his sides have always been exposed by counter-attacks, despite dominating possession for the entirety of games.
A renewed domestic focus might regain them the Premier League title but City are in for a second place finish this time around.
It's harder to retain the Premier League than to win it and Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are on course to do just that to equal Manchester United's 20 top-flight titles. Not being able to win in front of their fans will be an added motivation for the Reds.
Klopp's money-shy side are still the best team in the Premier League. Thiago Alcantara would be a welcome addition to the midfield as the Spaniard's creativity would surely bolster their chances of retaining.
The only thing that can obstruct Liverpool's chances are getting untimely injuries. Except, Klopp's well-oiled machine looks more than capable to finish off the job and win the Premier League once again.Published 11 Sep 2020, 07:52 IST