Despite all the distractions and disruptions off the pitch, the return of Premier League football remains the major talking point throughout the sporting world.
The action kicks off on Saturday afternoon with a London derby as newly-promoted Fulham host Arsenal, with defending champions Liverpool also in action against Leeds United.
As ever, there will be plenty to look out for at both ends of the table as the season progresses, but all eyes will certainly be on the top four in the early stages, with several clubs vying for the all-important Champions League places.
We take a look at where the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur could end up come the end of the campaign, as well as other potential challengers who are aiming to upset the status quo.
Top four finish odds provided by William Hill – correct at the time of publishing but are subject to change.
Premier League Top 4 Finish Odds
1. Liverpool – Odds: 1/16
The current holders will feel a huge weight off their shoulders having clinched their first league title in 30 years, but manager Jurgen Klopp certainly won’t see it that way. The German has instilled a hunger in his squad over recent seasons, with his desire and tactical ingenuity not only creating champions of England and Europe, but of the world.
As the clubs around the Reds continue their heavy spending in a bid to try and close the gap at the top, Liverpool have remained very quiet in the transfer window, with Greek left-back Kostas Tsimikas their only arrival so far.
It is, however, perhaps a sign of the trust that the boss has in his current players. A Community Shield defeat to Arsenal wasn’t the ideal start for the Reds, but expect them to put that behind them immediately with another explosive season.
2. Manchester City – Odds: 1/6
Pep Guardiola’s side will only have one thing on their mind this season; revenge. The 18-point gap behind champions Liverpool last time out will undoubtedly drive their ambitions, with nine league losses another statistic that the boss won’t want to see happen ever again.
The squad has been weakened by the departures of David Silva and Leroy Sane, but they have signalled their intentions of regaining the Premier League trophy with the recruitment of Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake and Valencia winger Ferran Torres. Further reinforcements may yet arrive before the window closes.
Their phenomenal total of 102 league goals will be difficult to emulate, but they look set to be an unstoppable force this year in England. Guardiola has plenty of wrongs to right, and may place priority on securing Premier League glory over another European run.
3. Tottenham Hotspur – Odds: 4/9
Another side to have finished strongly last season, Spurs will be eager to prove themselves once again. Goals certainly won’t be in short supply thanks to the sensational Son Heung-min and Harry Kane, with the club turning to top-flight rivals in a bid to strengthen in other areas, with Matt Doherty, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Joe Hart all joining.
With over 300 wins in English football, Jose Mourinho cannot be overlooked as a world-class manager, but many are questioning whether or not he remains as formidable as he once was. The Portuguese boss is now entering his first full season at the helm in north London, and will be looking to really get his thoughts across to a largely talented squad.
However, Europa League trips across the continent on a Thursday evening could be a real burden, and one that will test both the depth and abilities of the Spurs squad.
3. Chelsea – Odds: 1/2
The Blues have been backed by many to really come to the fore this season, undoubtedly due to their activity in the transfer window. After relying heavily on youth due to the club’s transfer ban, Frank Lampard has now turned to some of Europe’s best and brightest, with both Timo Werner and Kai Havertz arriving from the Bundesliga for £54m and £71m respectively.
Fellow attacker Hakim Ziyech has also moved to Stamford Bridge, joined by Ligue 1 defensive duo Thiago Silva and Malang Sarr, with Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell another positive addition to the backline. Outgoings include wingers Willian and Pedro, but the club have more than made up for their moves away.
The west London outfit clinched fourth spot last time out at the expense of Leicester, but it’s another fresh start for Chelsea and Lampard this time around. If the players can gel properly and the manager can find the right balance between attack and defence, great things can be expected of this young, exciting team in the coming months.
5. Manchester United – Odds: 2/1
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer surprised everyone when he guided his side to third place last season, with an inspired January signing in Bruno Fernandes proving to be crucial. In a sublime run of form, United didn’t lose a single game in their last 14 league matches of the campaign, winning nine and drawing five.
Despite many calling for improvement at the back, the club finished with the third-best defensive record, with only Liverpool and Man City conceding fewer. Front three Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford meanwhile proved their abilities in front of goal, with the trio set to lead the line for the Red Devils once again.
The return of goalkeeper Dean Henderson has lifted spirits further around Old Trafford in recent weeks, with the arrival of Donny van de Beek from Ajax giving supporters even more reason to celebrate before a ball has even been kicked.
6. Arsenal – Odds: 5/1
Another club that could be distracted by European football, but one that may have a slight edge over their fierce rivals thanks to a busy transfer window that has seen the club recruit in all the necessary areas.
A shaky defence will be improved with the arrival of Gabriel and William Saliba, with winger Willian and the return of Dani Ceballos further successful additions. Youngsters Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah will also be key alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang going forward.
The Gunners really do have talent all over the pitch, and may now finally have a manager who can utilise that talent to mount a top-four challenge and bring the club back to where they belong.
There are, however, a handful of other clubs who are eager to stand up to the Premier League giants and force their way into the top four.
Another busy transfer window for Wolves – including a record signing in Porto youngster Fabio Silva – puts them at 16/1 to clinch a Champions League spot, having finished seventh in both of their top-flight campaigns under Nuno Espirito Santo.
After tumbling out of contention in dramatic fashion last time out, Leicester have been given odds of 3/1 to bounce back into the top four this season. Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton will also be looking to improve on their league position, with the Toffees available at 13/2 to climb from 12th into the top four.
Premier League Top 4 Prediction
- Man City