The best league in the world kick-starts this weekend and we look at a few of the key questions ahead of what will undoubtedly be another incredible season.
The fourteenth edition of the Unofficial Football Index Weekly magazine titled ‘The New Season Is Official Here’ is out now and can be viewed in full via Twitter @ FI_WeeklyMag.
To steal the opening lyric to one of the recent years’ biggest films: ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for.
88 days on from Manchester City becoming the first team in a decade to retain the Premier League title, Liverpool take on newly-promoted Norwich in the season opener.
The Nations League. The Copa America. International youth tournaments. Inter-continental friendlies. Transfer speculation.
We haven’t been starved of football this summer. But none of it quite compares to the thrill of club football week-in, week-out.
To celebrate the return of the new Premier League season, Football Index Weekly Magazine previews some of the Winners and Losers this season.
Can Liverpool finally lift the Premier League trophy?
To lose just a sole league game all season whilst tallying 97 points and still end up emptyhanded is unfortunate, to say the least.
Yet buoyed on by their Champions League victory – bouncing back from their defeat just 12 months earlier – will give Liverpool the encouragement that this could finally be their year. And yet, it probably won’t be.
Jurgen Klopp has built a formidable team, yet his team comes up against arguably the greatest Premier League side of all time in Manchester City.
There is no reason to doubt why City couldn’t match their points tallies of the last two seasons, yet it’s hard to imagine Liverpool going another season with just one defeat.
Whether the push for the Champions League steals focus from the Blues’ title ambitions -unlikely given the demands placed on the players by Pep Guardiola, proven by their clean sweep domestically last season – is the only hope Liverpool can have of finally lifting their maiden Premier League title.
Verdict: Manchester City to be champions
Can Tottenham make it a 3-horse race?
Whilst finishing the season empty-handed, Spurs fans can look back fondly on the 2018-19 season that saw them reach a Champions League final and once again secure a top-4 league finish, all whilst coping with a delayed, but eventual, move in to a stunning new stadium.
There may be concerns about the way in which they drifted from the top two in the later stages of the season – along with never realistically looking like they could turn around that Champions League final – yet it would be harsh to criticize them.
The season ahead has seen them make a long-awaited transfer with record-buy Tanguy Ndombele arriving at the club, with others potentially set to follow: Giovani Lo Celso (£1.79) is expected to arrive by the end of the week.
Yet bridging a gap of 27 points to the Champions is not easily done, and whilst this team is certainly growing stronger, their lack of depth in comparison to the top 2 makes it unlikely they’ll be able to truly sustain a fight for the entire season.
With the question marks surrounding Chelsea (transfer ban), Arsenal (shaky defence) and Manchester United (hit and miss) means anything less than a solid third-placed league finish will be deemed a disappointment.
Verdict: too big of a gap to challenge the top 2 but will comfortably finish 3rd.
Who will finish 4th, 5th & 6th?
Manchester United still finished 9 points ahead of 7th-placed Wolves last season: a disappointment for them compared to an excellent finish for the Midlands-based side – suggesting that the top 6 are still some way ahead of the rest of the pack.
Yet the question marks around these teams coincide with a strengthening around them, meaning there has never been a better chance for an ‘unfashionable’ club to sneak their way in.
Wolves continue to build an exciting team of young Europeans, adding Patrick Cutrone (£1.12) and on-loan Jesus Vallejo (£0.54). Yet whilst they could be hindered by a first Europa League campaign, just like Burnley did last season, they are not alone in improving.
Everton look like going from strength-to-strength, with signings including reliable experience (Fabian Delph, £0.49) and exciting prospect (Moise Kean, £2.65), whilst West Ham continue to build an exciting attack with Pablo Fornals (£1.39) and Sebastien Haller (£1.61).
Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers could have money to burn at Leicester with Harry Maguire’s (£2.31) departure. All four of these teams should be looking upwards this season, and it is not completely absurd to imagine at least one of these sneaking into the top 6 this season at the expense of one of the big boys.
The traditional big boys will need to up their games this season. Everton, in particular, look capable of capitalising.
Can any of the promoted sides avoid an instant return to the Championship?
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that, given the strength of some of the teams in the Championship, it was a surprise to see Norwich and Sheffield United take the top two spots: yet it is fully to their credit that they did so, and in style. They certainly face an uphill battle this season, starting as the bookies’ favourites for relegation.
Despite finishing 18 points behind Norwich, Aston Villa are deemed the most likely to stay up of the three sides, yet much will be dependent on how their new signings settle in after splurging over £100m on players; you only need to look at the fate of Fulham, who had become the first promoted side to spend such a figure.
Burnley have been tipped by some to have a difficult season, yet without the early Europa League start that seemed disrupt the entire first-half of their season, you would expect Sean Dyche’s side to far better.
But what of Newcastle?
On the negative side, fans have seen a much-loved manager replaced with one who lacks Premier League managerial success and continues to detest the owner.
Yet on the positive side, £60m has been spent strengthening the side, with Allan Saint-Maximin (£1.11) joining record signing Joelinton (£1.17). It really could go either way at St James’ Park, yet given it’s never straightforward at the club, fans may need to fear the worst.
That leaves Brighton at the biggest risk, with new manager Graham Potter needing to find an alternative solution to simply relying on 35-year old Glenn Murray (£0.31) and his goals.
Verdict: Brighton to finish bottom and Sheffield United to fight valiantly but ultimately fall short. The final spot could be a straight shootout between Norwich and Newcastle – though Aston Villa will join them should too many faces unsettle their squad.