PREVIEW: Can Liverpool repeat or is the Premier League crown up for grabs?

Defending champion Liverpool continues to be the team to beat as the new Premier League season kicks off on Saturday, September 12.

Newly promoted Fulham takes on the up-and-coming Arsenal at the Craven Cottage for the season opening game at 7:30 pm, Philippine time. (READ: English Premier League games to air on Philippine TV)

With renewed hopes and fresh expectations for each club, how will the league stack up this season?

Liverpool

There have been doubts on whether the Reds can repeat their incredible 19/20 season. The club’s form suffered a bit of a dip after it secured the league title.

So far, Liverpool also hasn’t signed quality players to improve its squad depth. They have been linked with Bayern Munich’s Thiago, but nothing has materialized yet in that regard. 

But with Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah leading the way, Liverpool displayed world-beating form when motivation struck. If it enters the 20/21 season with the same vigor that it did last season, the Reds will repeat as Premier League champions.

Manchester City

City remains the most stacked team in the league, but based on last season, the club can be prone to mental lapses. It lost 9 games in the league including one to the relegated Norwich City. 

Nonetheless, if Pep Guardiola’s squad shows the same motivation as in the 17/18 season, City should cruise to the Premier League based off talent alone. 

Kevin de Bruyne is one of the world’s best players that will be leading the way for City. Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus upped their goal scoring, while Phil Foden emerged as one of the top young talents in the world.

Chelsea

The Chelsea attack will be stacked next season thanks to Christian Pulisic’s arrival as a bonafide star and new signings Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, and Timo Werner. 

However, the Blues’ defense and goalkeeping remains a huge question mark and will ultimately prevent them from legitimately challenging for the title.

If Chelsea manages to open the coffers once more to fortify the backline and replace the underwhelming Kepa in goal, it can manage to make the Premier League a three-horse race this season.

Manchester United

Bruno Fernandes was godsend for the Red Devils last season. After acquiring Fernandes from Sporting in the January transfer window, United didn’t lose a single game in the league. 

United also got 32 out of a possible 42 points, making a late charge for the third spot.

A full season of Fernandes leading the attack alongside Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial – who scored a combined 34 goals in the league – will be a terrifying sight for opposing defenders.

United must sign another defender to cement their spot in the top 4, but as it is, its attack is enough to carry them.

Arsenal

In 2019, the Gunners suffered their worst Premier League season since 1995. However, under manager Mikel Arteta, the club is on the rise which culminated with a FA Cup trophy. 

The presence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who scored 22 goals last season in the league, will assure the Gunners’ attack while young defenders William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães and the emergence of the 19-year-old Bukayo Saka will give Arsenal fans hope for the future. 

For now, without a new midfield signing, Arsenal is still a piece away from the top 4.

Tottenham

Based on Jose Mourinho’s second-season stints with his former clubs, he either overachieved or delivered a trophy. 

Will he do the same with the Spurs, who last lifted a trophy in the 2008 League Cup?

Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min might be the most terrifying strike partnership in the league, but their midfield will be a question mark especially with Dele Alli’s struggles last season and club record signing Tanguy Ndombele’s fitness issues. 

It’s fair to expect Spurs to finish 6th once again. The club is aging and it’s one Harry Kane injury away from dropping to mid-table.

Everton

Everton had a successful transfer window, revamping its entire midfield with the acquisitions of Allan, Abdoulaye Doucouré, and James Rodríguez. 

Rodríguez has worked with manager Carlo Ancelotti in Real Madrid, making it the ideal situation for the Colombian to revive his career as the Toffees’ primary creative outlet in the midfield.

The partnership of Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin up top will be expected as the pair scored 13 goals apiece last season. There is also potential for improvement given the available boost from the midfield. 

Everton might be a central defender away from solidifying its bid for a Europa League spot.

Wolves

The loss of Matt Doherty to direct rivals Tottenham Hotspur is a huge loss for Wolves. Nonetheless, Wolves will still have one of the league’s best midfields in Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves, while Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez spearhead the attack.

Adama Traore will continue to run wild in the Wolves’ right flank and his continued improvement will dictate how far they go this season – whether it be mid-table mediocrity or a spot in the Europa league after losing out this past season.

Leicester

The Foxes sat in second or third place for most of last season, but ended up finishing 5th place and missing a Champions League spot. 

The loss of Ben Chilwell to Chelsea is a huge blow. But Jamie Vardy, last year’s Golden Boot winner with 23 goals, James Maddison, and Wilfred Ndidi remain. Manager Brendan Rodgers’ squad will still have enough quality to compete for European spot.

Sheffield United

Sheffield United was in contention for the Europa League spots for most of the year before it tailed off after the COVID-19 restart and finished 9th, which is considered successful first campaign back in the top flight.

Chris Wilder was able to coach the Premiership’s fourth-most stifling defense but the lack of attacking punch will prove to be the Blades’ undoing yet again this upcoming season.

Southampton

Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl turned things around for the seemingly relegation-bound Saints last season with help from the star turn of Danny Ings, who scored 22 goals in the league.

Ings’ rise as a proven goalscorer ensures that his club is comfortably mid-table with the potential to rise as a top-half team.

Burnley

Under manager Sean Dyche, Burnley has become a mid-table mainstay and unless they become absolutely ravaged by injuries, this season should prove to be more of the same

Leeds United

After 16 years of toiling away from the first division of English football, Leeds is finally back in the Premiership.

Leeds has the potential to be this year version of Sheffield United – a ragtag crew of hard-working players coached by one of the most brilliant minds in football in Marcelo Bielsa.

Newcastle United

Acquiring Callum Wilson was a necessary move to cover for Joelinton who had a nightmare of a season. The Brazilian, who acquired for €44.00 million, only scored two goals last season in the Premier League.

Wilson, who scored 14 goals in the 18/19 Premier League season with Bournemouth, will complement wingers Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron perfectly in attack.

Crystal Palace

The signing of Eberechi Eze from Queens Park Rangers and the acquisition of Michy Batshuayi on loan from Chelsea to flank Wilfried Zaha will supply Palace with a jolt of creativity and quality in attack.

After posting the league’s second most-inept attack last season with only 31 goals, Palace’s solid acquisitions supplies it with just enough goals to supplement a solid, if uninspiring, defense.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Graham Potter’s squad is made up of hard-working, gritty players as Brighton continues to look like one of the most physical teams in the Prem.

The addition of experienced midfielder Adam Lallana and the continued emergence of last year’s additions Neil Maupay and Leandro Trossard will help clinch Brighton’s safety for the fourth straight season.

Aston Villa

Villa will be in the middle of yet another relegation battle this season. 

Nonetheless, it has the quality to stay up by the slimmest of margins with the addition of Ollie Watkins from Brentford and the expected signing of goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez from Arsenal.

Jack Grealish remains with the club to pull the strings in midfield as Villa looks toward an extended run in the Premier League.

West Ham

The controversy around the club’s sale of talented youngster Diangana could prove to be a disaster to the squad morale. Even captain Mark Noble voiced out his displeasure with the club after the sale of the 19-year-old Congolese winger. 

Discontent with how the club is being run may lead to a slow start from which West Ham couldn’t recover.

Fulham

Bringing in an experienced keeper in the World Cup-winning Alphonse Areola was a shrewd move to secure the team in between the sticks. 

However, the fate of this side will be no different from their 18/19 Premier League campaign unless manager Scott Parker somehow fortifies a defense that saw the club leak the most goals in its last season in the top flight.

West Bromwich Albion

Bringing back Matheus Pereira on a permanent transfer and staging the transfer coup of Grady Diangana from West Ham were good moves from West Brom. 

Pereira, in particular, notched 20 assists last season for the club and his creativity will be instrumental in its bid to stay in the Prem.

However, coming straight from the second division, West Brom just hasn’t done enough in the market to bolster the squad to avoid relegation. – Jedd Pagaduan/Rappler.com