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Predictions: Red Devils to give Chelsea the blues and more

LET THE GAMES BEGIN: Man City manager Pep Guardiola (left) and Chelsea's N'Golo Kante

WHEN PREMIER League champions Chelsea allowed Nemanja Matic to join Manchester United they gave the green light to a transfer that will see them relinquish their hard earned crown.

Matic has been key to Chelsea success in the recent past and his class and quality in midfield would appear to tick a vital box as United boss Jose Mourinho looks to dethrone his former employers. Ball-winning Matic will allow new team mate Paul Pogba to roam at will with the knowledge and security that Serbian Matic will do the dirty work.


KEY SIGNING: United new boy Matic

Under Mourinho, the Red Devils will not concede too many goals especially with keeper David De Gea as their last line of defence. Centre-half Eric Bailly will be better off after a season in the top flight and will be expected to guide new partner Victor Lindelof through his own baptism of fire. And of course after spending £75 million on striker Romelu Lukaku there should be goals in a United team that were gun shy last term. The development of Marcus Rashford was something to savour and if Mourinho can cajole the talent that is Anthony Martial, the Old Trafford outfit are my tip to land the biggest prize in domestic football.

The holders have made their own purchases in the shape of striker Alvaro Morata, Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko and German international defender Antonio Rudiger, who has been acquired to fill the massive boots of John Terry.

But, Chelsea will potentially find it harder to defend their trophy than winning it last May.

Having finished third and second in the last two campaigns, Tottenham fans will be more than hopeful that 2018 will be their year. To do so, they will have to hope that Golden Boot Harry Kane keeps scoring - and fit - and that Dele Alli continues to display his prodigious form.


GOALS: Hot Spur Kane (right) in high-flying action

Spurs have done very little in the transfer market to date and have opted for stability. Or has the impending move to a new swanky new stadium tied their financial hands? They will play their home fixtures at Wembley in 2017- 18 and I think that could be too much of a hindrance for the blue and white half of north London.

Of course, just based on the money they have spent, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will be among the favourites to land the PL crown come next spring. My view is that Guardiola is now under even greater pressure to win having spent some £200 million. Should his new charges gel they can do it. But it is a big ask in the unforgiving cauldron that is the English Premier League. Guardiola will be hoping that his new keeper Ederson will give him the ball-kicking and stability that the manager craves.

Having been out in the cold for so long during 2016- 17, Yaya Toure – should he be at his very best – could be pivotal to City’s cause as will Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus who both looked class acts last time out. Raheem Sterling will come under the microscope no doubt. The front man has failed to produce his Liverpool form in a City shirt; will he be the next big name to be shown the exit door by Guardiola?

Liverpool, qualifying round permitting, will have to contend with the Champions League this time round. But, all is not well in the Reds’ camp if the grapevine is true. Star man Philippe Coutinho is understandably distracted by a possible move to Barcelona. Should they lose him they will be short of creativity and goals.

SMART

With Adam Lallana out for two months at least and Daniel Sturridge injured yet again, manager Jurgen Klopp might well have to do some smart transfer business before the window closes at the end of the month. For such a big club, I just cannot fathom why the Anfield club fail to be involved in the transfers of A-List players. Winning trophies would help I suppose.

Arsenal’s fans will no doubt be on Arsene Wenger’s back should they start in unsatisfactory fashion. Their Community Shield success will boost confidence but it does not guarantee ultimate success. Wenger is proving to be something of a Houdini; as his new two year contract proves. He remains the most powerful man at the club despite the naysayers. But whether the faithful like it or not, Wenger’s around for another season at least. The signing of goal poacher Alexandre Lacazette was a decent move but further transfers are required if the Gunners’ are to make a genuine title challenge at last. They have ability but their mental fragility remains the biggest question mark hanging over them.


GUNNER BE GOOD: Arsenal's Lacazette

There will be positive anticipation at Everton’s Goodison Park. New investor Farhad Moshiri has splashed the cash but sadly on good players as opposed to great ones. The Toffees won’t win the league but their aim must surely be a Champions League berth.

Southampton just failed to win the League Cup in February and that would have been just reward for a club that always play football that is easy on the eye. The happiest man associated with the South Coast club, however, is inevitably the bank manager. The club continue to sell their best players while comfortably surviving in the division. Expect more of the same under new boss Mauricio Pellegrino.

Near neighbours Bournemouth did a cute bit of business when snapping-up the services of Jermain Defoe who sits seventh in the PL’s all time record goal scorers chart. The diminutive attacker will bag goals aplenty as Bournemouth cement their top flight status. He will be aided by Josh King who was a sensation last campaign.

ESTABLISHED

West Brom will not excite too many under Tony Pulis but they are now an established PL club and under their defensive minded boss they will stay that way without pulling up too many trees. The same could be said of Stoke but should City get off to another poor start, manager Mark Hughes may well find himself at the job centre before the end of 2017.

Both West Ham and Leicester City will want to improve on disappointing campaigns. The Hammers have added experience in the shape of Pablo Zabaleta, England ‘keeper Joe Hart, Javier Hernandez and the prickly but gifted Marko Arnautovic.

As for Leicester, who were celebrating a title win this time last year, they will hope that Nigerian Kelechi Iheanacho will score the goals that were missing – along with so many other things – as they woefully failed to defend their hard earned crown.

DELIVER

Crystal Palace have so much potential but when will they deliver? Key for them, as is the norm, will be the prodigiously talented Wilfried Zaha but he cannot do it on his own. New boss Frank de Boer, despite his reputation, will not find things easy in south London.


TALENT: Palace's mercurial Zaha

It won’t be easy either for Swansea, Burnley or Watford who have all done well to hang on to their exalted status over the years. But all three are likely to be involved in the scrap to avoid the trapdoor back to the Championship.

The same will apply to newly promoted Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield Town.

United and Albion will rely on the savvy and contacts books of Rafa Benitez and Chris Hughton respectively. Hughton is the only black manager in the top division, so many will ‘adopt’ Brighton as Hughton’s success can have an influence on many an aspiring black coach or manager.


INFLUENCE: Brighton boss Hughton faces a tough campaign

Like the other two promoted sides, Huddersfield will have to accumulate points quickly to stave off what may well be a bleak mid-winter.

The Premier League is back. Get ready for another rollercoaster! Are you ready?

QUICK PREDICTIONS:

RODNEY HINDS,VOICE SPORTS EDITOR:

Champions: Man United
Relegation: Huddersfield, Swansea, Watford
Player to watch: Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)
Promoted from the Championship: Aston Villa, Derby, Norwich
FA Cup: Tottenham
League Cup: Everton
Champions League: Barcelona

JOEL CAMPBELL, THE VOICE'S CHIEF FOOTBALL WRITER:

Champions: Man United
Relegation: Huddersfield, Burnley, Brighton
Player to watch: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Promoted from the Championship: Reading, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday
FA Cup: Chelsea
League Cup: Everton
Champions League: Bayern Munich

AYO ODUMADE, FOOTBALL WRITER:

Champions: Man United
Relegation: Huddersfield, Brighton, Watford
Player to watch: Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal)
Promoted from the Championship: Aston Villa, Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday
FA Cup: Arsenal
League Cup: Everton
Champions League: Man United

NATASHA HENRY, FOOTBALL WRITER:

Champions: Man City Relegation: Huddersfield, Swansea, Burnley
Player to watch: Benjamin Mendy (Man City)
Promoted from the Championship: Aston Villa, Reading, Fulham
FA Cup: Everton
League Cup: Tottenham
Champions League: Barcelona

JOHN PORTCH, FOOTBALL WRITER:

Champions: Man City Relegation: Huddersfield, Burnley, Watford
Player to watch: Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)
Promoted from the Championship: Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday, Fulham
FA Cup: Liverpool
League Cup: Tottenham
Champions League: Barcelona

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