Premier League: Chelsea to win the title, Arsenal fifth
Who'll win the race for Premier League title and Champions League qualification? Our top six predictions
THE Premier League returns this weekend with one of the most unpredictable title races for years in store. Supporters of all the big teams will believe their club has a decent chance of a top four finish, if not a shot at the title.
So who will finish where? Here's what the experts, and The Week, are saying:
CHELSEA: Jose Mourinho is back at Stamford Bridge and his arrival means Chelsea should have a "serious tilt at the title," says the Daily Mail. The Blues already have plenty of talent on their books and The Guardian says the return of the Special One should add "smart battle plans and mighty esprit de corps" to the mix. However, the paper warns that the Chelsea squad "looks obscenely over-endowed in some areas but suspiciously deficient in a couple of others". Creative midfielders are not a problem, but strikers and defensive midfielders could be.
The Blues' pursuit of Wayne Rooney could have a major bearing on their season. According to Daily Telegraph pundit Alan Hansen, Rooney will be crucial. "If he joins Chelsea, they will win the league. I'm absolutely sure of that," he writes. But his colleague Henry Winter believes they will win it anyway, and it is Mourinho, not Rooney, who will make the difference. Unlike the other newly-arrived managers at the big clubs, "Mourinho knows how to win the Premier League".
Who to watch: Eden Hazard could be key says Alan Smith in the Daily Telegraph. Mourinho is intent on taking the mercurial Belgian "under his wing" and the results could be interesting. "It could either end in a falling out or come off a treat," he says.
The Week prediction: Winners
MANCHESTER CITY: Last season was a huge disappointment for City, who surrendered their Premier League crown, under-achieved spectacularly in Europe and lost the FA Cup final to Wigan. New manager Manuel Pellegrini will be expected to oversee a big turnaround and he has acted shrewdly in the transfer market, operating in what The Guardian calls a "brisk and decisive" manner and spending £90m on new talent to plug gaps and replace old hands like Carlos Tevez.
"Fernandinho and Yaya Toure look a formidable central midfield, a blend of energy, tackles and goals," says Winter in the Telegraph. "City lacked width under Roberto Mancini... so Jesus Navas amply addresses a flaw. Stefan Jovetic has often looked sharp against English opposition in the past. Alvaro Negredo should also prosper."
They will challenge. "Pellegrini's lack of Premier League experience is likely a disadvantage, but both Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti won the title in their debut season," notes Talksport.
Who to watch: Forget the new signings, the man tasked with getting City back on top is captain and centreback Vincent Kompany, who will be the first name on the team sheet according to the Daily Mail.
The Week prediction: Second
MANCHESTER UNITED: The ghost of Alex Ferguson will stalk the corridors of Old Trafford this season and David Moyes could be in for a tough time. "If he loses his first few games, expect Fergie's presence to loom large from the directors' box," warns the Daily Mail.
Then there is the distraction of Wayne Rooney's efforts to quit the club. Not only that, but Moyes's failure to add to his squad while his two main rivals, City and Chelsea, have brought in reinforcements could prove crucial, says The Guardian. "As the current squad stands, the prospects of United defending the title appear in the balance, at best."
According to the Daily Mirror, United fans face "a difficult period of transition, as the players and the club itself comes to terms with the huge adjustment that comes with losing the most influential figure in United's history".
Who to watch: With no major signings to speak of, there will be plenty of pressure on Robin van Persie to replicate his form of last season. "If, however, Van Persie were to lose form or suffer from injury, momentum takes a heavy hit," warns Alan Smith.
The Week prediction: Third
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Gareth Bale has dominated the headlines at White Hart Lane all summer, but Andre Villas-Boas has been busy bolstering a squad that came within a whisker of a Champions League place last season. The arrival of striker Roberto Soldado will be a "huge shot in the arm", says ITV and there are other arrivals including Paulinho.
Chairman Daniel Levy even believes that "with Bale and, possibly, a couple more decent buys, he could have a team to challenge for the title," says The Guardian. But almost everything rests on the shoulders of the young Welsh wizard. "If Bale is either long gone or a discontented presence, the gaping hole he leaves could thwart Tottenham's top-four ambitions once more," warns Talksport.
Who to watch: Paulinho, He's a Brazilian Frank Lampard says ITV, and "looks set to strike up a profitable partnership with compatriot Sandro in the Spurs engine room".
The Week prediction: Fourth
ARSENAL: Another summer of frustration for Arsenal fans, with just a free transfer in the arrivals hall and £70m still burning a hole in Arsene Wenger's pocket. "The bottom line is that Arsenal finished 16 points off the title pace last season for a reason – the lack of world-class quality," claims The Guardian. "Everybody knows it; everybody says it. The issue has become all-consuming, and it has even undermined the tick-boxes for optimism."
But there are some positives according to Soccer Lens. "For the first time in many years, none of their star players have been sold and neither has there been any managerial change at the Emirates."
But fans hoping to win the Premier League will be disappointed, says the Mail. "Wenger will want to challenge for the title but hanging on to their top four place is a more realistic target." And if that remains the case for too much longer the club "will have some seriously angry fans on their hands."
Who to watch: Jack Wilshere has to drive the team on if they are to achieve anything. He is the club's "heartbeat" says the Mail.
The Week prediction: Fifth
LIVERPOOL: For Gareth Bale at Spurs read Luis Suarez at Liverpool. The Uruguayan has dominated the summer headlines at Anfield and could determine the club's fortunes this season. The Suarez saga also demonstrates the importance of Champions League qualification for a club like Liverpool, says Metro.
Others agree. "The top four is not just an aspiration this season... it is essential to Fenway Sports Group's designs for the club," notes The Guardian. Fanatix is blunt: "Top four or bust," it declares.
However, there are concerns that manager Brendan Rodgers has failed to address the weaknesses in his squad although he has made some "astute new signings" according to the Daily Mail, "at little net cost after trimming last season's squad".
Who to watch: With Suarez banned for the first six matches of the season, and possibly on his way out, 21-year-old Philippe Coutinho "will be the creative force in the final third of the pitch", says Fanatix. "He will need to be at his brilliant best if the Reds have any chance of a top four finish."
The Week prediction: Sixth ·