Premier League preview: Can Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho bring the title back to Manchester?
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Premier League preview: Can Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho bring the title back to Manchester?

IT is three years since Manchester City won the Premier League title, and one year longer since cross-city rivals United were last champions.

Compared with Arsenal’s ongoing 13-year wait to be champions, Liverpool’s 27-year drought or Tottenham Hotspur’s 56 years without a title, three and four years seem inconsequential.

But for the giants of Manchester, both of whom are entering their second seasons under two of the world’s most celebrated coaches, the itch is beginning.

Can this be the year City or United end a run of three seasons where Chelsea, Leicester City and Chelsea again lifted the title?

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The smart money says yes. City are favourites for the title, with United jockeying with Chelsea to be second favourites.

The gap in the odds back to Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool is significant.

So it is time to don the tin hats and predict how this season’s Premier League will pan out, looking at each time’s likely finishing position, as well as their ceiling (best-case scenario) and floor (worst-case scenario).

Lukaku

Manchester United will look to Romelu Lukaku to spearhead their Premier League title challenge. Source: Reuters/Eddie Keogh

Champions: Manchester City (last season: 3rd)

City have addressed their defensive issues with their summer recruitment, bringing in Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Danilo and a new goalkeeper in Ederson, while their attack remains as potent as ever. With Gabriel Jesus ready to explode as a genuine Premier League star, Guardiola’s side should have enough to regain the title the club last won in 2013-14.

Key signing: Kyle Walker (Tottenham)

Key departure: Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)

Ceiling: Champions

Floor: Scraping into the top four

2nd: Manchester United (6th)

Mourinho’s teams are notoriously difficult to beat, and even last season – when all was far from perfect at Old Trafford – they conceded only 29 goals and lost only five games. With Romelu Lukaku having been recruited, they now have additional quality up front, although it will be interesting to see what happens regarding Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Key signing: Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

Key departure: Wayne Rooney (Everton)

Ceiling: Champions

Floor: Narrowly missing out on the top four

MorataChelsea

With Diego Costa likely to leave the club, Chelsea have signed striker Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid. Source: Reuters/Tony O’Brien

3rd: Chelsea (champions)

Antonio Conte delivered the title in his first season, having inherited a Chelsea team that had finished 10th, but a repeat looks difficult given the way City and United have spent again this summer. Chelsea’s recruitment looks shrewd, but there are no guarantees Alvaro Morata can replace Diego Costa’s goals, while they have strengthened United by selling them Nemanja Matic. The defending champions also appear to lack depth in key areas.

Key signing: Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid)

Key departure: Nemanja Matic (Manchester United)

Ceiling: Champions again

Floor: A lack of depth seeing them miss out on the top four

4th: Liverpool (4th)

Liverpool have strengthened their attack by bringing in Roma’s Mohamed Salah, and they appear to have fended off Barcelona’s interest in Philippe Coutinho, but doubts persist over their defensive capability. They may try to revive their interest in Southampton’s central defender Virgil van Dijk, but if they do not add quality at the back, their attacking prowess alone is unlikely to be enough to end their wait for a title.

Key signing: Mohamed Salah (Roma)

Key departure: Lucas Leiva (Lazio)

Ceiling: Being in the title mix come April

Floor: Defensive frailties leading them to miss the top four

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5th: Arsenal (5th)

Arsene Wenger seems to have ridden a storm of criticism that would have seen weaker characters buckle, and by winning the FA Cup and Community Shield, and signing Alexandre Lacazette, he has hinted at a renaissance. Much depends on what happens with Alexis Sanchez between now and the transfer deadline.

Key signing: Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)

Key departure: None… yet

Ceiling: Champions, if Sanchez stays and Lacazette clicks

Floor: Finishing way off the Champions League qualification places if neither of those things happen

6th: Tottenham Hotspur (2nd)

By doing very little, while their rivals have been strengthening, many feel Spurs have fallen behind. That remains to be seen but losing Kyle Walker to a rival will not help, nor will the interview fellow full-back Danny Rose this week gave to an English newspaper. Mauricio Pochettino is one of the top operators in the league, though, and has proved he can develop and improve talent. How Spurs deal with their Wembley issues, and whether they can bolster their squad in the next three weeks, will be crucial to how they fare.

Key signing: None… yet

Key departure: Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Ceiling: A title bid

Floor: Being left behind by their big-spending rivals and missing out on the top four

7th: Everton (7th)

Everton have spent big on Jordan Pickford, Davy Klaassen and Michael Keane, while also bringing Wayne Rooney home this summer. They have cash, ambition, and, in Ronald Koeman, a manager with nous. But the top four might be beyond them this season.

Key signing: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

Key departure: Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)

Ceiling: Scraping into the Champions League

Floor: Slipping from 7th, although this seems unlikely

Rooney

Wayne Rooney is back with Everton after 13 years at Manchester United. Source: Action Images via Reuters/Adam Holt

The rest of the pack… 

8th: Leicester City (12th)

Key signing: Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City)

Key departure: None

9th: West Ham United (11th)

Key signing: Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen)

Key departure: Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough)

10th: Bournemouth (9th)

Key signing: Jermain Defoe (Sunderland)

Key departure: None

11th: Southampton (8th)

Key signing: Mario Lemina (Juventus)

Key departure: Jay Rodriguez (West Brom)

12th: Crystal Palace (14th)

Key signing: Jairo Riedewald (Ajax)

Key departure: None

13th: West Brom (10th)

Key signing: Jay Rodriguez (Southampton)

Key departure: None

14th: Stoke City (13th)

Key signing: Kurt Zouma (Chelsea, loan)

Key departure: Marko Arnautovic (West Ham)

15th: Newcastle United (Championship winners)

Key signing: Mikel Merino (Borussia Dortmund, loan)

Key departure: Vurnon Anita (Leeds)

16th: Watford (17th)

Key signing: Andre Gray (Burnley)

Key departure: None

17th: Swansea City (15th)

Key signing: Roque Mesa (Las Palmas)

Key departure: Jack Cork (Burnley)

18th: Burnley (16th)

Key signing: Jack Cork (Swansea)

Key departure: Andre Gray (Watford)

19th: Brighton & Hove Albion (Championship runners-up)

Key signing: Davy Propper (PSV Eindhoven)

Key departure: None

20th: Huddersfield Town (Championship play-off winners)

Key signing: Aaron Mooy (Manchester City)

Key departure: None