Return of the Prem
Excitement aplenty as the 2020/21 Premier League season is on our doorstep. The 29th rendition of the world’s most competitive football league kicks off Saturday 12 September, beginning with a London derby as Arsenal travel to PL returnees Fulham. Defending champions Liverpool begin their campaign against Leeds United, who return to England’s top-flight following a 16-year hiatus.
This year’s Community Shield – the traditional curtain-raiser for the league season – saw a penalty shoot-out win for FA Cup holders Arsenal over Liverpool, to lift their 16th Shield.
Mikel Arteta has won two trophies in less than nine months in management.
Opening round of PL fixtures:
- Brighton vs Chelsea
- Crystal Palace vs Southampton
- Fulham vs Arsenal
- Liverpool vs Leeds
- Sheff Utd vs Wolves
- Spurs vs Everton
- West Brom vs Leicester
- West Ham vs Newcastle
- Burnley vs Man Utd*
- Man City vs Aston Villa*
*Man City & Man Utd have had their opening fixtures postponed due to the late run-in last season.
Both Manchester clubs will kick-off their seasons in gameweek 2; City travel to Wolves, while United host Crystal Palace.
Tottenham meet Everton in north London and this encounter may well be the pick of the bunch of opening fixtures.
José Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti have won a combined 4 Premier League and 5 Champions League titles. The pair have 45 trophies in management between them.
Premier League champions Liverpool welcome Championship winners Leeds Utd to Anfield. Marcelo Bielsa is managing in his fifth different European league; the 65-year-old Argentine has previously served his duties in France, Italy, Spain, as well as in the EFL Championship.
This is set to be the first head-to-head between Bielsa and his opposite number, Jürgen Klopp.
My thoughts and predictions ahead of the season …
All eyes are on those top four positions, and as many as nine teams may feel they have what it takes to finish there.
3. Man Utd
4. Man City
6. Arsenal (UEL Winners)
(R) Aston Villa
(R) Crystal Palace
(R) West Brom
Golden Boot - Timo Werner
Golden Glove - Ederson Moraes
First manager to lose job - Dean Smith (Villa)
For the first time in Premier League history, Liverpool enter the new season as reigning champions. Repeating (or even bettering) last season's heroics is a monumental task and they may feel the pressure mounting.
Although I do not see the Reds successfully defending their crown, I do envisage them having a respectable title challenge and earning a comfortable top-four finish.
Come 16 May next year, I foresee Frank Lampard’s Chelsea being crowned champions of England. Lampard’s recruitment ahead of the new season has been immaculate; Chelsea’s new-look attack is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with and their defence also features some additional quality.
Squad depth does not seem to be an obstacle for them, and the blend of youth and experience in Lampard’s ranks seem reliable enough on paper.
Most of the younger first-team players have at least a year’s worth of experience in England’s top-flight as well as in the UEFA Champions League.
Should the Blues manage to pull it off, it would be their 5th Premier League triumph since 2004.
Lampard would effectively become the first-ever English manager to claim a PL winner's medal.
Wolves do not have any European commitments this season. Nuno Santo has held on to most of his top performers and also dipped into the transfer market for additional options. After missing out on UCL qualification by only seven points last season, Wolves can pay their undivided attention towards a strong league run in an attempt for continental football.
Everton may have an outsider's chance of earning Champions League football for the first time since 2005, under David Moyes.
The Toffees could well prove to be the newest dark horse in the race for European football.
Carlo Ancelotti has a terrific track record having won league titles with AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and PSG; he also has three UCL successes to his name.
The 61-year-old Italian has attracted some serious talent to Goodison Park ahead of his first full season on Merseyside.
Most of the renowned 'top 6' teams, so to speak, have supplemented much-needed improvements to their on-field talent. Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd, and Spurs have all reinforced their squads in a bid to bridge the gap to Liverpool and Man City.
Both the blue and red halves of Manchester will be looking to retain their respective top 4 statuses.
Arsenal and Spurs have had to settle for Europa League football this season; the north London clubs will be seeking rapid progress following their sub-standard ends to last season.
Winning Europa guarantees Pot 1 Champions League qualification the following season.
Mikel Arteta is looking to put Arsenal's major defensive problems behind them; the Gunners trailed last season's champions by 43 points.
Chelsea will be looking to improve defensively, in their own right. The Blues conceded 54 goals and kept only nine clean sheets in the league last season.
José Mourinho, meanwhile, will be looking at get Spurs back into Europe's elite.
At the opposite end of the table, the relegation scramble could also involve a handful of teams.
Last term Aston Villa survived the drop by the skin of their teeth, however they might not be so lucky this time around.
The Villains conceded 67 league goals last season, the second-lowest behind only Norwich.
Crystal Palace's 8-year stint in the Premier League may be under threat, too. After an underwhelming end to last season which saw a single win in their final nine matches, Palace seem a fair shout to face a battle against relegation.
Newcastle may also be contenders to go down at the end of the season. Last campaign the Magpies won three games in their last 15 outings.
Steve Bruce's men have a huge task at hand in order to hold on to their Premier League status.
Fulham are back in the Premier League after a single season away; West Brom return having been relegated in 2018. Scott Parker made 368 PL appearances during his playing career hence his vast experience may give him the upper hand over Baggies counterpart, Slaven Bilić.
Fulham are one of four PL clubs to be spearheaded by a former player; Parker could be a shout to land the Spurs job in the future.
Please make use of the 'Forum' to comment your predictions on top 6, relegation, top scorer and first manager sacked.