The Premier League is back ahead of an unprecedented season with the anticipated pause for the 2022 World Cup.
Liverpool will hope to keep pace to the very end once again, despite the loss of Sadio Mane, with Darwin Nunez adding a different element for Jurgen Klopp.
While there is great uncertainty at the bottom, with Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest hoping to survive after promotion last season.
Here, our writers make their predictions for a season like no other before:
Miguel Delaney (chief football writer): In a normal season, I’d say Manchester City with full confidence, but this is very far from a normal season due to the World Cup. Part of me is tempted to say Tottenham Hotspur but the fact neither Erling Haaland nor Mohamed Salah are going to Qatar will have a huge effect in itself. I’m going to say Manchester City with diminished confidence.
Richard Jolly (senior football correspondent):Manchester City. Pep Guardiola has found a formula for getting an absurd number of points and while signing Erling Haaland alters his approach, they may just edge out Liverpool again.
Mark Critchley (northern football correspondent): Manchester City. The Etihad has seen more upheaval this summer than during any of the past five years and there could be some initial teething problems as a result, but this is still the dominant team of the Premier League’s present era that we’re talking about.
Ben Burrows (sport editor): Liverpool. It’s them or Manchester City, obviously, so for the sake of variety let’s give it to the Reds this time who have all the motivation they need to pip their rivals to the title.
Jack Rathborn: Liverpool. Mohamed Salah should benefit from the break during the World Cup and I expect them to have the best defence in the league with Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate now flourishing in red.
Karl Matchett: Liverpool. The attack is now a slightly smaller group, but all of a more even (read: higher) level of quality. As long as injuries don’t hit the key spine members of Alisson, Van Dijk and Fabinho, they have what it takes to respond to mentally tough setbacks of missing out last time.
Alex Pattle: Manchester City. It’s become too hard to bet against them, although I expect another close race between City and Liverpool. If the Erling Haaland signing clicks… worry for City’s rivals. Worry for everyone.
Michael Jones: Manchester City. It’ll be another close title race between City and Liverpool, but Pep Guardiola has strengthened his squad and you can’t look past them
Jamie Braidwood: Liverpool. Like in 2019, it feels as if they can carry the momentum from falling short last season and hit the ground running.
Kieran Jackson: Manchester City. Claiming four out of the last five titles makes Pep Guardiola’s side undeniably the team to beat and with Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez coming in up top, City’s strength in depth will once again see them win out come the end of the season.
Who else will finish in the top four?
RJ: Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea. One of the themes of the season could be the battle for supremacy in London and Antonio Conte might take Tottenham above his old club, Chelsea.
MC: Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea. No question on the top two. A first full season of Antonio Conte should guarantee at least fourth for Tottenham. The last spot is harder to nail down. Chelsea’s mini-rebuild has left a lot of questions but you expect that in the end, Thomas Tuchel will have enough answers.
BB: Man City, Tottenham, Chelsea.
JR: Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham. Fourth might be somewhat underwhelming given the hype surrounding Spurs after Antonio Conte was fully backed, but I expect Chelsea to add key players late in the window and contend with the schedule a little better.
KM: Man City, Tottenham, Chelsea. Much can still change with transfers of course but Spurs look really well-placed now to join a top four which can put a bit of distance between themselves and the next few challengers.
AP: Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea.
MJ: Liverpool, Chelsea, Man United. The top three seem like certainties and Erik ten Hag will bring enough discipline to United to get them back into the Champions League.
JB: Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal. The signings of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus are smart buys that can help Mikel Arteta’s side take the next step. I expect Spurs to be closer to Liverpool and City than those battling for fourth.
KJ: Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea. Liverpool remain City’s closest challengers but will miss Sadio Mane’s knack for match-winning goals, while Spurs should be contenders for the title with a full Antonio Conte pre-season under their belt. Chelsea should pip Man Utd to fourth.
Who will be relegated?
MD: This could genuinely be any three of 12, with the potential variety only surpassed by the volatility. A managerial change or signing could alter everything. I’d be curious as to the future of Ralph Hassenhuttl, for example, and it’s for that reason I’m going for Southampton, Everton and Bournemouth.
RJ: Bournemouth, Fulham and Brentford. Bournemouth look very short of players, Fulham’s defence needs strengthening and while Brentford are an advert for astute recruitment and good planning, the loss of Christian Eriksen could cost them.
MC: Southampton, Fulham, Bournemouth. The three promoted clubs feel weaker than in recent seasons and two of them have had poor windows so far, especially Bournemouth. Southampton have been on a steady decline for a while now and have focused on the future in the market.
BB: Southampton, Bournemouth, Fulham.
JR: Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth, Leeds United. I fear for Leeds after losing both Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips and the pressure on Brenden Aaronson, Luis Sinisterra and Tyler Adams to hit the ground running.
KM: Southampton, Fulham, Bournemouth. Neither of the latter two have done anywhere near enough in the market yet. Either late signings or a long season for them. Saints’ additions are actually decent, but they don’t improve them enough relative to other clubs potentially around them.
AP: Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth, Leeds United.
MJ: Fulham, Bournemouth, and Leeds. Fulham seem stuck in a cycle of promotion and relegation so they’ll go back down and Bournemouth will likely join them. Leeds really struggled without Kalvin Phillips last year and he’s joined Man City.
JB: Leeds, Fulham, Bournemouth. I think Fulham and Bournemouth will continue the two-up, two-down trend of recent years – neither have done enough over the window. One team will get sucked in, it could be Wolves, Everton or Southampton, but Leeds look the most vulnerable.
KJ: Leeds, Brentford, Bournemouth. Leeds will struggle without Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips while Brentford will do well to be as quick out of the blocks as last season – and could do a Sheffield United and slide out of the league in their second season. Out of all the promoted teams, Bournemouth feel less well-equipped to cope with the jump up.
Player of the season
MD: It will be someone not going to the World Cup, as they will be free to entirely focus on the club game: Mohamed Salah.
RJ: Kevin de Bruyne. The outstanding player in the division in the second half of last season, though he could revert to being a provider after Haaland’s arrival.
MC: Kevin De Bruyne. Recovered from the signs of age, injury and fatigue to decide the title race last season. The best player in the league, as he has been for some time now.
BB: Mohamed Salah. If I’m backing Liverpool for the title then I have to back their best player. No World Cup only helps his case.
JR: Mohamed Salah. Now the complete player as a creator as well as a prolific goalscorer, will relish the extra responsibility without Sadio Mane.
KM: Kevin de Bruyne or Thiago Alcantara. One of the two midfield schemers will be the difference between tired draws and vital wins during a relentless season. Last year the latter produced some of the best performances in the league; this year he’ll need to do it more frequently.
AP: Kevin De Bruyne. He’s been the best player in one of the best Premier League teams of all time, and it feels like he’s still not quite getting enough credit for that – somehow. His consistency has been so impressive, and I’ll back him again here. Mohamed Salah isn’t a bad shout, though, is it?
MJ: Kevin De Bruyne. If he can forge the relationship with Erling Haaland that many City fans are hoping for then De Bruyne should win this by a mile.
JB: Harry Kane. The caveat is the mid-season World Cup and the impact that might have on the England captain, but under Antonio Conte I think Kane can produce the levels he showed away at Manchester City last year on an even more regular basis.
KJ: Heung-min Son. The tireless South Korean, who was joint top goalscorer last season, should thrive in Conte’s hard-working system of play and could even launch Spurs into a title race should his partnership with Harry Kane again take off.
MD: Haaland is obviously tempting but I’m still not 100 per cent sure how he will fit in, so I will again say Mohamed Salah.
RJ: Harry Kane. It is tempting to wonder if Mohamed Salah and Erling Haaland will benefit by not playing in the World Cup but Kane has been potent under Conte so far.
MC: Mohamed Salah. It feels like between this and the player of the season prediction, we have been able to confidently pick the same two lads for the past five years.
BB: Mohamed Salah. His lack of World Cup involvement should keep him fresher than his rivals, barring Erling Haaland.
JR: Mohamed Salah.
KM: Mohamed Salah and Hary Kane. Another season of sharing it. How oddly specific, I know.
AP: Mohamed Salah.
MJ: Mohamed Salah.
JB: Mohamed Salah. Looks sharp and ready to repeat his early season burst from last campaign. His tally of 23 last season was actually quite low considering where he was by the Africa Cup of Nations (Salah only scored in three games after February) and I think he might get closer to 30 this campaign.
KJ: Erling Haaland. He might not score consistently week in, week out, as he adapts to life in the Premier League, but expect the Norwegian to bag his fair share of hat-tricks as City’s vast array of attacking stars serve to feed him. Not playing in the World Cup should help his fitness too.
Signing of the season
MD: Ivan Perisic, who I think is one of those players who doesn’t just represent exactly what his manager wants, but will have a multiplying effect that makes him inspired.
RJ: Darwin Nunez. The Community Shield suggested Liverpool’s fine run in the transfer market should continue. But for a value-for-money pick, James Tarkowski on a free transfer for Everton is up there.
MC: Cheick Doucoure, Boubacar Kamara and Tyrell Malacia all feel like smart and cheap (or at least cheap-ish) pick-ups. Ivan Perisic is the type of move not every top club would have made but suits Tottenham’s system perfectly.
BB: Kalidou Koulibaly. He seems the safest bet of Chelsea’s bevvy of new signings to hit the ground running the best with his experience and leadership qualities sorely needed in the Blues’ backline.
JR: Kalidou Koulibaly. Big shoes to fill in Antonio Rudiger, but has an excellent combination of physicality and composure on the ball and I’d expect the transition to be smooth with compatriot Edouard Mendy between the sticks.
KM: Cheick Doucoure or Boubacar Kamara. Both add a brilliant holding midfield presence and ball-winning for teams who really needed it last year and are going places. They can elevate those sides and are really smart additions.
AP: Darwin Nunez. Given that Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz have outperformed the more optimistic expectations at Liverpool, it seems Nunez may just follow in their footsteps.
MJ: Ivan Perisic. Full of experience and versatility, he could help take Spurs to another level under boss Antonio Conte who will utilise him as an attacking wingback.
JB: Oleksandr Zinchenko. His technical ability is outstanding and, if he gets the chance, I think he has the character to take responsibility of Arsenal’s midfield alongside Martin Odegaard. He showed for Ukraine that he can dominate games and it’s now about doing that in the Premier League.
KJ: Jesse Lingard. Much like his loan move to West Ham triggered a reaction, consistent minutes under Steve Cooper will see the ex-Man Utd playmaker as Forest’s focal point, both on the pitch and the terraces. And if he hits the ground running, who knows? Maybe Qatar beckons come November too…
What are you looking forward to most?
MD: Football returning to some sense of “normality” about a month or two after the World Cup. It will actually be almost odd to not have this huge disruptor on the horizon. I also hope more players use their leverage to affect some change for migrant workers there.
RJ: The new arrivals. There are plenty of intriguing signings who could reshape and transform sides, whether Haaland, Nunez, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Christian Eriksen or Gianlucca Scamacca.
MC: Nottingham Forest’s return. It makes the start-of-season alphabetical league table look about as close to my own ideal 20-team Premier League as I can realistically expect.
BB: The World Cup. It shouldn’t be in Qatar and it shouldn’t be in November, but it remains the very best football tournament in the world for a reason. Its place in the calendar may have changed but that has not.
JR: Where Antonio Conte and Mikel Arteta take Spurs and Arsenal after two efficient summer rebuilds, continuing what have been two contrasting strategies and philosophies. Arsenal have a more patient outlook, but you sense there will soon be turbulence on one side of north London.
KM: The imminent fury when pre-season over-optimism is ended by a drab draw with a newly promoted side. Of course I’m not talking about Arsenal, don’t worry. More seriously, how teams like Brentford or Wolves look to potentially switch systems and still progress, and also how Steve Cooper – an England youth World Cup-winning manager, long touted as a top coach – fares in the top flight.
AP: Seeing how the mid-season World Cup will affect the course of the Premier League campaign.
MJ: Newcastle’s campaign. Backed by an influx of Saudi money, how will they go? Relegated? Top four? Will Eddie Howe last the season? Is Joelinton going to win player of the year? Who knows.
JB: Haaland at Manchester City. It is such an intriguing contrast from last season. Haaland is a brilliant player to watch anyway but I can’t wait to see how Pep Guardiola coaches him through the campaign and adjusts his tactical plans.
KJ: Seeing how everyone’s favourite English midfield duo get on in the dugout: Messrs Gerrard and Lampard. The Aston Villa boss has gone for broke in bringing in Diego Carlos and Philippe Coutinho and has shown steel in replacing Tyrone Mings as club captain; while Lampard must build on last season’s late momentum at Everton without star man Richarlison. Top-half finish is the minimum for both with half an eye on a Cup run and European qualification.