When it comes to the precious top four places, only one thing is ever certain – Manchester City taking one of them.
Every season, different names. Last year of course, we saw regulars Liverpool and Chelsea – quite chaotically – miss out on Champions League football. Arsenal returned, Newcastle United got in there after even longer away and fully deserved it, while Brighton and Aston Villa came closer than they ever dreamed.
Manchester United aren’t exactly regulars, but having got themself back in it means just one team survived the top four from the season before. What’s going to change this time around?
Tottenham Hotspur were of course one of the teams to secure an UCL birth 12 months before. A lot has changed since then – including a number of managers. Lose Harry Kane and lose your chance of getting their place back is surely not inaccurate, but with the striker staying put so far, it’s tough to rule them out under Ange Postecoglou.
Liverpool, second that year, have the Europa League this time. But they’re the current favourites to finish third with many, Thursday nights the motivation for reclaiming a place at football’s top table.
Newcastle have strengthened this summer, but now they have a distraction. The Champions League anthem will be heard at St James Park for the first time in 20 years, but will the added involvement hamper their chances of doing it again? Eddie Howe doesn’t think so. But blank weeks while their rivals went to war was, after all, was so helpful in helping them finishing fourth.
Could it be time to keep an eye on Chelsea again? Their powder-puff season surely can’t be repeated. Just returning to the top four would be seen as a huge success for new manager Mauricio Pochettino. They will be younger and well coached, and with no European football they will be well rested and ready for every weekend.
City and Arsenal, boosted by an impressive summer, are seen as near certainties, but what about a surprise addition? Brighton have never played in the Champions League and any possible challenge surely relies on them keeping hold of the talented Moisés Caicedo and building on last year’s brilliance.
Unai Emery also has European football to occupy his players with but Villa are also still in people’s thoughts. It’s going to be eventful!
|Liverpool||8/15 William Hill|
|Manchester United||4/5 Coral|
No European football to tire out the legs, no excuse for Chelsea. They need a big season but even their most unrealistic of fans probably know it’s a Champions League charge at best for the Blues.
Our punters.pub bet of the day is Chelsea to reclaim a Champions League place at 6/4
Mauricio Pochettino knows how to get teams into Champions League finals, but can he get the 2021 winners back there after the club’s worst season for decades? It would be a strong start for the new Stamford Bridge boss.