Premier League predictions: Who will win the title, best signings, relegation, who will do a Mohamed Salah and will Jose Mourinho see out the season?

The Independent’s football writers look ahead to the new Premier League season

Friday 10 August 2018 13:47
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All the Premier League 2018-19 kits

Manchester United and Leicester City kick off the new Premier League season as everyone takes aim at reigning champions Manchester City and the impossible task of knocking Pep Guardiola’s side off the top of the tree.

With the transfer window wrapped up before the season begins, clubs will not have a chance to address any problems in their squads until January, potentially leaving them exposed to a nightmare start if they haven’t been smart in the summer.

Wolves, Cardiff City and Fulham make the jump up from the Championship and have shown their intention to stick around in the top flight by splashing the cash, with Fulham becoming the first side in history to win promotion to the Premier League and spend more than £100m in their opening transfer window.

But the likes of United and Tottenham Hotspur go into the campaign with little or no reinforcement this summer, leaving their fans furious and squads light in refreshing new faces.

Here, we make our Premier League predictions for the season ahead.

Winner?

Miguel Delaney (Chief football writer): Manchester City.

They just have so much, and the Community Shield showed they might still have even more, given they played like that, at that point, and with Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva absent. I think they'll actually move up a level. Liverpool will run them close but the issue is that they need to play at an absolute maximum and have other elements fall their way, because City just have more depth.

Jonathan Liew (Chief sports writer): Manchester City

In favour: Guardiola and his outstanding record of retaining league titles, the unique motivation of becoming the only club this decade to win back-to-back, a squad perfectly balanced between age and experience, fundamentally unaltered from last season’s record-breakers, the disarray at United, the stasis at Tottenham, the transition at Chelsea, and the towering performance in last weekend’s Community Shield. Against: the fact that it’s harder to dominate the Premier League like the Bundesliga or La Liga, the natural comedown from last season’s pinnacle, the pressure of making a proper tilt at the Champions League, the recession of David Silva, and the resurgence of Liverpool, and for heaven’s sake, it was only the Community Shield. Let’s split the difference. City to win again, but the chasing pack to give them a proper battle this time.

Ed Malyon (Sports editor): Manchester City.

The most interesting thing we can hope for in the title race – assuming there is a proper one – is Liverpool coming to the party. Tottenham haven’t got notably better in a way that would make you believe they can close in on City. Manchester United don’t look to even be in the same neighbourhood and Arsenal are going to be a way off. Chelsea would have to defy the odds to even get into the mix but are the most likely of the outsiders mentioned purely because they went with a high-variance approach in the dugout.

Manchester City were the runaway Premier League champions last season

Jack Pitt-Brooke (Football writer): Manchester City.

They are the best team in the Premier League history and they are getting better not worse. In the third season of Pep Guardiola’s guidance they will play more advanced, modern attacking football than ever before, and in Riyad Mahrez they have yet another weapon to rip teams apart. No one comes close.

Mark Critchley (Northern football correspondent): Manchester City.

The records set last season will remain intact but Pep Guardiola’s side will have to fall well below that standard before it becomes possible to let another side in. Even then, Liverpool or another member of the chasing pack might need everything to go right to topple them.

Jack de Menezes (Deputy sports editor): Manchester City.

Who else? Liverpool are threatening it, Tottenham haven’t built on last season – likewise Manchester United – and both Arsenal and Chelsea are miles off the pace and in a transition year. Sure, Wolves might ‘do a Leicester’ and stun us all, but last season’s runaway champions have strengthened with the addition of Riyad Mahrez and with another year under Pep Guardiola, they will prove untouchable.

Ben Burrows (Sports new editor): Manchester City.

I went for them a year ago when they had the best squad, best player and the best manager and very little has changed in that time. They’ve certainly not got any worse and I don’t see enough in the chasing pack to close what was a cavernous gap.

Lawrence Ostlere (Sports night editor): Manchester City.

Liverpool to play brilliantly, win 85 points and still come up short.

Luke Brown (Football writer): Manchester City.

For all of the other reasons listed above by marginally more intelligent people.

Can Liverpool reel in Manchester City? 

Samuel Lovett (Football writer): Liverpool.

Liverpool may have unlocked the secrets to actually beating Manchester City - doing so on three separate occasions last season - but they ultimately failed to match Pep Guardiola's men for their consistency across the 2017/18 campaign. But after their Champions League exploits and an encouraging transfer window, the Merseyside club are riding a wave of optimism and renewed self-belief. This mental recalibration should prove to be the final piece of the puzzle for Liverpool, allowing them to deliver throughout the months ahead. A two-horse race between Klopp's side and City seems the most likely prospect this season but, against the odds, I'm backing Liverpool to emerge triumphant.

Adam Hamdani (Sport social media editor): Manchester City. Easy.

Top four?

MD: Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United.

While I think Liverpool and Spurs are certs for the top four - even allowing for the latter's transfer frustrations, but that's partly because their first XI is so well oiled - I couldn't say the same about the fourth choice. I keep changing my mind because, while I think United could have a trying season, that could just mean a grind rather than the collapse many seem to be expecting. I'm probably just leaning towards them grinding it out, with that also influenced by the questions over how long it will take Maurizio Sarri to implement his ideas at Chelsea. If the Italian can do so quickly, I'd worry for United. But it's a big if.

JL: Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal.

Liverpool have strengthened well, and you feel their challenge will be defined by the festive period during which they face United, Arsenal and City in the space of 16 days. Chelsea have already shown promising signs, and have the potential to go on a run. Arsenal could well surprise people. I’ve been impressed with the start Unai Emery has made, and his emphasis on organisation and aggression will make them a much tougher prospect than the Arsenal we’re used to. It’s tough leaving Spurs out, but I worry about how quickly they’ll start - five away games in their first seven, plus the upheaval of a new stadium - and their squad depth. United look ripe for implosion. A poor start, and it could go south quickly for them.

EM: Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United.

Liverpool and Tottenham should be locked in. Manchester United, you’d expect, will be in there too but Chelsea will have a say.

JPB: Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea.

This Liverpool team would be champions in any other era and they could easily get 90 points this year and still fall short. Tottenham have a stability and consistency their richer rivals would love so I expect the same from them. And then I back Maurizio Sarri, operating under less pressure than any other recent Chelsea manager, to bring Champions League football back to the Bridge.

Maurizio Sarri could bring much-needed stability to Chelsea (Reuters)

MC: Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United.

Maurizio Sarri could be brilliant at Chelsea but their quietly dreadful summer will catch up with them. United’s has not been much better, of course, but I expect David de Gea’s performances will hide a lot of blemishes.

JDM: Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal.

Two up, two down, but perhaps not the two southern sides that people expect to feature. But that’s because of the state of the clubs in competition with them. Chelsea have looked disjointed in pre-season and while they may have strengthened in certain areas, their strike-force is still too weak. Manchester United meanwhile look like an implosion waiting to happen, and with no completed signings since the World Cup, Jose Mourinho must be in a delightful mood. Expect them to argue their way to a mid-table finish.

BB: Liverpool. Manchester United. Chelsea.

The Reds had the best window of all of the contenders and have enough firepower to push City the closest, albeit not that close. United have had a shocker but that squad isn’t as bad as Jose would like you to think it is. Chelsea aren’t what they were two seasons ago but the lack of drama behind the scenes and the addition of Jorginho may well see them vault a signing-less Spurs.

LO: Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea.

Spurs may struggle to retain their place in the top four 

LB: Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal.

Manchester United will miss out because Jose Mourinho is due a breakdown. Tottenham will miss out because Daniel Levy forgot to sign any players and they’re bound to initially struggle at their new stadium.

SL: Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea.

AH: Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea

Bottom three?

MD: Huddersfield, Cardiff City, Bournemouth.

Huddersfield and Cardiff are already essentially Championship clubs in everything bar status, and would need a lot of luck to survive. But there could be a proper fight above them. I think Bournemouth could just slip away this season - but say that with no great assertion. It feels like there are a lot of similar-quality sides from about 9th to 18th.

JL: Brighton, Southampton, Cardiff.

Cardiff could just sneak out of it, but they’ll need to bin Neil Warnock as soon as possible. I just have a sneaky feeling Huddersfield might be able to muddle their way out of trouble again with a load of players you’ve never heard of. But I fear for Brighton, who have looked in no sort of form in pre-season, have been dealt a tough start by the fixture computer, and who have signed plenty of promise but very little proven pedigree (Dan Burn??). Southampton may struggle again, too. Last season exposed flaws that haven’t been adequately addressed. The famous production line has dried up. There are too many passengers in the squad. Mark Hughes inspires little confidence. And there still seems to be a feeling around the club that they’re too good to go down. They’re not.

EM: Huddersfield, Cardiff City, Newcastle United.

The deck is stacked against clubs of Huddersfield and Cardiff’s size. Picking a third is significantly more difficult at this stage but Newcastle’s summer has obviously been yet another one of discontent and that doesn’t bode well.

JPB: Huddersfield, Cardiff City, Watford.

Huddersfield even being here again is a miracle but David Wagner’s magic will eventually wear off, while Neil Warnock has never truly converted his Championship mastery into the top flight. The third team is harder but Watford have lacked direction and identity for some time now and that catches up with teams in the end.

Are Wagner's good times at Huddersfield on the brink? (Getty)

MC: Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Cardiff City.

Bournemouth’s attack cannot keep bailing out their defence. Huddersfield’s defence cannot keep bailing out their attack. Cardiff will be organised but struggle.

JDM: Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Southampton.

Cardiff, like Chelsea, will struggle for goals this, while Southampton’s near-miss last season was a sign of things to come. Huddersfield’s survival last season was a joy to watch, but there were signs of discontent with manager David Wagner and it may be a marriage doomed to fail.

BB: Watford. Huddersfield. Cardiff City.

Watford are a mish-mash of players and I don’t trust the mid-season sacking of this latest manger to save them this time. Huddersfield didn’t score anywhere near enough goals a year ago and I think it’ll cost them. Cardiff look a side full of Championship players and that’s where they’re destined to return.

Watford could be dark horses to go down

LO: Cardiff City, Huddersfield, Watford.

Cardiff and Huddersfield have the weakest squads but a third team is harder to pick. Let's go with Watford, who have sold a key player in Richarlison and are yet to convince under Javi Gracia.

LB: Newcastle, Brighton, Cardiff City.

Newcastle will be up against it even if Rafael Benítez resists the temptation to tell Mike Ashley where he can stick his job. Brighton’s new signings aren’t overly inspiring and Cardiff have Neil Warnock as their manager.

SL: Huddersfield, Cardiff City, Brighton.

AH: Cardiff, Huddersfield, Brighton.

Player of the season?

MD: Kevin De Bruyne.

Arguably should have won it last year and I think likelier to sustain his level than Mo Salah.

JL: Sergio Aguero. I think this might be Aguero’s last great season. He turned 30 over the summer, and he’ll know that the sharpness and burst of speed that makes him such a great striker will begin to evaporate over the next two or three years. His failure to make an impact during the World Cup will have stung him. And he’s still very possibly the best pure finisher in the league. He’ll get plenty of chances, and he’ll convert plenty.

EM: Kevin De Bruyne.

He should have won it last year and will do this year.

JPB: Bernardo Silva.

Would be the best player on any other team in the country, and showed in the Community Shield he could be the best player at City this year. With perfect technique and awareness, he is even ready to supplant his namesake David over the course of this season.

Give the award to Kevin de Bruyne - now

MC: Kevin de Bruyne.

If it is close again, I expect last year’s near miss will count for something.

JDM: Kevin De Bruyne

Saw his moment in the sun snatched away last season by Mohamed Salah, but the Liverpool man will have to go some way to top that incredible run of goalscoring, while De Bruyne only looks to be on his way to becoming one of the best in the world.

BB: Kevin De Bruyne.

Should’ve won the award last time, will this time.

LO: Kevin De Bruyne.

Probably should have won it last year. He will do this time.

LB: Kevin de Bruyne.

He was unfortunate not to win it last year. And having turned 27 at the end of June he’s only just entering his prime.

Does Mo Salah stand a chance of retaining his player of the season award?

SL: Mohamed Salah.

The usual suspects will once again be in the mix but I can't see Salah dropping off in any way this season. Expect more of the same.

AH: Harry Kane. I think he'll be pretty good this season - will score plenty of goals again and win the award.

Are you looking forward to the new season?

MD: It still just feels too short a break, not allowing the new season a chance to breathe, as illustrated by how so many players have been denied a breather. If clubs aren't going into the campaign able to have given their squads full pre-seasons, it's too short, so, as such... not as much as I would usually be. It applies to our own mindset through. You need the mental break to properly build up to the Premier League.

JL: Immensely. I’m on cricket duty and won’t be covering any of it.

EM: Not yet. It’s a bit too soon after the World Cup and the club I support are hardly likely to win a trophy soon so it’s all a bit meh. I’m looking forward to our five-a-side league getting back underway.

It seems like just yesterday France were winning the World Cup (AFP/Getty)

JPB: Now that the football is back I love it, but to be honest I could have done with a longer break. I have not yet wholly recovered from the World Cup, and would have been happy with a few extra weeks to enjoy the cricket. Still, I’m going to two games this weekend. There is no point in being half-hearted now it’s here.

MC: Yes. I’ve done worse jobs.

JDM: No. Watching Nottingham Forest vs West Bromwich Albion on Monday, the final 10 minutes brought the reasons why we love football flooding back. But with fewer than four weeks passing since the World Cup final, it’s just too soon for football to return. Another three or four weeks of would’ve really built a desire to have it back.

BB: No. I need some more sleep before all this actual meaningful football nonsense starts again.

LB: Yes. It’s getting increasingly difficult to pretend that I’m knowledgeable about cricket and golf.

SL: Yes. Football is all I've got going for me at the moment.

AH: Yes, but hopefully there'll be time to enjoy a match or two outside of covering matches to really feel the excitement.

FA Cup/League Cup winners?

MD: Arsenal/Manchester City.

JL: Manchester City/Chelsea.

EM: Let’s say Mauricio Pochettino wins some silverware and nabs the Carabao Cup. Manchester City for the FA Cup.

JPB: Manchester City / Chelsea.

MC: Arsenal and Manchester City.

JDM: Liverpool and Liverpool. With a larger squad capable of competing on all fronts and their run the Champions League last season proving they can rise to the occasion, Jürgen Klopp’s side will secure a double this season – just not the one they want.

Gary Cahill celebrates winning the FA Cup last season (Getty)

BB: Arsenal. Manchester City.

LB: Manchester City to hammer a Championship team 8-1 in the League Cup. Liverpool to win the FA Cup.

SL: Chelsea/Manchester United.

AH: Manchester United/Manchester United.

Promoted from Championship?

MD: Stoke City, Middlesbrough, Leeds United.

JL: Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Sheffield United.

ED: Leeds United, Middlesbrough, Brentford.

I would really like Marcelo Bielsa in the Premier League so I’m rooting for Leeds United. Middlesbrough should do it under Tony Pulis and then I’m looking for a wildcard team to make it – why not Brentford?

Bielsa could have what it takes to send Leeds back to the big time

JPB: Derby County, Stoke City, Leeds United

MC: Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Derby. I hope Leeds prove me wrong.

JDM: Middlesbrough, Derby County and Stoke City

Middlesbrough look like a sensible bet with Tony Pulis at the helm, a man with experience of what it takes to win promotion that can prove invaluable in the Championship, while Derby County look ready to take the next step after a series of failed campaigns. Stoke City may have got off to a bad start in defeat by Leeds United, but they have a talented manager in charge in the form of Gary Rowett and he should be given time to work with this squad that certainly has enough about it to mount an immediate promotion campaign.

BB: Stoke. Middlesbrough. Nottingham Forest.

LB: Middlesbrough, Stoke, Brentford.

SL: Stoke, Aston Villa, Derby.

AH: Derby County, Leeds, Aston Villa.

Golden Boot winner?

MD: Harry Kane.

JL: Sergio Aguero.

EM: Harold Kane.

JPB: Mohamed Salah

MC: Harry Kane.

JDM: Harry Kane.

BB: Harry Kane.

LB: Harry Kane

SL: Harry Kane.

AH: Harry Kane

The Independent's expectations piles the pressure on Harry Kane 

Match you’re most looking forward to?

MD: Liverpool-City. Not just a hugely entertaining game and potential title decider, but now also a match with a bit of pressure on City due to the recent record.

JL: Tottenham v Liverpool. Put the craft beers on ice. Take the cheeseboard out of the fridge. Unwrap Erik Lamela from his cotton wool swaddling. One decade, several compulsory purchase orders, a failed bid for the Olympic Stadium, an unexplained fire, a season at Wembley and thousands of hours of unwatched time-lapse video footage after the project was first mooted, Tottenham’s new stadium will finally be ready for public consumption. The noise from the 17,500-seater single-tier South Stand, situated just five metres from the goal-line, should help generate the sort of atmosphere so lacking at many other 21st-century stadia. But as ever, it’ll be for Spurs fans to make it home, and quickly.

EM: Liverpool v Manchester City – 7 October. If City win at Anfield in early autumn that could be the end of the title race.

JPB: The first NLD at the new White Hart Lane will be something, especially given how Arsenal rolled over there in Wenger’s final years. Emery will be desperate to do better.

MC: Liverpool vs Manchester City. As a fixture, responsible for three of the best five matches I witnessed last season and an enjoyable, keenly-felt bitterness is building quickly between the two sets of supporters.

The first match at White Hart Lane should be a belter

JDM: Arsenal vs Manchester City. The dawn of a new era at the Emirates where there are no expectations, everyone will be delighted to have the Premier League back, the nightmare protests against Arsene Wenger are consigned to the past and everyone can simply enjoy what should be a great game of football. Right?

BB: Tottenham vs Liverpool. First game at the new White Hart Lane. Poch vs Klopp. Kane vs Lovren. Salah vs whichever poor sod tries to mark him. Yes please. Add to cart.

LB: Tottenham vs Liverpool. The first game at the new White Hart Lane and close enough to already be excited by.

SL: Like the rest of the sports desk, Liverpool vs Manchester City.

AH: Arsenal vs Tottenham. Always nervy going into the north London derby but this season it might actually mean something again.

Who’s had the best summer?

MD: Liverpool. Have just gone and forensically – if expensively – solved the main flaws in their team.

JL: Fulham. An exciting squad, some really eye-catching signings and a genuine tilt at the top half not out of the question.

EM: Didier Deschamps’ summer wasn’t bad. Of the Premier League clubs I’d say Fulham and Wolves are going to be as confident of staying up as any promoted clubs in recent memory. Crystal Palace’s has gone much better than expected.

JPB: Fulham. Have added quality and experience in key positions, kept their manager and their two best players. Now they look well set for the season.

Liverpool have had an impressive summer (Getty)

MC: Liverpool. You can never actually tell until the season has played out and much will depend on how Alisson fares, but both the identification and acquisition of talent since Michael Edwards’ promotion to director of football has been exemplary.

JDM: Liverpool. It’s hard to argue against Liverpool’s model this season. Get their business done early – a year early in the case of Naby Keita – give the squad time to gel, retain the best players and try to limit expectations as much as possible.

BB: Fulham. Most would look to Wolves when heaping praise on a newbie but give me the Cottagers. Andre Schurrle knows the league, Aleksandar Mitrovic knows Fulham and Alfie Mawson may be the best of the lot. Plus they kept hold of Ryan Sessegnon. The Cottage will be the hottest ticket in town early doors.

Andriy Yarmolenko is unveiled by West Ham after leaving Borussia Dortmund

LO: West Ham. Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko are genuinely exciting signings, Lukasz Fabianski solves their goalkeeper issue, while Manuel Pellegrini is a bold, positive replacement for David Moyes. They might be awful, given all the off-field issues which have dogged the club in recent years, but if they click into gear they will be fun to watch.

LB: Manchester City. Why not? They’ve made a sensible signing that won’t upset the balance of their squad, kept all of their best players and won the Community Shield.

SL: Liverpool - by a country mile.

AH: Can't look past Fulham really, they've revamped their entire squad.

City have already won the Community Shield - will more silverware follow?

Most exciting signing?

MD: Naby Keita. Him or Jorginho, as the most exhilarating talents to come into the league from abroad, and who could really up the level of their sides.

JL: In the Premier League, Alisson or Naby Keita at Liverpool. Worldwide, I’m fascinated to see how Thomas Lemar does at Atletico Madrid.

ED: Does Naby Keita count? Given they’ve waited over a year for him, Liverpool will be expecting big things.

JPB: Joao Moutinho. A ludicrously good midfielder who I had given up on ever seeing in the Prem. Alongside his compatriot Ruben Neves, Wolves will play some delicious football this season.

MC: Jean Michel Seri to Fulham. A supposed heir to Xavi moving to Craven Cottage was the summer’s biggest coup. I am interested to see if James Maddison makes the step up at Leicester City too.

Jean Michael Seri could be one to watch this season 

JDM: Jean Michael Seri. A year after being on the verge of a move to Barcelona and linked with Arsenal and Chelsea, Seri does find himself in London, but with Fulham. The surprising twist brings a sought-after player to one of the clubs looking to avoid relegation, and it will be interesting to see what Seri can do at Craven Cottage in a side that could see him become this season’s star player.

BB: Kepa Arrizabalaga. Overpriced yes, but I’m still eager to see what the 23-year-old Spaniard has to offer. Will he be an early De Gea or a new De Gea or creamy middle mix of the two? Either way it’ll be fun.

LO: Fabinho. Could be the perfect plug for Liverpool's midfield leaks which turns them from top-four team into title challengers.

LB: Jorginho. He was sublime last season for Maurizio Sarri at Napoli and will be key to Chelsea this season.

SL: Naby Keita. A bit of an unknown entity but one of those signings that, in spite of this, has whipped up the usual hype among Liverpool fans. Needless to say, I'm on the bandwagon.

AH: I like Richarlison a lot. He's the guy who cost way more than he should have and he'll have so many eyes on him because of that, so I think he's an exciting one to keep an eye on.

Least interesting club?

MD: Bournemouth. They are 2018's Charlton Athletic 2003.

JL: Watford. It’s always Watford.

EM: Southampton probably, though Mark Hughes would no doubt be delighted with a boring season.

JPB: Southampton. “The Southampton way” has given way to chopping and changing managers and bad foreign imports, just like everyone else.

MC: Pass

Southampton aren't expected to offer much this season 

JDM: Huddersfield Town. No major signings and will either just stay up or just go down. Next.

BB: How many do you want? The majority of the league are painfully beige but give me Huddersfield. Not enough new blood for a side painfully short of attacking verve a year ago.

LB: Southampton. I’ve got a big soft spot for St Mary’s and I admire the club, but it’s simply impossible to find any side managed by Mark Hughes even the least bit interesting.

SL: Southampton.

AH: Watford

Will Jose Mourinho last the season?

MD: Yes, by grinding through it.

JL: No

EM: I think he probably will. It’s hard to see United sacking him and he surely knows that this is his last chance at an elite, non-PSG club so would be foolish to walk away.

JPB: No. He doesn’t want to, his players don’t want him to, and eventually the board won’t want him to either.

Will Jose Mourinho still be Manchester United manager at the end of the season? (AFP/Getty)

MC: Yes. I think he struggles on through, though I do not say that confidently.

JDM: Not a chance. The way that Mourinho is going, the Manchester United manager will be lucky to see Christmas, and with a complete lack of his transfer targets arriving in the window, his demise at Old Trafford will be all-too-familiar.

BB: As a journalist I’m satisfied either way tbqh. Stay and he’ll implode. Go and United will. Either way it’ll be fun. Gun to my head: I think he sticks it out. Just.

LB: Nope. He’ll get sacked at the start of December just like in 2015, ruining another office Christmas party. Not that I’m bitter.

SL: I really hope not. The man is past his sell-by date. Repeated lamentations, reports of strained talks with United chiefs and players, a general sense of hopelessness in and around the squad - we've been here before. The sooner he goes, the better.

AH: No.

Will an English club win the Champions League?

MD: Yes, Manchester City.

JL: No

ED: There is the best chance in a long time in Manchester City, whose squad now looks stronger than even Real Madrid.

JPB: City should do it but the Champions League is so hard to call, and in Europe it only takes one knock to collapse City’s house of cards.

Manchester City look like the best bet of Premier League success in Europe 

MC: Yes. Manchester City are Europe’s best team, though will hope they do not run into Liverpool.

JDM: No. Last season was very much the big chance for a Premier League club to conquer Europe with so many big-name sides in transition. But there was no knocking off Real Madrid, and despite Liverpool coming so close to pulling off the incredible, it is likely to be an anomaly. Expect Barcelona and a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Juventus to be much stronger this year, while Paris Saint-Germain should continue to grow.

BB: Nope.

LB: Real Madrid will win it because that’s their job.

Real Madrid will win the Champions League - it's what they do (Getty )

SL: Unfortunately not. Would love to say Manchester City will do it this year but, as Liverpool showed last season, Europe's elite competition can throw up a number of surprises. I think City will once again fall victim of the Champions League's unpredictability.

AH: No.

Who will do a Salah?

MD: Nobody. It was so unprecedented, can't see anyone exploding from one level to several above like that again.

JL: Felipe Anderson has the potential to have the same galvanising effect on West Ham that Dimitri Payet did three seasons ago. That said, it could easily be Salah again.

EM: Where are lots of ways to interpret this question. Which new signing will make the biggest impact? Probably Naby Keita. Who will be the highest-scoring new signing? Well when you look at the league there really are very few high-level attackers who have come in so it might just be Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who Brighton think could be very good indeed. Luciano Vietto at Fulham has always had the potential to be top-class but has lost his way a little, should he score 12-15 goals this season it could be just what he needs.

Naby Keita may be the best bet of a repeat Mo Salah-esque discovery 

JPB: No one will score that many goals in his first full Prem season. But Bernard at Everton could do a... Dimitri Payet?

MC: No. I think Mohamed Salah, as good as he is, may cool off a touch too.

JDM: No one. What Mohamed Salah did last season was so great to watch because it was such a rarity. Players don’t simply rock up to a new club in a new league and hit the ground running quite like Salah did last season, and glancing at the summer signings this year, there are incredibly few new arrivals who have the potential to light up the league.

BB: Nobody, but Naby Keita could flash moments of brilliance as he beds in at Anfield.

LB: I think Richarlison will be a massive success just down the road, albeit it’s reasonably unlikely he will ping in 44 goals.

SL: No-one.

AH: No one. No one can do what Mohamed Salah did last season.

Who will hire Sam Allardyce?

MD: Cardiff City.

JL: Newcastle.

EM: Sky Sports.

JPB: Newcastle United, as Mike Ashley goes full circle.

MC: Guangzhou Evergrande.

What beckons for Allardyce: the Premier League, Sky Sports or Greggs?

JDM: Southampton. When Southampton have 10 matches remaining and are two points from safety, Mark Hughes will get the boot and Allardyce will come riding to the rescue – only to take Saints down to the Championship and end his reputation as the survival messiah.

BB: TalkSport.

LB: Greggs.

SL: Scotland. Swap in the pint of wine for a pint of Irn-Bru and you've got your ideal unveiling.

AH: No one.

Is football still good?

MD: Football is better than ever. I can't remember a time when so much of it has been so fun. It's so attacking and high-scoring. Appreciate until some dullard comes along with a revolutionary defensive tactic that kills it.

JL: It’s still got the potential to be good. But occasionally you wonder whether it’s too fatally rotten these days.

EM: It passes the time. That’s all it was ever really meant to do, isn’t it? It wasn’t ever designed to be an industry worth hundreds of billions. It’s good some of the time, though usually near the end of the season when it really matters. And I still don’t watch Match of the Day on the regular occasion that my team loses.

JPB: It was always good! Football has never ever not been good. If it was not good it would not be football.

MC: Football was never good and is actually bad.

Is football still great, Gianluigi?

JDM: Yes. As previously mentioned, when games come alive like Forest’s draw with West Brom did, there’s nothing quite as gripping as football.

BB: Ask me after the first international break.

LB: It’s not football that’s changed. It’s you.

AH: Yes. The best sport in the world.

SL: Of course not. The game has gone. Too much money. The players have gone soft. Bring back the good old days. Brexit means Brexit.

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