Premier League preview: Who can stop Manchester City winning the title?
No club has retained the Premier League title since 2009 but, in that past decade, rarely have any begun a campaign looking as strong as current champions Manchester City.
If ever a team looked capable of ending that wait for a back-to-back winner, it is the outstanding Pep Guardiola-inspired side that powered to glory last term.
City were in a class of their own as they claimed the title with a record 100 points, scoring 106 goals and winning 32 matches in the process.
They finished 19 points clear of the field and immediately made clear their determination to stay that far ahead by spending £60million on Riyad Mahrez.
With the ever-hungry Guardiola not standing for complacency – and a squad packed with youth and talent – the rest of the competition face a formidable challenge to derail the side from Eastlands.
Of those rivals, Liverpool perhaps look the best placed to halt City’s march. Jurgen Klopp has built an exciting and powerful side of his own that proved their ability by beating City en route to last season’s Champions League final.
Their problem has been a lack of consistency. As eye-catching as the Reds were last Spring, their strength beyond a core group was questionable and their cause was undermined by dropped points against teams heading for relegation in Stoke and West Bromwich Albion.
Klopp has taken steps to address this in a busy summer of transfer activity. Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho should add quality but, without a title since 1990, recent history is not on their side.
The London challenge comes with some new faces after managerial changes at Chelsea and Arsenal. For Chelsea, this is nothing new. Maurizio Sarri is the 12th manager appointed at Stamford Bridge since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.
The Italian has earned widespread plaudits for the football he has overseen at Napoli, with Guardiola among the fans, and he inherits a strong squad that has won two of the past three titles.
For Arsenal it is a step into the relative unknown following the departure of Arsene Wenger after 22 years. Things may have gone stale in the latter part of the Frenchman’s reign but it remains to be seen if Unai Emery is the right man to freshen them up. He has managed under pressure at Sevilla and Paris St Germain but launching a whole new era will be a sizeable task.
Manchester United finished second last season, marking a considerable improvement on their sixth the previous year, and Jose Mourinho will have firm ideas on how they can make the next step and dethrone neighbours City.
They may not play the most exciting football but they know how to get results.
Tottenham will hope to add some of that steel to their exciting side and come of age after four years of threatening to claim a breakthrough trophy.
Of the rest, Everton and West Ham will expect improvement under new managers Marco Silva and Mauricio Pellegrini respectively.
But Burnley may find it tough to replicate last year’s heroics.
Of the promoted sides, Wolves, with some quality players, look the most likely to make a mark in the top flight.