It may feel like years have passed since we watched a jubilant Leicester City squad lift the Premier League trophy at the end of the 2015-16 season, defying the +500000 (5,000/1) odds. But it was only three months ago, and the wait for the new season is over.
Pundits around the world believe the 2016-17 Premier League could be the most competitive yet, with six teams capable of mounting a serious title challenge. We’ve selected three teams who will be up there, or thereabouts, and three sides who look set to battle against the drop to The Championship.
Genuine Title Contenders
Manchester City: +250 (3.5) to win the Premier League
Manchester City finished in fourth place last season, which was bitterly disappointing for both its supporters and playing staff. This year, with Pep Guardiola pulling the strings, Manchester City should challenge for top honours.
While there are still question marks about the City defence (they leaked three goals or more in a game five times last season), there isn’t a team in the Premier League who can match them for firepower, or spending power, and that alone could secure them another title.
Look for Sergio Aguero to be the division’s top scorer this year (+350 or 2.5) if he can stay fit. The Argentinian scored 24 goals in 30 games last season and is arguably the best striker in the top flight.
Manchester United: +350 (4.5) to win the Premier League
The red half of Manchester also has a new boss, Jose Mourinho, in charge for the start of the new season. The Portuguese genius has a superb track record, and that alone has seen Manchester United installed as second-favourites to become Premier League champions.
One of Mourinho’s summer signings was Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the 34-year-old will certainly add some confidence to the side. I’m not sure how many goals “Ibra” will bag this season, but bookmakers think he’s going to be challenging for the Golden Boot as they price him at +900 (10.0) to finish as top scorer.
We believe if United finish above local rivals City, they will win the league.
Chelsea: +550 (6.5) to win the Premier League
Chelsea are another team with a new manager in charge this season, former Italian national team coach Antonio Conte. The jury is still out on whether Chelsea will be as competitive as their odds suggest. They are, after all, almost the exact same squad that struggled badly last season, albeit with a new manager and a couple of player additions.
The £30 million signing of N’Golo Kante is a bargain as he is able to protect Chelsea’s defence while spearheading attacks from the back. Nobody broke up more attacks last season than Kante, and obtaining his signature could be the signing of the season.
Chelsea does not have European football commitments to worry about this season, a major advantage in the domestic season, as their top players will remain fresh throughout the season. Chelsea needs another centre-back due to the uncertainty of Kurt Zuma’s health. The West Londoners could also do with another striker with all the speculation surrounding Diego Costa’s future (+1200 to be top scorer).
Hull City: -165 (1.61) to be relegated
Hull City are in disarray. Fans and players of The Tigers should be on Cloud Nine after gaining promotion. This, due to Steve Bruce’s resignation, is far from the truth. To further embolden the point, Mo Diame dropped down a division to play for Newcastle United just so he didn’t have to play for the club.
Sadly for Hull City fans, their squad lacks any real star quality, and thus look destined for the dreaded drop. They are the perfect example of a team who are too good for the Championship but not good enough for the Premier League.
Burnley: -110 (1.91) to be relegated
We’re big fans of what Sean Dyche is trying to achieve at Burnley, but the club’s stance on not investing heavily in the squad is going to cost them their Premier League place.
Burnley were superb throughout the 2015-16 Championship and were worthy champions, but there is a massive gulf between that league and the English top flight, which his current crop of players are cruelly find out very soon.
West Brom: +225 (3.25) to be relegated
West Brom are fifth-favourites to be relegated, which means the bookies think they will be safe for another season. We beg to differ.
The football Tony Pulis has West Brom playing is dreadful, further demonstrated by the team’s seventh best defence compared with their second-worst attack last season.
Striker Saido Berahino, who badly wants out of West Brom, probably won’t see the season out with The Baggies, putting Jose Salomon Rondon under immense pressure to score the goals required to keep West Brom in the division. His nine goals from a year ago won’t be enough to stave off West Brom’s unavoidable drop.