Sport Soccer

Monday 26 September 2016

How will the new season pan out?

Published 07/08/2015 | 17:08

Jose Mourinho is hoping to lead Chelsea to back-to-back titles
Jose Mourinho is hoping to lead Chelsea to back-to-back titles

The start of the Barclays Premier League season this weekend brings with it its usual mix of excitement and intrigue.

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Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the campaign.

DO CHELSEA REMAIN THE TEAM TO BEAT?

Jose Mourinho's men enter the new season as clear favourites and with some justification after winning the title at a canter last season. The Blues were criticised for their style at times but results are what matter the most and Mourinho knows how to get them. Their squad remains formidable and if Radamel Falcao can show some pre-2014 form they could be even stronger.

WHERE WILL THE CHALLENGE COME FROM?

Manchester City will be determined to bounce back after last season's tame surrender. The capture of Raheem Sterling improves their squad and they will be expecting to challenge strongly. Their neighbours United will also look to step up after regaining top-four status and a summer of strengthening. Arsenal look better for the signing of Petr Cech but they may still be a top-line striker short. Liverpool and Tottenham can only be regarded as outsiders.

IS STERLING WORTH THE MONEY?

The negativity generated by Sterling's attempts to engineer a move away from Liverpool obscured analysis of his talent. His form fell away late last season but he has already shown he is one of the most exciting attacking talents to emerge in England for some time. If he can get back to his best City have acquired a potentially brilliant match-winner, but there is some way to go to justify the £49million fee.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT OLD TRAFFORD?

United are now entering the third season of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era and many are wondering if this giant of English football is now ready to start challenging for honours again. The uncertainty over the future of David de Gea aside, United look stronger with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin joining their midfield ranks. Memphis Depay is also an exciting prospect and the steely winning mentality of Louis van Gaal is a growing factor as his methods take root. Question marks still remain over the defence, however.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT ANFIELD?

The pressure is clearly on Brendan Rodgers after last season's failure to build on the 2014 title near-miss. Now in his fourth season, Rodgers has recruited extensively for a second summer in succession and needs a quick return. Much attention will centre on £32million striker Christian Benteke and Rodgers also needs Daniel Sturridge back fit and firing. James Milner, Danny Ings, Nathaniel Clyne and Roberto Firmino look like astute signings but Rodgers - now without Sterling and Steven Gerrard - needs the mix to work quickly.

WHO WILL BE IN RELEGATION TROUBLE?

There will be much anticipation at Bournemouth and fellow promoted clubs Norwich and Watford but for them the primary objective must simply be to avoid the bottom three. Leicester, Aston Villa, Newcastle and Sunderland - after largely unimpressive seasons last time - could all be in the battle with them.

WHAT OF PRESSURE CLUBS NEWCASTLE, WEST HAM AND ASTON VILLA?

Newcastle fans may not have seen the back of unpopular owner Mike Ashley but they will hope that an apparent change in tone from him might result in more of an emphasis on results than purely the balance sheet. Former England boss Steve McClaren will also have a point to prove on his return to the Premier League. For West Ham the season is a crucial one as they prepare for a new life in the Olympic Stadium from next year. Having consolidated in the top flight they have decided to move on from the dependable Sam Allardyce, but it remains to be seen if Slaven Bilic can take them to the next level. Villa have flirted with relegation for too long. Tim Sherwood's injection of enthusiasm was enough to save them - and take them to the FA Cup final - last season but, with uncertainty still over their ownership, they lack stability and the departures of Fabian Delph and Benteke leave a hole.

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