Kevin Moran: 'Top two are in a league of their own - but this could be a massive season for one small club'
I’M sticking with Manchester City to make it a hat-trick of Premier League titles this season.
I just think Pep Guardiola’s team are going to be even better than last season and that will make it nigh on impossible for anyone else to get near the Sky Blues.
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It used to be said that City’s strength was that they had two quality players for every position. Well that was true except for Fernandinho – and they really missed the Brazilian for the length of his injury last term.
Guardiola has taken the hint and signed Rodri from Atletico Madrid for big bucks. This lad is highly rated in Spain, so much so that he is called ‘the new Busquets’ – and that’s quite a tribute.
Rodri will be the last piece in the jigsaw as the influence of 34-year-old Fernandinho on City’s future begins to wane.
One man’s absence will be felt and that is Vincent Kompany. True, the big Belgian centre-half has missed more matches than he has played over the last few campaigns.
Yet I’ve no doubt that through all that time, as club captain, Kompany has been setting the tone in the dressing-room.
He has been the leader, the man calling the shots and the one who picks things up on the rare occasion when Manchester City have a bad day or night on the pitch.
Kompany’s influence around the dressing-room will be missed, be sure of that.
Maybe David Silva will replace him as the leader, in the Spaniard’s last season as a Sky Blue.
After a decade of wonderful service, Silva will go down as one of the greatest players in Manchester City’s history.
However, showing you just how well the club once disparagingly known by Manchester United supporters as ‘Spartak Moss Side’ is now run, City have engineered a situation where they have a season’s advance knowledge that Silva is returning to Spain and they can use that time to source a replacement.
Liverpool have bought a couple of players – Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliot – for the future but have not made a big ‘wow’ signing.
And Jurgen Klopp is entitled to believe that a team and squad that wins the Champions League is entitled to stay together for another season.
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They will be close again, I’ve no doubt of it. But Lord help us, can they go through another season losing just one match?
That’s what they did in 2018/19 – and it still wasn’t enough.
Going in the opposite direction, as Thursday’s transfer deadline looms, is Manchester United, who continue to be linked with Paulo Dybala, Samuel Umtiti, Moussa Dembele and Bruno Fernandes.
Yet until a couple more of them do a Harry Maguire on it and are signed and safely training in Carrington, you would have to wonder what is going on with United – a club for whom the transfer market has not been a happy place over the last few years.
Spurs start the season behind Manchester City and Liverpool and I expect that is where they will finish the season too.
Mauricio Pochettino needs to get his hands on some sort of silverware this season. Can that be the Premier League title itself? I’m really doubtful.
There’s one small club for whom this could be a massive season – and that’s Bournemouth.
Eddie Howe has done a brilliant job with Bournemouth and by all accounts is a fine coach. Surely some bigger club has to take a punt on Eddie this season?
It’ll be a huge blow to Bournemouth if he leaves. For all that, I believe they have enough about them to stay up.
I see Brighton - what fools they were to sack Chris Hughton - Norwich and Sheffield United being the clubs most in danger of relegation.
Almost every season, at least one of the promoted clubs go straight back down.
Maybe this season two of them will go, as I do not expect either Norwich or Sheffield United to waste their windfalls by buying big between now and Thursday.