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Liverpool and Manchester City poised to battle it out for title once more

Liverpool v Chelsea – Premier League – Anfield
(Image credit: Laurence Griffiths)

Liverpool fans may still be waiting for the party Jurgen Klopp promised them to celebrate last season’s long-awaited Premier League success, but they will begin the new campaign among the favourites to win another title.

Klopp said the Reds would have to wait until the time was right to party with supporters as his players lifted the trophy, ending a 30-year wait to be crowned English champions again, at an empty Anfield in July.

The coronavirus pandemic ravaged the 2019-20 season, forcing a three-month break in the spring, but Liverpool were not to be denied after an outstanding campaign in which they finished with 99 points, 18 clear of nearest rivals Manchester City.

The only downside for them was that the closing stages had to be played behind closed doors, denying fans the chance to share the glory, but all clubs had to adapt and it is a situation that continues into the 2020-21 season that quickly follows.

The key for Klopp’s side will be whether they can quickly get back to their destructive best after an understandable drop in intensity after clinching the title. After two extraordinary seasons – they reached 97 points and won the Champions League in 2018-19 – there are fears the natural drop-off could continue.

That was the fate that befell City last season after their own back-to-back title wins of the previous two campaigns.

Strengthened by the signings of Ferran Torres and Nathan Ake, and with the likelihood of more additions to come, City and their manager Pep Guardiola have shown their determination to bounce back.

Liverpool will need Klopp’s renowned motivational skills to get them back in the saddle in the face of a stronger challenge from the Etihad Stadium. Much will again depend on their star names, but the squad depth could be tested and the likes of Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino will need to step up.

If City can resolve their defensive weakness, and keep Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero firing, they will again take some stopping.

No bookmaker can see beyond a two-horse race for the title, but others will hope to force their way into the reckoning.

Bruno Fernandes had a big impact at Old Trafford

Bruno Fernandes had a big impact at Old Trafford (Adam Davy/PA)

Manchester United showed great improvement in the second half of last season following the signing of Bruno Fernandes and grabbed third place.

They will look to push on under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Chelsea have a good platform after finishing fourth and reaching the FA Cup final. In putting faith in youth, Frank Lampard has impressed as manager and, with their transfer ban now over, the signings of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner are exciting.

Below them Leicester will hope to prove they have not missed their chance to break into the top four after surrendering seemingly-certain Champions League qualification after lockdown.

Among the chasing pack Wolves and Everton have potential, while FA Cup winners Arsenal and Tottenham will expect to climb again as respective managers Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho begin their first full seasons in charge.

Marcelo Bielsa was the inspiration for Leeds' promotion

Marcelo Bielsa was the inspiration for Leeds’ promotion (Richard Sellers/PA)

Plenty of excitement surrounds the long-awaited return of Leeds to the top flight after a 16-year absence. The Yorkshire club will look to consolidate but, under the shrewd guidance of Marcelo Bielsa, there will be hope of emulating Sheffield United’s impressive first season back in the big time.

The Blades themselves may find it tough to match last term’s heroics but Aston Villa, after their final-day survival avoided the need to break up the team, will hope to build.

Survival will be the chief aim for promoted West Brom and Fulham, while Newcastle, with their long-touted takeover still having not materialised, could again find themselves looking down rather than up.