It may be early days but we can already see the tough competition the champions will face in defence of their title this season. Here’s a closer look at the latest team odds who will give City a run for their money…
Thomas Tuchel’s rejuvenated Chelsea are the danger men, with the manager having fixed the uncharacteristically leaky defence that proved so costly to predecessor Frank Lampard and having strengthened their attack. And for all their problems last season, the Blues still had the beating of Manchester City as they ruined their quadruple treble dream. Chelsea are currently 5/1 favorites according to SportsBettingDime.com.
Their progress was evident in the Champions League final victory over City, but to compete for the Premier League crown this term they required more firepower. When striker Romelu Lukaku re-signed for a club record £97.5million from Inter Milan, he warned he had matured and was back at Stamford Bridge to deliver titles.
It took him just 15 minutes to demonstrate his personal growth as he scored the opener on his debut against Arsenal, having failed to find the net in 15 appearances in his first spell with the Blues. Not that the evolution in the 28-year-old’s game was ever really in doubt, with 64 goals in 95 appearances at the San Siro and a Scudetto winners’ medal to his name.
Chelsea will face a tricky run of games, starting this weekend with a tough test at fellow contenders Liverpool – then it’s Aston Villa and Spurs before the champions come calling on September 25th. But with Lukaku firing on all cylinders, you’d tip them to make it four straight wins over City.
Are the champions in danger of getting in their own way? Tearful City boss Pep Guardiola famously said, “We cannot replace him, we cannot” after Sergio Aguero’s final game in May. It has indeed proved to be the case, as they’ve struggled to fill the void left by the Argentine legend and are still crying out for a striker, now that Gabriel Jesus is the only one on the books.
While rivals have been busy bolstering their squads, City have been relatively quiet in the transfer market and appear to have slept on Lukaku in their expensive pursuit of Tottenham star Harry Kane. And as fate would have it, they slumped to an opening-day defeat by Spurs.
England midfielder Jack Grealish arrived to much fanfare for £100m from Aston Villa and proved his ability to shut out all the noise by scoring on his home debut in their Norwich rout. Cool heads are required for title defences, but with the transfer window slamming shut next Tuesday, fans will still be hoping to see a striker walk through the door before then.
The Reds remain an ever-potent threat in attack, with Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane – plus at the back, they have been boosted by the return of commanding Virgil van Dijk. The defence of their historic 2020 title triumph was hampered by defensive injuries but, if Van Dijk and Joel Matip can stay fit, boss Jurgen Klopp might need to make more room in the trophy cabinet.
They’ve seen two players depart for Ligue 1 this transfer window, with Xherdan Shaqiri joining Lyon this week and Georginio Wijnaldum making the move to PSG. The Dutch midfielder is harder to replace, but their ageing midfield now needs an injection of youth and verve.
However, with Scotland captain Andy Robertson following in the footsteps of first-team stars Alisson, Fabinho, Van Dijk, and Trent Alexander-Arnold by signing a new long-term deal to remain at Anfield until 2026, Liverpool have stability. Keeping the spine of the team together will be key to Liverpool’s title aspirations.
Manchester United started the season strongly with an emphatic win over Leeds, but they were held to a draw with Southampton at the weekend. It doesn’t bode well for a team that’s struggled with inconsistency in the past, and question marks ultimately remain over whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the man to guide them to their first title in almost a decade.
They finished runners-up last season but still trailed their old rivals by 12
points. To close the gap, they’ll look to the creativity of Paul Pogba alongside some key new additions.
There’s been the welcome arrivals of wonderkid Jadon Sancho for £73m from Borussia Dortmund and France World Cup winner Raphael Varane, who Solskjaer is convinced can deliver his team silverware.
Dark horses: West Ham and Leicester
Leicester’s fairytale title-winning season of 2015/16 taught us that anything is possible in football. Former Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has the Foxes in the mix again, and looks to have spent wisely in the transfer market with the additions of pacy forward Patson Daka from RB Salzburg and Ligue 1 winner with Lille Boubakary Soumare, along with ex-Saints duo Ryan Bertrand and Jannik Vestergaard.
Leicester and West Ham were separated by a mere point and finished in fifth and six place respectively last season, but it was David Moyes’ men who laid down a marker by beating the Foxes 4-1 to top the Premier League table on Monday night. Michail Antonio was seeing double – quite literally – as he celebrated his brace by holding aloft a life-size cardboard cut-out of himself after breaking the club’s goalscoring record.
It would certainly take the pressure off the lone striker if there were two of him; the Hammers are another team struggling to strengthen in attack and appear to lack the strength in depth for a sustained title challenge. But while their stint at the top may be short-lived, it’s another early indication that this is set to be one of the closest title races in years.