Football: Clash of champions in EPL kick-off


Leeds are back in the Premier League after a 16-year absence from the top flight and Northern-Ireland international Stuart Dallas said there is no better way for Leeds to start life in the Premier League than by playing Liverpool in a “champions versus champions” clash today.

The Reds ran away with the title last season, finishing 18 points clear of nearest rivals Manchester City to end a 30-year wait for English football’s biggest prize and Leeds when they turn out at Anfield this afternoon, will be eager to build on their impressive Championship title under Marcelo Bielsa last season.

“Obviously the club has waited a long time to get back in the Premier League and there’s probably no tougher way to start the league than by playing the champions,” Dallas said.” We know it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be difficult, but we’re confident. We’re not over-confident, we know what’s ahead of us but we’re looking forward to it. Champions versus champions is a good way to start.”

While Liverpool will be eager to retain the title they could have the uphill task of fending off their rivals this time around.

Both Manchester clubs will be keen to knock the Reds off their perch, while the rest of the traditional ‘Big Six’ are all aiming to force their way into the mix.

Manchester City came up short in their bid to win a third successive title and they will be eager to put things right next season.

Pep Guardiola’s failure to replace Vincent Kompany cost City dearly and a minor rebuild of an ageing squad is needed for next season’s push.

Nathan Ake’s arrival from Bournemouth boosts City’s defensive options and winger Ferran Torres capture from Valencia means City means business. City are favourites to make up the 18-point deficit on Liverpool and punters should check here for football odds if they fancy them to achieve the feat.

Liverpool were undoubtedly worthy winners of the title last season, but retaining the league title is harder than winning it in the first place, and that’s why only a few managers have done so. Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are the trio to have won back-to-back titles.

Manager Jurgen Klopp has ruled out spending big money this summer and that decision could prove to be costly as the campaign progresses.

The Reds boss failed to follow up his interest in Timo Werner, allowing Chelsea to snap up the prolific RB Leipzig forward.

Standing still in the Premier League is rarely advisable and Klopp would be well advised to reassess his transfer policy over the next few weeks. Also, Klopp has to keep his players both humble and hungry. If they are to bag another EPL trophy, then Klopp needs to make sure his players are as desperate for success this season.

There could easily be a third challenger in next season’s title race, with Manchester United now looking capable of forcing themselves into the mix.

The Red Devils ended the previous campaign strongly, embarking on a 14-game unbeaten run to secure a place in the 2020/21 Champions League.

With Jadon Sancho expected to join the club from Borussia Dortmund as per transfers’ rumours, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have a plethora of firepower at his disposal.

United also need a quick centre-back to complement Lindelof or Maguire’s laboured speeds and a reliable backup for David De Gea and a quite possibly another out-and-out striker if they want to be able to finish much closer to City and Liverpool.

Having gained legendary status for his exploits as a player, Frank Lampard will head into his second season as Chelsea manager with a major point to prove.

The Blues did well to finish fourth last season, but their failure to beat Arsenal in the FA Cup final cast yet more doubt over Lampard’s tactical acumen.

He was out-coached by Gunners’ boss Mikel Arteta and that is a big worry when you consider how poor their squad was performing when the Spaniard was appointed.

Though Chelsea has recruited talents like Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech, The Blue’s defence is a huge area of concern and they could find it difficult to stay in the top four if Lampard doesn’t resolve those issues.

Winning the FA Cup was an exceptional way of rounding off a below average season for the Gunners.

It has taken Arteta a few months to change the culture at Arsenal, but their victory at Wembley highlighted just how far they have progressed.

The Gunners have previously been accused of having a soft-centre, with the likes of Mesut Ozil and others failing to dig in when the going got tough.

However, Arteta has instilled much more resilience into most of his players and that characteristic served them extremely well in the cup final.

However, there are still issues to address. Can the manager convince Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay? What does he do with a problem like Mesut Ozil?

If Arsenal can hang on to Aubameyang and add more quality to their squad, they could push towards the top four next term.

Many pundits said that Jose Mourinho was a spent force after being sacked by United, but he proved his detractors wrong after being appointed as manager at Tottenham Hotspur.

Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking came as something of a surprise given his popularity amongst Spurs’ fans and Mourinho wasn’t universally welcomed.

Despite this, the ‘Special One’ sparked a revival in Spurs’ fortunes to fire them up to sixth in the table and secure a place in the Europa League.

Mourinho will ensure that Spurs are tough to beat next season and they are another team who should be capable of challenging for the top four.

An 18-point deficit is a lot to make up, but Man City are still strongly fancied to prevent Liverpool from retaining the title.

A couple of top-class signings could see Man Utd challenge the reigning champions for second place, while Chelsea are expected to come under pressure from Spurs and Arsenal for fourth.


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