Stellar summer signings – tick; a new marquee coach to add to the list – tick; competition at the summit – tick. The 2014/15 Premier League season promises plenty, but for all the inevitable twists and turns along the way, only one team can finish top of the pile. UEFA.com looks at the contenders and ponders what they have to prove ...
Manchester City FC
Forward Stevan Jovetić hit the nail on the head: "This year is going to be more difficult, because Manchester United will be much better, Arsenal are stronger, Chelsea with three or four players they have bought will be better. Liverpool are also good – they will also be in the race for the title." Manuel Pellegrini steered City to the title in his maiden season, but can they retain it? They followed up their only previous Premier League crown, in 2011/12, by losing out to rivals Manchester United FC the following term; can they go one better this time round?
Luis Suárez's void will take some filling. The Uruguayan international scored 31 goals and created 12 last term, meaning the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Coutinho will need to raise their games. Though summer acquisitions Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Lazar Marković are sure to contribute, the Reds must be tighter at the back if they are to match (or improve) their second-placed finish – a big season awaits for new centre-back Dejan Lovren. "He is exactly what I've been looking for since Jamie Carragher left," said manager Brendan Rodgers.
José Mourinho is without a trophy in two years. The Portuguese rarely needs cajoling, but his own personal 'drought' will not be sitting easy and, in his eyes at least, only the championship will do. His second stint at Stamford Bridge started solidly enough but his stance was clear from the off: "I don't have a striker, it's impossible for us to win the Premier League." Diego Costa and Didier Drogba have since arrived so that box has been emphatically ticked. Throw in Cesc Fàbregas and Filipe Luís and Mourinho has something approaching the squad he wants.
Another strong start, a raft of injuries and a dip in form followed by a late push for fourth. Or is this time different? Though Wenger has proven the big-money arrival of Mesut Özil was not a one off by securing the coup of Alexis Sánchez, lingering questions remain. Do the Gunners have sufficient depth? Can their main men stay fit? Do they have sufficient steel in midfield? One thing is certain: Wenger's faith in his team, his philosophy, his style will not waver. "I believe we have a chance," he said. Some things never change …
Manchester United FC
Louis van Gaal is no shrinking violet. The Dutchman's decisiveness, courage and bolshiness are exactly why the United board plumped for him. The malaise that surrounded the reign of David Moyes – himself a victim of circumstance to a degree – required a man of presence. Van Gaal has certainly talked the talk since going straight into the job after the Netherlands' FIFA World Cup campaign – “I am not a child anymore, I know what I can do” – but, having never managed in England, with a squad that (mostly) came seventh last season, missing out on Europe, his is a big ask.
Everton FC have long been closest to ruffling feathers at the top. Moyes's sides at Goodison Park were never less than organised, tireless and compact, but only once did they break into the top four under the Scot. Are Roberto Martínez's Toffees – think more pizzazz, less rigidity – a different proposition? Tottenham Hotspur FC look to be the other most likely candidate to knock on the door, though new manager Mauricio Pochettino could need time to settle things down after the turbulence of last season.
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