Excitement levels are building with the new Premier League campaign just days away.
Thanks to Leicester’s heroics two seasons ago, supporters of all 20 clubs will be dreaming of success this year.
But for some fans, they will settle right now for avoiding the drop.
Here, we predict who will be playing in the Championship this time next year – and who will narrowly survive.
Newcastle were widely tipped to run away with the Championship and, while they did win the title, it was only secured in the last few minutes of the season. Manager Rafael Benitez has added defenders Florian Lejeune and Javier Manquillo, winger Jacob Murphy, midfielder Mikel Merino and made Christian Atsu’s loan move permanent, but the Magpies look short on proven Premier League quality. Dwight Gayle scored 23 league goals last year but managed just 15 in three Premier League seasons for Crystal Palace. He will have to find the net regularly if Newcastle are to avoid another battle against relegation in the top flight.
Watford ended last season with six straight defeats but there is optimism at Vicarage Road after the appointment of Marco Silva. While the Portuguese could not save Hull from the drop, he impressed many last season. Now with a full campaign at a club, he will be expected to keep the Hornets in the league again. There is not a lot to get excited about with Watford’s squad, but new signings Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes will be eager to impress in the top flight. That, mixed with Silva’s tactical nous and Troy Deeney’s goals, should just be enough to keep Watford up.
In five years under Tony Pulis, Stoke never finished higher than 11th or lower than 14th. In the first three campaigns under Mark Hughes, the club ended ninth each time. But that progress halted last year with a slide down to 13th and it is hard to see the Potters climbing back into the top half this term. Darren Fletcher and Kurt Zouma are good signings, while young left-back Josh Tymon could make a quick impact, but Jon Walters, Glenn Whelan and, especially, Marko Arnautovic will be missed. Forward Bojan has returned from his loan spell at Mainz but Stoke will need a big improvement from him, Xherdan Shaqiri and Saido Berahino if they are to avoid a rare relegation battle.
Paul Clement led Swansea to four wins in their last five games as they avoided the drop by seven points last year. Fernando Llorente – who will miss the first two games of the campaign with a broken arm – scored in each of those wins and will need to produce that form all season to give Swansea a chance at survival. But his service and Swansea’s chances rest with the future of Gylfi Sigurdsson. The playmaker has been heavily linked with a move to Everton and sat out the club’s pre-season tour due to the uncertainty over his future. Swansea are asking for £50million and if he leaves, they will need to quickly reinvest it in the playing squad if they are to have any chance.
David Wagner’s achievement of taking Huddersfield into the Premier League was an incredible one. Keeping them there would be a whole other level. The German coach – who led the Terriers through two penalty shoot-outs in the play-offs after ending the campaign with a negative goal difference – has been a busy man this summer. The club have broken their transfer record on numerous occasions, with Benin international striker Steve Mounie the latest. Scott Malone and Tom Ince should jump at the chance to impress in the Premier League while midfielder Aaron Mooy has made his move a permanent one. Their spending spree could see them upset one or two big clubs, but it looks unlikely to be enough to keep them in the top flight.
After suffering play-off heartache three times in four years, Brighton took the direct approach to the Premier League last season. Were it not for a late Jack Grealish goal on the final day, Chris Hughton’s side would have been going up as champions. The impressive feat gives them a shot at the big time, but it will take something miraculous for their stay to be any longer than a year. The squad looks far short of the quality required to survive in the Premier League, while questions remain over how well their summer signings will adapt to the top flight of English football. After hosting Manchester City in their first outing, a relatively kind run of games could give the Seagulls a fine start, but by the time they end the season with matches against Manchester United and Liverpool, their relegation could already be confirmed.