With the race for the top four in the Premier League more competitive than ever, there will be some big casualties in the quest for Champions League football next season.
Here, we predict who will make it into the top four and look at those that will fail to make the grade.
To make it
After taking a season to get used to life in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola is a good bet to prove himself this time around. Having spent over £100million on sorting his problematic goalkeeping and defensive areas, the Spaniard has provided a solid base which should allow City’s plethora of attacking talent to flourish. Not only will they ease into the top four, they are the team to beat in the race for the title.
Also in his second season, Jose Mourinho will surely make a much better fist of it at Manchester United and improve on last year’s sixth-placed finish. Their activity in the transfer market has seen them evolve into a more traditional Mourinho-looking side, with the pace and power of Romelu Lukaku and the physical presence of Nemanja Matic strengthening the side. Like City, United should make a real tilt at the title.
After a record-breaking season last year on the way to a fifth Premier League title, things could be much tougher for Chelsea this time around. They have missed out on Lukaku, boss Antonio Conte has been embarrassed by his handling of Diego Costa, while Eden Hazard will miss the start of the season through injury. Factor in that they now have European football to contend with and they will be facing a battle to hold on to a top-four spot.
Spurs have been the best performing side in the Premier League over the last two seasons, in terms of points won, but they lifted the trophy on neither occasion. There’s a sense that they might never have had a better chance and with the improvement of their rivals, securing a top-four berth could be viewed as success this season. They also have the Wembley factor to contend with, losing their home advantage of last year. But the goals of Harry Kane, along with the quality of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen and a strong defence should be enough to see them cling on.
After missing out on Champions League football for the first time in 20 years last season, there could be more trouble for Arsenal this time around. They will be severely hampered by the Europa League and travelling to the backwaters of Europe on a Thursday night, while the future of Alexis Sanchez is still unknown as his transfer saga rumbles on. There is at least some stability over the position of Arsene Wenger following his new deal while Alexandre Lacazette is an exciting signing. That might not be enough, though, so fans could have to get used to Thursday night football.
The Reds are another side who do not have the benefit of no European football this season and the pressure will be on for Jurgen Klopp to repeat his feat of securing a Champions League spot. But with a new rival for the top four emerging from across Stanley Park and the strengthening of the two Manchester clubs, it will be a tough task to retain their place. It might well take some further activity in the transfer market between now and the end of August, while also keeping Phillipe Coutinho, if the Reds are to do it.
Given their spending spree this summer, for the first time Everton will be expected to seriously challenge for a place in the Champions League. Ronald Koeman is building a strong squad, with the big-money additions of Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney, but there is pressure to deliver. They finished 15 points short of the top four last year, and though they will likely reduce that this season, it might be too much of a bridge to gap in one year – no matter how much money they have spent.