PREMIER LEAGUE 2017-18: 5 teams to watch out for this season
LONDON (AP) — Five teams to keep an eye on in the English Premier League, which starts on Friday.
Antonio Conte ignited the first managerial feud of the season when he said that Chelsea must avoid “a Mourinho season” as the champions seek to defend their Premier League title.
Conte was referring to Chelsea’s implosion under Jose Mourinho during the 2015-16 season when the Portuguese was fired before the halfway point as the team failed to defend its title.
Unlike the last defense, however, major acquisitions have been made for the side that dominated the top flight last season, with more expected to come.
Spain striker Alvaro Morata has been signed from Real Madrid as a direct replacement for Diego Costa, who is set to depart after falling out with Conte.
Tiemoue Bakayoko, who joined from Monaco, is expected to be an upgrade on midfielder Nemanja Matic, who has followed Mourinho to Manchester United. Germany defender Antonio Rudiger also joined from Roma.
Judging by its manager’s recent history, United should be considered a major contender to win its first title since 2013.
Jose Mourinho is beginning his second season at Old Trafford. He claimed league titles at the same stage of his tenure in his last two jobs, with Real Madrid and Chelsea.
But United enters the new campaign having finished in sixth place, 24 points behind champion Chelsea.
The season was saved by a pair of titles, the League Cup and Europa League. The latter crucially earned United a place in the Champions League and maintained its pulling power in the transfer market.
United beat Chelsea to the signing of striker Romelu Lukaku from Everton for 75 million pounds ($97 million), while the club hopes the signing of midfielder Nemanja Matic from Chelsea can bring out the best in Paul Pogba. Sweden defender Victor Lindelof also joined from Benfica.
It’s been another offseason of comings and goings as City manager Pep Guardiola attempts to deepen his imprint at Etihad Stadium by spending around $300 million.
There were flashes of the “total football” played by Guardiola’s dominant Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides but inconsistency, particularly in defense, led to City finishing third in the Spaniard’s first season in charge.
Since then, goalkeeper Ederson Moraes was signed from Benfica along with fullbacks Kyle Walker from Tottenham, Benjamin Mendy from Monaco, and Danilo from Real Madrid.
The signings of Mendy’s former Monaco teammate, Bernardo Silva, and 19-year-old Brazilian Douglas Luiz have added further talent to City’s already loaded attack. The fight for a starting place between strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus will provide further intrigue.
Room has been made for the new recruits by the departures of Nolito, Aleksandar Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Jesus Navas and Joe Hart (on loan to West Ham).
Despite the likelihood of losing two of its best players, Everton remains the club best prepared to displace one of last season’s top six.
Romelu Lukaku has gone to Manchester United and Ross Barkley looks set to follow him out of Everton before the transfer window closes on Aug. 31.
But Everton has reinvested the Lukaku windfall.
Wayne Rooney is back where he began his career after 12 seasons at Old Trafford. While the striker’s return on a free transfer might have attracted the most attention, it is manager Ronald Koeman’s other signings that make Everton a threat.
The Merseyside club has added two promising English players in goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from Sunderland and defender Michael Keane from Burnley, while Koeman looked closer to home to sign Netherlands midfielder Davy Klaassen from Ajax.
Spanish striker Sandro Ramirez, who is only 21, has been acquired from Malaga to help Rooney replace Lukaku’s goals, while first-team regulars Tom Davies (19) and Mason Holgate (20) should continue to only improve.
While its rivals have been spending money, Tottenham’s priority has been preventing key members of the side that finished second in May from leaving.
Aside from Kyle Walker, who moved to Manchester City, Tottenham fended off interest in its talented young core. Crucially, for now, Tottenham has kept hold of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, who combined for 47 league goals last season.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team will be temporary residents at 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium while the redevelopment of its White Hart Lane home is completed.
Success will be largely dependent on whether Tottenham can replicate its home form from last season — winning 17 of 19 Premier League games and drawing the other two.
Chairman Daniel Levy’s habit of leaving his recruitment to the last minute will ensure Tottenham fans remain hopeful of additions right up until the transfer window closes on Aug. 31.
Opening round fixtures:
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