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Preview: Man City, Liverpool favourites as the Premier League kicks off

Despite losing to Liverpool in the Charity Shield last weekend, Manchester City enters the season as one of the Premier League favourites, thanks to Pep Guardiola’s signing of Erling Haaland.

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The new Premier League season begins this weekend, and fans are eager to see who will emerge victorious in what appears to be another head-to-head battle between Manchester City and Liverpool.

Despite losing to Liverpool in the Charity Shield last weekend, Manchester City enters the season as one of the Premier League favourites, thanks to Pep Guardiola’s signing of Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian, who will not be available for the World Cup in November, looks set to score more goals than Gabriel Jesus, and his partnership with Julian Alvarez (signed from River Plate in January) looks set to compensate for the departures of Raheem Sterling and Jesus, while England’s Kalvin Phillips is an upgrade over the veteran Fernandinho (if he can stay fit).

Darwin Nunez is the man to watch at Liverpool, and the former Benfica striker faces a difficult task in filling the shoes of Sadio Mane, according to Xinhua. Fulham’s Fabio Carvalho appears to be a promising signing, and Jurgen Klopp will be pleased to see Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah sign new contracts.

Chelsea has had a turbulent summer, with new owners replacing Roman Abramovich, but the signings of Sterling and Kalidou Koulibali show ambition, even if the defence looks weaker after the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, as well as the possible departures of Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta.

Thomas Tuchel must also find a consistent goal scorer if his team is to have any chance of finishing in the top four.

Tottenham Hotspur could be the “dark horse” in this year’s title race, with Antonio Conte having the summer to build a team in his image, with key signings such as Richarlison and Yves Bissouma strengthening in all areas of the pitch.

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min ensure goals, and Conte’s team keeps things tight in defence and could be a title contender.

Arsenal flickered and promised last season before fizzling out at the end of the season, and Mikel Arteta’s side will provide moments of magic again now that Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko have arrived from Manchester City. The question is whether Arteta’s entertaining young team can sustain their challenge over a full season, and the answer is probably “no.”

As for Manchester United, surely it can’t be worse than the collective chaos and individual disappointments of last season, as Erik ten Hag takes over as manager at Old Trafford.

In the best-case scenario, players like Harry Maguire, Jadon Sancho, and Marcos Rashford will rediscover their form under the former Ajax coach, while Christian Eriksen adds silk in midfield and Lisandro Martinez adds steel at the back.

In the worst-case scenario, last season caused too much damage to repair in a single season, and a wanted-away Cristiano Ronaldo spends the season in a self-imposed funk as United struggles to qualify for Europe once more.

Newcastle United, meanwhile, can be expected to progress thanks to a combination of Saudi Arabian financing and Eddie Howe’s astute management. West Ham United have added much-needed firepower with the signing of Gianluca Scamacca, who will give Michail Antonio a rest now and then, while Leicester City have yet to make any signings but have defender Wesley Fofana back after missing nearly the entire season with a broken leg.

Much of Leicester’s hopes will hinge on their ability to turn down Newcastle United’s bid for creative midfielder James Maddison and Jamie Vardy’s ability to continue scoring goals.

Wolves can be counted on to play attractive football, but Raul Jimenez must rediscover his goal-scoring touch, while Brighton must adjust after losing midfield motor Bissouma to Spurs.

Graham Potter’s team is capable of playing attractive football, but they require a bit more bite in front of goal.

Southampton must also find goals if they are to avoid turning inconsistency into an all-out relegation battle.

Patrick Viera had an excellent first season at Crystal Palace, transforming them from a tenacious defensive unit to an expansive passing unit, and we can expect more of the same in south London. Meanwhile, while Brentford will be hard-pressed to repeat their excellent first season in the elite, Thomas Frank has kept most of his squad together (except for Eriksen), and Keane Lewis Potter is a promising young forward.

Steven Gerrard’s first full season at Aston Villa promises to be exciting, and he will be relieved to have signed Sevilla central defender Diego Carlos.

Things look tougher for Gerrard’s England companion as Frank Lampard faces another difficult campaign at Everton. Lampard has the fans on his side after narrowly avoiding relegation, but the loss of Richarlison is a big one and the signings of James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil from Burnley will have to add some steel of they want to avoid further struggles.

(Inputs from IANS)