Race for the Premier League title starts here.

Race for the Premier League title starts here.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson (centre) and his team-mates celebrate winning the Premier League trophy at Anfield. Liverpool will start the defence of their Premier League title at home to promoted Leeds tomorrow. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/PA Wire.

MAKING our usual predictions for a new season will be tempered by a whole new set of unquantifiable variables brought on by Covid-19.

Have teams had a proper chance to rest between seasons? Will teams burn out as the next season drags into a two-year run? Will teams’ confidence suffer as the empty stadiums continue to be the norm? And how will sides handle potential outbreaks of the coronavirus within their camp?

So, what can possibly go wrong with our 2020/2021 predictions?

Arsenal: The Gunners will look to this season with a lot more confidence than this time last year. The FA Cup and Community Shield wins all indicate that Arsenal, under Mikel Arteta, are rejuvenated. The goal this season will be to contend and get back into the Champions League.

Key-man: Willian.

Finish: Fifth.

Aston Villa: They survived by the skin of their teeth last season. It's hard to see them escape the mire this time. Hope they do for Bandon Conor Hourihane's sake if nothing else.

Key-man: Jack Grealish

Finish: 18th.

Brighton: A club I predicted would go down last season but they showed iron and some skill in maintaining their 15th place finish.

Key-man: Adam Lallana.

Finish: 16th.

Burnley: Sean Dyche's side continues to be the bogey team for many a side in the league, especially teams above them in the table. Solid as Dyche himself.

Key-man: James Tarkowski.

Finish: 14th.

One of Chelsea's key new signings, Timo Werner (second left) before the pre-season friendly at the AMEX Stadium in Brighton recently.  	Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire
One of Chelsea's key new signings, Timo Werner (second left) before the pre-season friendly at the AMEX Stadium in Brighton recently.  Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Chelsea: Frank Lampard did an amazing job with his youthful team during their ban from the transfer market. Something that has been remedied quickly this transfer window with some incredible acquisitions. Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz will make them a dynamic attacking side. Flaws remain with their defence and goalkeeper. Get that right and they could go all the way.

Key-man: Kai Havertz.

Finish: Third.

Crystal Palace: A disappointing end to last season undid much of their early season good work. Hard to tell if this was a serious flaw or just a side with nothing to play for. We will see, but they are still good enough to be safe at mid-table.

Key-man: Wilfried Zaha.

Finish: 13th.

Everton: Everton, even under the great Carlo Ancelotti, remain consistently inconsistent. They can take points off contenders and lose to relegation sure things.

Key-man: Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Finish: ninth.

Fulham: Did well to win the Championship Play-offs but will be hopelessly out of their league. Pity, because they are a lovely little club in character and easy to watch.

Key man: Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Finish: 19th.

Leeds: The side most in need of Premier League football is back in the big time. The important job will be to maintain that foot on the rung. This will be a tough task but they look the best prospect of the teams promoted.

Key man: Rodrigo Moreno Machado.

Finish: 17th.

Leicester: Brendan Rodgers’ lads lost some steam in the run-in last season, going from title contenders to outside the Champions League places. They are a few players short of a genuine run at the crown.

Key-man: Jamie Vardy.

Finish: Seventh.

Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp’s side were astounding at times last season but I still think they were a better side the previous season. They also did not return from the Covid break as good as they went into it. Any news in the transfer market will tell a lot, as will the outcome of a few tough games at the start of this season, which may well define if the champions remain title kings.

Key man: Virgil Van Dijk.

Finish: First.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (right). Despite Liverpool's runaway success last season, City are the pre-season favourites to reclaim the title. 	Picture: Laurence Griffiths/NMC Pool/PA Wire.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (right). Despite Liverpool's runaway success last season, City are the pre-season favourites to reclaim the title. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/NMC Pool/PA Wire.

Manchester City: Pep Guardiola and City will be bitterly disappointed by last season. Again, the Champions League is the treasure City will crave more than anything else. How that affects their league form will define their title hopes. Losing David Silva and Leroy Sane may affect their shape but with Kevin De Bruyne in your side, among others, they can never be written-off, and it's why they remain favourites with the bookies to regain the crown.

Key man: Kevin De Bruyne.

Finish: Second.

Manchester United: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been busy in the transfer market which along with their fine performances in the season run-in bodes well for next season. Bruno Fernandez and Mason Greenwood were revelations in the second half of the year but it still seems premature to predict them winning the title for some time to come.

Key-man: Bruno Fernandez.

Finish: Fourth.

Newcastle: Steve Bruce did a great job against the odds to keep Newcastle in the top league and did it with some guts too. The collapse of the Saudi deal to buy the club leaves them in a limbo that could be cancerous to the side’s confidence.

Key-man: Allan Saint-Maximin.

Finish: 15th.

Sheffield United: The Blades were the team of the season last time out. Now follows the difficult second album. They will need to work as hard as they did last season on their high octane counterattacking game. There is nothing to indicate they won't just do that.

Key-man: Cork’s own John Egan.

Finish: 10th.

Southampton: A year of peaks and troughs last season. Big wins followed by hopeless defeats. They should be safe with the organisation they have.

Key-man: Danny Ings.

Finish: 12th.

Tottenham Hotspur: Injury and bad luck cost Spurs deeply last season. It will be interesting to see if Jose Mourinho can turn this around, if he can, it may well be the greatest achievement of the Special One.

Key-man: Harry Kane.

Finish: Sixth.

West Brom: Need a miracle to stay up.

Key-man: Matheus Pereira.

Finish: 20th. 

West Ham: No team was as happy to see the end of last season as the Hammers, who really struggled to live up to their talent’s expectations. If they could find a way to reinvigorate that expectation then David Moyes could take them far.

Key-man: Tomas Soucek.

Finish: 11th.

Wolves: The midland side once again continued to confound their critics and punch far above their weight thanks to the tactical genius and enthusiasm of their manager Nuno Espírito Santo.

Key-man: Ruben Nevis.

Finish: Eighth.

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