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11 August 2017

Citi Sports reporters predict Premier League winners, Top 4

The Premier League is always an enduring spectacle and it seems each year, the stakes go higher, the value becomes bigger and more important and it sucks you into the storylines with such strength.

The 2017/2018 season, which will be live on Citi FM, will be no different. Last season, it was called the “battle of the managers” and Italian Antonio Conte and his Chelsea army claimed the biggest reward available. 

This season, the Blues have their targets on their backs and one should expect their games with every strong team to be a tussle. But the likes of Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Arsene Wenger will have their own tests to deal with and they will not be easy. They could even decide if they will have jobs in England or not when next season comes along. 

In the first of a two-part series on their expectations for the season, Citi Sports journalists, Nathan Quao, Daniel Koranteng, Rahman Osman. Benjamin Nketsia and Edwin Kwakofi give their thoughts on who will be Champions, who will finish in the top four and who’ll be relegated.

WHO WILL BE CHAMPIONS?

Nathan Quao – Chelsea

“I feel they their intensity from last season will still be there and that will push them through their difficult ties. I am not expecting Antonio Conte to go away from his 3-4-3 that worked so well. It is true that teams will plan for that and they will come prepared to stop it from working well like Manchester United did at Old Trafford. But how many teams can boast of a very good man marker to handle Eden Hazard like Ander Herrera? 

Conte’s team has not changed that much. He now has Alvaro Morata in place of Diego Costa and even though Morata is not as ferocious as Costa, his intelligence will make him a very good weapon especially as Eden Hazard and Pedro reprise their roles from last season.”

Chelsea started their 2016-17 title-winning campaign with a 2-1 home win over West Ham (Image credit: Getty Images)

Chelsea won the league last season and Nathan Quao believes they’ll repeat the feat this season

Rahman Osman – Manchester City

“Connoisseurs of the game have the Manchester clubs as title favourites. I disagree with them. I have Chelsea and a Manchester club as my favourites but I’m putting my money on the blue half of the city. Pep’s debut season in England was just okay per his lofty standards. He’s identified what went wrong and has so far answered the questions raised with his transfer dealings.

You win the Serie A with defence, you win La Liga in midfield but EPL is won on the flanks. The great Alex Ferguson -the most successful Premier League manager – was obsessed with wing play. Chelsea’s flank quartet of Moses, Alonso, Pedro and Hazard were very influential in the title triumph. City’s transfer activity has been focused on strengthening the flanks with 4 of their 5 signings being wide men (Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker, Danilo, Benjamin Mendy).

One will say Chelsea still have the wide men who won them the league but the Blues lack depth of the flank. William is the only quality wide man on their bench for a season where they will be juggling both the EPL and UCL. City, on the other hand, are spoilt for choice in the wide areas, both in defence and attack. Sophomores are difficult but I do trust Gabriel Jesus to blow hot with the World Cup beckoning.”

Daniel Koranteng – Manchester United

“It’s very hard to look beyond Manchester United winning the league this season. In my view they have done the best business this transfer window especially with the addition of Nemanja Matic from Chelsea and Romelu Lukaku from Everton.

The United squad on paper looks like the strongest in terms of balance which is key in winning the league. Away from the squad, the man at the helm of affairs, Jose Mourinho has immense experience when it comes to winning the league, having done so on 3 previous occasions. Furthermore, if you’re one who believes in stats, Jose Mourinho always wins the league in his second season and did so most recently in 2015 when his Chelsea team led the pile from day one.”

Spurs will be looking to keep their place in the Top 4 or go one better and win the Premier League

Spurs will be looking to keep their place in the Top 4 or go one better and win the Premier League

Benjamin Nketsia – Liverpool (If they sign Van Dijk)

“Call me deluded, and yes the deal would probably not have happened by the time this is published but Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp are my legitimate title winners if a certain Virgil Van Dijk will be added before the start of the season. It might seem ridiculous that the championship ambitions of a team who have not won a league crown since modern day online writing became a part of society will need a centre back to turn their fortunes around. I daresay that he is that transcendent player that the German tactician requires to complete the jigsaw and at 26 he is entering his prime as a professional footballer. Liverpool must break the bank if that is what it takes to make this move happen, it won’t be about just money but a watershed moment in the journey of club that has forced its fan-base to be become, historians.

Yes, I firmly believe that Jurgen Klopp’s project will come full circle in his third year in the Premier League and he is that man to lead the club to the Promised Land. With good health and a number of the x factor players in the squad including Moreno, Firmino and Can reaching the maturity that allows them to maximize their talents this should be Liverpool’s best season yet. Luring the Egyptian wizard Mohammed Salah to Anfield is evidence of his superior judgment of player quality, keeping Coutinho will be a blessing not just to Liverpool but to the Premier League at large and the absence of an AFCON should see Mane compete for MVP.

Is Virgil van Dijk the missing piece of Liverpool's puzzle? Ben Nketsia thinks so.

Is Virgil van Dijk the missing piece of Liverpool’s puzzle? Ben Nketsia thinks so.

I won’t pay much thought to the other potential occupants of the top four and I am sure a few Chelsea folks have been shaking their heads in disbelief at what they are reading. Manchester United have bought well but still have a few chinks in their armour heading into the season. Trust Mourinho to get the best out of his charges in his second year in charge. A neck and neck race with rivals Liverpool should be fun to watch but will eventually see them finish in second place.”

Edwin Kwakofi – Manchester City

“Man City have done wonderful business this summer. A lot of money has been spent on wing-backs but considering how attack-minded they all are, they appear to have strengthened a lot more than their defence. City had the strongest team last season but inconsistent defensive performances cost them. Despite not having made any signings in the centre of defence, City look like they can outscore anyone with the strength they have going forward. They are under pressure to win something, anything next season and after an underwhelming first season, Pep could do with some domestic success.”

Will this be the season for Pep Guardiola at Man City?

Will this be the season for Pep Guardiola at Man City?

WHO WILL FINISH IN THE TOP 4?

Top Four

Daniel – Man United, Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal.

“These four have seriously improved their squads this window and have the best managers in the league. After missing out last season Wenger will be under a lot of pressure to deliver and based on how last season ended I’m certain he will deliver a top 4 finish in the least. Liverpool have been very quiet in the transfer window and I think with the added pressure of the Champions league they will drop out of the top 4.

The change of grounds for Spurs this season will be their biggest problem. White Hart Lane was a fortress for them last season as they ended the campaign unbeaten at home. Translating that dominant form to Wembley, which in actual sense is seen as a neutral ground, will be extremely difficult. They struggled at Wembley in last season’s Champions League falling out at the group stage.”

Arsenal missed out on the top 4 last season but Daniel Koranteng believes a return is on the cards

Arsenal missed out on the top 4 last season but Daniel Koranteng believes a return is on the cards

Nathan – Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool. 

“Man United have a proven goal scorer in Romelu Lukaku and their acquisition of Nemanja Matic will give Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera the freedom to do more on the offensive side of things. Plus, the team’s height and physical presence are great for last minute salvos against teams who set up camp in their box.  Mourinho always succeeds in his second season. At least, he has a record to prove that.

Manchester City’s squad depth will take them far. It is true that the team may have a gung-ho feel about it but what is a team to do in a league where pace is key to winning?  They will create chances by the dozen through David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and their full-backs Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy and Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus should have no problems putting them away. Ederson will replace Claudio Bravo and I believe that will help the team unless the Portuguese decides to remind us of his Chilean colleague.

Liverpool will not stray from their intense style of play and that will help them win a lot of games at home. Have they found a way past teams who sit deep? Have they found answers to their deficiencies when it comes to defending set pieces? We will get the answers over time. Getting Dominic Solanke was a good decision since he can provide a lot from the bench. Much more than Divock Origi if you ask me.”

Rahman – Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool.

“Manchester United should be competing for the title but for the lack of adequate goal scoring midfielders. Nevertheless, they have enough quality to secure a UCL berth.

Liverpool will edge out the North London rivals, Arsenal and Spurs for the last UCL spot. Arsenal will be distracted by the heavy Europa League schedules and Spurs will lose a little bit of power playing away from the White Hart Lane.”

Man United are favourites to make the top 4 this season after missing out in the last campaign

Man United are favourites to make the top 4 this season after missing out in the last campaign

Benjamin – Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal (if they keep Ozil and Sanchez), Tottenham 

“Adding Lacazette to their setup will mean nothing for Arsenal if they can’t dig in and keep Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. If they can sort out the contract situations of those two there is no reason they should not finish third. Wit and iron fisted leadership will prevail but will still see Mauricio Pochetinno finish fourth mainly due to the lack of ambition shown in the transfer window following the loss of Kyle Walker. My top four embodies Citi Fm’s theme for the 2017/2018 season, ” Expect the Unexpected”

The defending champions will suffer from the burden of sustaining success. Their off-season issues will tell on their season and if you want me to elaborate I can name a few. Not having their best player Eden Hazard participate actively in preseason will tell, the situation with the strikers will bring its own issues and questions: when and where will the Costa drama be over? How soon will Morata settle in? Will Batshuayi be the man eventually? How does Conte hope to inculcate Bakayoko, another who joined with an injury and did not participate in preseason into a midfield that was elite last season? All these doubts and uncertainties place the champions in a place they don’t want to be shortly after experiencing a near perfect season.

Pep Guardiola and his charges at Manchester City should do just enough to secure a sixth place finish. The squad is laden with a plethora of similar skilled short speedsters who are not quite the finished products yet. The lack of trust between Sergio Aguero and Guardiola will be unwelcome in a campaign that is set to test the barriers of competitiveness. It will be interesting to watch if the new look fancy defence can actually defend. It is worth noting that I do believe that the addition of Alexis Sanchez to this Manchester City squad will distort my entire top four.

Edwin – Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United

“Chelsea will provide a strong title challenge but will most likely prioritise progress in the Champions League to a top finish in the Premier League and progression to the latter stages could affect them in the run-in. Spurs are being overlooked by a number of pundits but their lack of signings could be a good thing for them. Consistency could be key for a top 4 finish as it was for Chelsea’s league win last season.

I tip Manchester United to pip Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton [not necessarily in that order] to fourth place mainly because of their manager, Jose Mourinho. With a full season in charge under his belt, Jose has had a good look at his squad and a better grasp of what he needs them to do to finish in the top 4. Arsenal and Liverpool have made a couple of decent signings but still don’t have the quality to end up in the top four. Everton are a work in progress.”

Sigurdsson scored nine goals and provided 13 assists. Will his imminent move to Everton spell the end of Swansea's top-flight stay?

Sigurdsson scored nine goals and provided 13 assists. Will his imminent move to Everton spell the end of Swansea’s top-flight stay?

WHO WILL GO DOWN?

Daniel – “Huddersfield and Brighton are my two main candidates for relegation in the coming season. They simply lack the strength in depth in terms of personnel to survive the rigours of the premier league and they are bound to struggle. Burnley completed my relegation list as I feel their poor away form last season will finally catch up with them.”

Rahman – “Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town – Just like last season, two promoted clubs are likely to return back to where they came from. The Seagulls and the Terriers haven’t made any significant signings to improve their team to EPL quality. Joining the duo is Swansea. The Welsh club escaped the drop last season not because they were good. The relegated clubs were worse than them. The likely departure of Sigurdsson will seal their fate.”

Despite an impressive showing in the Championship, Brighton are a top pick to go straight back down

Despite an impressive showing in the Championship, Brighton are a top pick to go straight back down

Nathan – Brighton, Huddersfield and Swansea. 

“Swansea’s flirtatious relationship with relegation is always the story when the season starts and that association will become costly should they lose Gyilfi Sigurdsson. The turbulence of the Premier League will be too difficult to handle for Brighton and Huddersfield.” 

Edwin – Swansea, Brighton, Huddersfield

“Swansea were lucky not to go down last season. Losing Gylfi Sigurdsson, who at times kept them afloat single-handedly, will break this Welsh camel’s back. Brighton and Huddersfield were impressive in the Championship but their signings have been targeted at bringing in quantity not quality and that will affect them after such a big step up.”

Benjamin – Huddersfield, Burnley, Swansea

Huddersfield Town will find the Premier League terrain too rough and are my first candidates for relegation. Watching Burnley defend brought a smile to my face many a time last season but the lack of goals and invention from the lads away from Turf Moor should do them in.

Swansea City have given their fans a lot of heart-in-the-mouth moments over the past few seasons and that consistent flirting with relegation will come to an end this season. Their quality pales in comparison to the other Premier League sides and the sale of Sigurdsson will be the sounding of the death knell for the Swans.

DANIEL’S TABLE
Man United
Chelsea
Man City
Arsenal
Liverpool
Tottenham
Everton
Leicester
West Ham
West Brom
Southampton
Bournemouth
Stoke City
Newcastle
Swansea
Crystal Palace
Watford
Burnley
Brighton
Huddersfield
EDWIN’S TABLE
Man City
Chelsea
Tottenham
Man Utd
Liverpool
Everton
Arsenal
West Ham
Leicester
Newcastle
Southampton
AFC Bournemouth
Stoke City
West Brom
Crystal Palace
Burnley
Watford
Swansea
Brighton
Huddersfield

By: citifmonline.com/Ghana

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