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 By Ian Darke

Manchester City the Premier League's team to beat; Liverpool can challenge

The Premier League is back! Who better than Ian Darke to run the rule over all 20 clubs?

Arsenal: Expect a tougher, better-drilled team under Unai Emery, although even a top-four place would spell success.

Bournemouth: With exciting youngster David Brooks and the addition of Colombian Jefferson Lerma, they are good enough to stay out of trouble again.

Brighton: Excellent defending kept them afloat last season, but Chris Hughton needs more goals to sleep easier and will hope Iranian international Alireza Jahanbuksh -- top scorer in Holland last season -- finds form.

Burnley: A European adventure might take the edge off their league form, but they still look tough to beat and have clarity of vision under Sean Dyche. They cannot repeat last season's seventh-place finish but should be OK.

Cardiff: Neil Warnock has performed wonders to get them back into the top flight, but summer spending has been modest and they may find unity and spirit is not quite enough.

Chelsea: Maurizio Sarri arrived at a bad time, amid doubts over the future of stars such as Eden Hazard, Willian and Thibault Courtois. It might take the Stamford Bridge club time to get going.

Crystal Palace: It is vital they keep hold of unsettled match winner Wilfried Zaha. If not, it looks a tough road for Palace, even with Max Meyer having been added.

Everton: High expectations make a tough gig for any new boss and jury is out on Marco Silva. He needs £40 million Richarlison to be more successful than most of the club's recent signings.

Fulham: They played some superb football to win promotion via the playoffs. Ryan Sessegnon, 18, will hit the headlines, but much may depend on whether Alexander Mitrovic can score goals at the top level.

Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner.
Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner.

Huddersfield: They defied the prophets of doom by staying up while scoring only 28 goals but, unless they can improve in that department, relegation looms.

Leicester: How will they cope without Riyad Mahrez and, maybe, Harry Maguire? Claude Puel seems to be under pressure even before a ball is kicked.

Liverpool: Pressure is on them to produce a genuine title challenge after lavish spending. Full of menace up front and with an improved spine, they must go close if they can find consistency and resilience. Naby Keita is one to watch.

Manchester City: The Community Shield win served notice that Pep Guardiola will not let his gifted squad rest on its laurels. City demolished all opposition last season, but you just wonder if winning the Champions League might become the late-season priority if Liverpool push them hard.

Man United: Even if you ignore the summer of discontent and Jose Mourinho's gloomy demeanour, there is little to suggest this team can suddenly blossom into title winners. The manager is also under pressure to produce brighter football.

Newcastle: New season, same frustration at a lack of spending. However, Rafa Benitez inspired the Toon to 10th last season and he gets a good tune from this squad.

Southampton: They dodged relegation last season and have splashed a little cash, but it might be a difficult year without Dusan Tadic's creativity.

Tottenham: Recent finishes read 3-2-3 for a strong squad that has guaranteed goals from Harry Kane. However, possible World Cup hangovers and settling into a new stadium make them hard to fancy for the title.

Watford: They do things their own way but it generally works. Goalkeeper Ben Foster is a good addition and Abdoulaye Doucoure was a revelation in midfield last season. They can stay up again.

West Ham: There has been big spending on a team that conceded a horrible 68 goals last season. The best business might be Lukasz Fabianski in goal and the Hammers should be entertaining with Felipe Anderson, Jack Wilshere and Andriy Yarmolenko added to the mix.

Wolves: After promotion was won impressively, ambition and resources mean they can do more than merely survive. However, even with Portuguese headliners Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho on board, that might prove harder on grass than paper.

Ian Darke, who called games for the network during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, is ESPN's lead soccer voice in the U.S. Reach him on Twitter @IanDarke.


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