Manchester City successfully defended their Premier League title last season – will anyone stop them from completing a hat-trick?
No team has been champions of England for three successive years since Manchester United reigned from 2006-07 to 2008-09, but that is the next target for City boss Pep Guardiola, who has already achieved the feat in Spain (Barcelona, 2008-11) and Germany (Bayern Munich, 2013-16).
Liverpool, who finished a point back, came closest to stopping the City juggernaut last time out, but who will challenge them in 2019-20?
Will the Reds repeat the run of results that led to that near-miss? How will Chelsea fare with Frank Lampard in charge, but without Eden Hazard and under a transfer embargo?
Will Tottenham, who lost 13 league games last season, maintain their challenge this time? Is this when Arsenal get back in the Champions League places after a three-year absence, and are Manchester United serious contenders again after going six years without coming close to the title?
We asked 24 BBC TV and radio pundits to pick their top four with explanations for their selections.
The predictions were made on the basis of how each squad shaped up on Thursday, 8 August, after the deadline for incoming transfers but with the potential for players to leave up until the transfer window shuts in the rest of Europe at the end of August.
|Alan Shearer||Liverpool||Man City||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Ian Wright||Liverpool||Man City||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Alex Scott||Liverpool||Man City||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Sue Smith||Liverpool||Man City||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Martin Keown||Liverpool||Man City||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Stephen Warnock||Liverpool||Man City||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Danny Murphy||Liverpool||Man City||Tottenham||Man Utd|
|Matthew Upson||Liverpool||Man City||Tottenham||Chelsea|
|Ruud Gullit||Man City||Chelsea||Liverpool||Man Utd|
|Karen Carney||Man City||Liverpool||Man Utd||Arsenal|
|Mark Schwarzer||Man City||Liverpool||Chelsea||Tottenham|
|Jermaine Jenas||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Paul Ince||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Chris Sutton||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Leon Osman||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Pat Nevin||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Michael Brown||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Mark Lawrenson||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Arsenal|
|Micah Richards||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Man Utd|
|Lindsay Johnson||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Man Utd|
|Kevin Kilbane||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Man Utd|
|Rachel Brown-Finnis||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Chelsea|
|Chris Waddle||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Chelsea|
|Joleon Lescott||Man City||Liverpool||Tottenham||Chelsea|
Six teams feature in the forecasted top fours, and only Manchester City and Liverpool feature in all 20.
In terms of who will win it, Manchester City are favourites, with 16 votes. Liverpool get the other eight.
|Overall predicted ranking, using all BBC predictions|
|(using system of 4 pts for a 1st place, 3 pts for 2nd, 2 pts for 3rd and 1 pt for 4th)|
|1. Man City||2. Liverpool||3. Tottenham||4. Arsenal||5. Chelsea||6 Man Utd|
|88 pts||79 pts||43 pts||14 pts||9 pts||7 pts|
Man City – ‘The best squad, a great manager and a drive for more’
This is the fourth season running where City have featured in everyone’s forecasted top four, and the second successive season where no-one thinks they will finish below second.
Joleon Lescott: I’ve watched a few pre-season games and City have looked exactly the same as they did last season, even while playing without a recognised striker. They have got a settled squad and it just seems like the longer they spend under Pep, the stronger they get.
Micah Richards: As well as City’s strength in depth, they have got a great manager who pushes every player to the limit. After winning the title you can sometimes rest on your laurels a little bit, because you think about how good the rest of your players are, but there is no room for that with Pep. If you do, there is not going to be a place for you.
Micah Richards and Alex Scott are the guests on Football Focus on BBC One and the BBC Sport website at 12:00 BST on Saturday.
Stephen Warnock: The only thing I think could have an impact on City this season is how much they will miss Vincent Kompany, because he was massive for the dressing room and setting standards.
Chris Sutton: City are one of the teams who will really benefit from this new law that means goalkeepers do not have to pass the ball out of the box from goal-kicks. A lot of clubs might try to copy them and come a cropper, but City can play their way out.
Pat Nevin: They have bought well and also have Kevin de Bruyne back from injury. He is exceptional, so they have to be favourites.
Sue Smith: By adding Rodri and Joao Cancelo, they have got the best squad in the league, but they will be focused on Europe. They will just miss out on another title but will win the Champions League which is what they desperately want.
Chris Waddle: I have looked at the fixtures and in the last six games, Liverpool have got a harder run-in. It is tough to keep wining titles but City have got the hunger. The big loss for me is Kompany – because that leaves them vulnerable at set-pieces.
|Title run-in? Who Liverpool and Man City play after they meet at Etihad Stadium on 4 April|
|Man City||Date (provisional)||Liverpool|
|Southampton (a)||11 April||Aston Villa (h)|
|Newcastle (h)||18 April||Brighton (a)|
|Brighton (a)||25 April||Burnley (h)|
|Bournemouth (h)||2 May||Arsenal (a)|
|Watford (a)||9 May||Chelsea (h)|
|Norwich (h)||17 May||Newcastle (a)|
Alan Shearer: It is going to be City and Liverpool going head to head for the title again and I think it is going to be very close – they are both exceptional teams but I just have a feeling Liverpool will edge it this time.
Alan Shearer joins Ian Wright and Gary Lineker on Match of the Day at 22:30 BST on Saturday on BBC One and the BBC Sport website for highlights of seven Premier League games (including Friday night’s season opener).
Liverpool – ‘psychologically, they will be ready to go again’
Last year 14% of people we asked thought Liverpool would win the title and 96% thought they would finish in the top two. This season, 33% think they will be champions, the proportion who think they will finish in the top two stays at 96%.
Matthew Upson: What Liverpool did last season was worthy of a Premier League title, and without making any signings, having Jurgen Klopp in charge means they will grow from within. He has had another pre-season to implement his style and his mentality and I think they can still get a little bit better.
Alex Scott: I am edging towards Liverpool, only because I think teams found a way of beating City last year and it took a dip from Liverpool in the New Year to let City back in touch.
Chris Sutton: My gut feeling is that it won’t go down to the wire again. I see Liverpool slipping up a couple of times, which almost happened last season. To win the league they will probably have to get to 97 points again, and the margin of error just isn’t there.
Mark Lawrenson: My only reservation about Liverpool is that the front three have played non-stop for two years. It worries me a little bit.
Paul Ince: There is a way of managing players who have not had the summer off. When I came back late after playing at international finals, I came back fit – because you do not have time to lose your fitness – and at the start of the season, while most players had the Sunday off training, I had the Sunday and Monday off, to give me some rest. I am sure Jurgen Klopp has got a plan for Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
|Martin Keown’s prediction for the 2019-20 season|
|Premier League champions: Liverpool||Rest of top four: Man City, Tottenham, Arsenal|
|Champions League winners: Man City||FA Cup winners: Tottenham|
|Carabao Cup winners: Man City||Relegated: Newcastle, Norwich, Sheff Utd|
Stephen Warnock: If the front three stay fit, I think Liverpool win it. The start of the season is going to be so important. We know how good Klopp’s tactics are, and his man-management, but how he manages his players’ game-time in the first few weeks is one of his biggest challenges.
Kevin Kilbane: Tottenham are a big test for City early on but they are the only one of the big six teams that City play in their first 11 games. I think City could steal a march early on because in the same period, Liverpool play the other four leading teams.
Join Jason Mohammad, Dion Dublin and Kevin Kilbane for Final Score on Saturday, from 14:30 BST on the Red Button and from 16:00 on BBC One.
Leon Osman: Depending how you look at it, Liverpool had incredible good fortune – or good management – for their front three to not pick up any major injuries last season. But if you look at the fact they have not had any rest, I think that is going to catch up with at least one of them, and possibly all three of them. If that happens, I don’t see them being able to cope as well as City managed without De Bruyne last season.
Ruud Gullit: Last year I backed Liverpool but City have more depth to their squad. They can change their players and have the same kind of results.
Joleon Lescott: Unlike with City, I don’t see Liverpool as a machine where it doesn’t matter too much who is playing. With City you just know that it is going to happen – that whoever is in that position at that time will score for them. With Liverpool it feels like it is individual brilliance that wins games for them, rather than patterns of play.
Danny Murphy: Signing one forward player would have been ideal for Liverpool, given the situation they are in. But they could not have done any more last year without winning the title and psychologically, they will be ready to go again.
Their level of performance last season showed that their mindset and their mental strength is not a problem at all. Why would there be any reason to doubt their ability to do that again?
Tottenham – ‘Dybala would have been a game-changer’
This is the second successive season where no-one has backed Tottenham to make the top two, but 88% of people think they will finish third. Last time out, 46% thought they would miss out on the Champions League places – they finished fourth, and only 8% think they will finish any lower this time.
Jermaine Jenas: Spurs were within two points of City at Christmas last season then fell away, which was down to a lack of depth in the squad. They have had a go at addressing that problem with the signings they have made, and they do look stronger – but they did not get Paulo Dybala, who would have been a game-changer.
Mark Lawrenson: Have they strengthened enough to become title contenders? No. Are they more of a goal threat without adding Dybala? No.
They have brought in another playmaker in Giovani lo Celso, and Tanguy Ndombele is a big talent, but they could lose Christian Eriksen later this month and lose all of his goals as well as his assists. It is asking a lot for Lo Celso to come in, replace him and be bang at it straight away.
Danny Murphy: It is hard not knowing what is happening with Eriksen, but I have seen quite a bit of Ndombele and the fans are going to love him. It will be interesting to see what role they give him, because he has got defensive qualities but he is also terrific going forwards.
Sue Smith: Spurs have added some real quality to their squad and will be pushing but I think City and Liverpool are too strong for them to break into the top two. They need to keep hold of Eriksen though – he is key.
Chris Waddle: I actually think Eriksen will stay – the clubs he thought would come in for him have not made a move – but in any case Spurs are a very efficient side. I am confident they will finish third but for me this is it – this is the time when they have to start winning silverware.
Arsenal – ‘Gunners could sign Van Dijk and not finish in the top four’
Last season, only 25% of BBC pundits thought Arsenal would qualify for Champions League football again, and no-one thought they would finish higher than fourth. They ended up fifth. This season, 58% think they will make the top four, but again no-one is predicting a top three finish.
Jermaine Jenas: Nicolas Pepe is a very exciting signing and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are absolutely potent. I think they will score the goals that might just sneak them into the top four.
If Arsenal boss Unai Emery plays with a back three, which he did at times last season, then David Luiz does massively help them defensively too. When he has played in a three he has proven he can be a huge asset, although in a four he can be a bit of a liability.
Mark Lawrenson: I am not convinced by David Luiz because he makes mistakes. While he is a good footballer, he is not a particularly outstanding defender – and he is not a leader either. They have not signed a Virgil van Dijk who will improve their whole team by his presence.
Leon Osman: There is still a question mark over their defence but they surprised a few people last season and, after a year in the job, Emery will know a bit more about the Premier League and his own squad. I actually think they will do all right.
Kevin Kilbane: With the money Arsenal have spent, there will be a lot of optimism from their fans, but they still have issues in midfield and defence that they need to sort out.
Danny Murphy: I don’t have them having a say in the top four, I really don’t. People talk about their defence, but you attack as a team and you defend as a team and who in their midfield apart from Lucas Torreira gets his foot in and wants to protect the backline?
That is not something you can put right just by signing a new centre-half, there is more to it than that. Arsenal could sign Van Dijk and they would not finish in the top four because there are other problems in their team.
Chelsea – ‘The Frank Lampard effect… but they do not have the firepower they need’
Some 63% of BBC pundits thought Chelsea would miss out on the top four last season – they finished third. This time, 75% are predicting that they miss out on the Champions League places.
Chris Sutton: I think in terms of aspirations, it is the first time since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 where you look at Chelsea and think they can’t win the title this season.
Pat Nevin: Arsenal and Spurs are stronger than they were last season, whereas Chelsea are not. The transfer embargo means they have not been able to add anyone and they have lost one or two, including one in particular – Eden Hazard.
Jermaine Jenas: Hazard won games on his own last year. You would think that people like Pedro, Willian and the rest will step up, and Christian Pulisic should do well. Their midfield will dictate a lot of games, but when you look at their strikers – Olivier Giroud, Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi – they do not have the firepower they need.
Ruud Gullit: It is more of a hope that Chelsea will finish second than a belief, but I do think they can adapt without Hazard. The rest of the team knows now they have to do it themselves, not rely on him. Sometimes that brings the best out of players.
Joleon Lescott: They will not be near the title race but I do think Chelsea will nick fourth place. Jody Morris going there as Frank’s assistant is massive. The top players will respect Frank – he has played with them and done whatever they have done – but Jody knows and understands the young players, which is going to be so important this season.
Rachel Brown-Finnis: The Frank Lampard effect will galvanise Chelsea in some ways, and with his history at the club and Jody’s knowledge of the youth players they could not have picked a better pairing to handle a pretty unique situation and bring the club together – after his predecessor Mauricio Sarri had such a fractious relationship with the fans.
Kevin Kilbane: Frank will get time, something Chelsea managers don’t always have, and it will be refreshing to see a change from their hire and fire approach. This season is going to be a good one for the development of Chelsea’s younger players, but they do have a lot of proven quality and experience as well – it looks like Willian is going to have a key role.
Jermaine Jenas: United and Chelsea are the weaker of the top six teams – just given Frank’s lack of ability to go into the market and how United just seem a bit topsy turvy with a lot of players wanting to leave.
If you look at Everton, Wolves and Leicester, they are all pulling in the right direction, have got good teams, and can play well home and away. I think they will really put a challenge into the top six this year – I am looking forward to seeing them doing that.
Chris Waddle: I have gone for Chelsea to finish fourth but I thought Leicester could have challenged them if they had brought in a dominant centre-half to replace Harry Maguire.
Manchester United – ‘A massive achievement to get them in the top four’
This is the second successive season that no-one thinks United will be champions. Last year, 55% of pundits tipped them to finish at least third and 83% to make the top four – they finished sixth. This time, only one person (Ruud Gullit) tips them to make the top three and only 25% think they will make the top four.
Chris Sutton: I can imagine it being a really turbulent season for United. It would be a massive achievement if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got them into the top four – I have got sympathy for him, because you can see in his eyes he is a good man and desperate to do well. He needs time but I do think people are waiting for him to fail and that is deeply unfair.
Mark Lawrenson: Their approach to transfers has been somewhat scattergun – it is a concern they have not brought in a replacement for Romelu Lukaku, and they do not have many options up front – Yes they have got Marcus Rashford, but Anthony Martial can be indifferent, and what is happening with Alexis Sanchez? In midfield, it looks like Paul Pogba is going to stay, but does he want to play?
Paul Ince: There is nothing wrong with being outspoken but you have to back that up with performances on the pitch, and if you don’t you are always going to get criticised for it. I just feel with Pogba that he has as good as said he wants to leave – or a “new challenge” as he put it – and he had hardly endeared himself to the fans last season anyway.
So, come the start of the season you are going to get a disharmony between him and the fans, which does not help United at all. If he does stay, he is going to have to win the supporters over.
Micah Richards: They weren’t able to sign him, but Christian Eriksen was exactly the sort of player United needed – someone who is not afraid to get on the ball. In midfield I find some of their players hide from the ball, because they do not want to be the one to make a mistake. They play in fear of what the headlines are going to be – it is similar to when I played for England.
Chris Sutton: They have not replaced Romelu Lukaku and I just don’t see their squad or first XI being as strong as the other contenders. I can see the Pogba situation flaring up again if he has an iffy couple of games, and I don’t think that will be helpful – there still seems too much behind the scenes which does not feel right.
Matt Upson: The trouble is Pogba is so toxic. If everything is not right and he is not happy, it will affect the whole club.
Alex Scott: I like Aaron Wan-Bissaka but I think he needs the right players around him to progress and apart from Harry Maguire, who will add maturity and responsibility to the defence, United don’t have those sort of players anymore.
I don’t look at their signings as being enough to get them back in the top four – I don’t think too much has changed – they are rebuilding and still a long way off the title.
Jermaine Jenas: United were desperate, which is where the £80m fee for Maguire came from. I think as a player, person and character they have got someone who will improve them in a huge way so they have got their man – but the fact they have not sorted out their midfield scenario for me is bizarre.
Michael Brown: If it knits for United, they could surprise a few people but I don’t see them reaching the levels of the top three and, if they lose some early games, the pressure is going to pile up on Solskjaer after the way he finished last season.
Leon Osman: United are in a huge transition period. I am expecting them to have a really tough season and I think Everton will pip them to sixth. The Toffees finished last season strongly, and will have to hit those heights quickly, but they have made some decent additions and have improved their squad depth.