Liverpool tore up the record books en route to securing their first English top-flight title in 30 years last season, but defending the Premier League crown may be the toughest task of Jurgen Klopp’s career to date.
The 2020-21 campaign has arrived after a brief summer respite due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving fans with a shorter wait to welcome back the world’s “most entertaining league.”
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City should be the major threat to the Reds’ title defence on paper, but questions will be asked of Chelsea and Manchester United, too, and whether they can close the void at the top.
Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City will settle for UEFA Europa League football while Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United just missed out, with that group favored to challenge in breaking up the hierarchy this term. Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton and an improving Southampton sit not far behind in the hopes of cracking their way into the top half, making the most of a shortened transfer window to bolster their ranks into a worthy assortment.
Surprises have been at a surplus so far this year, and a more predictable Premier League campaign surely awaits us in 2020-21…right?
The Title Contenders
Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea
Liverpool waited three decades between top-tier titles and aren’t liable to give up the honor easily having stood 23 points ahead of their nearest competition when the trophy was sealed in June.
It remains the case that they and Manchester City look to be in a league of their own compared to the rest of the competition; 18 points separated the Citizens from Liverpool come the end of the 2019-20 season, but there were a further 15 points between City and rivals Manchester United in third.
City are -138 favorites to win a third title in four seasons ahead of opening weekend, which makes Liverpool just about the most capable "underdogs" in Europe.
A summer spend of more than $250 million also puts five-time Premier League winners Chelsea back on the radar as likely contenders, though Frank Lampard’s new-look lineup may not expect to instantly dethrone two such established heavyweights.
Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion, Fulham
Leeds United’s return to the top tier after a 16-year hiatus has been one of the biggest storylines of the summer, made all the more spectacular by the fact Marcelo Bielsa is the manager behind such a hallowed comeback. The Peacocks weathered the suspension to win last season’s Championship title and have taken some smart initiative improving their squad options to meet the standard.
West Bromwich Albion finished as Championship runners-up and bounce back after only two seasons in the second flight, while play-off winners Fulham returned at the first time of asking.
Baggies boss Slaven Bilic has vindicated himself after leading the club to the promised land, but the former West Ham United manager will have a lot to prove now he’s back among the elite.
Fulham chief Scott Parker has a different set of question marks over his head as the ex-Premier League veteran looks to make his mark as a manager, back in the top flight just three years after he retired as a player at Craven Cottage.
New Players to Watch
Even a shorter summer couldn’t hold back the usual tide of Premier League transfers, and Chelsea are the undoubted winners of the window. Stopping short of picking “every new Chelsea signing” as worth watching, German imports Kai Havertz and Timo Werner stick out as the two likely to have the greatest impact.
The duo had 75 direct goal contributions from a combined 90 appearances last season (45 each) and each have the potential to transform any attack in world soccer, never mind playing for the same team.
Arguably the biggest Premier League transfer this year in terms of impact, Leeds broke their transfer record to sign Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno in August, and the striker’s goals alone could be what preserve their top-flight future come May.
Wolves also broke their club record to complete the $47 million signing of Porto prodigy Fabio Silva. The 18-year-old may be forced to bide his time before having a real first-team effect, but word from Portugal dictates Silva will be a special star in the near future.
Top Premier League Matches to Watch
Liverpool vs. Leeds United, September 12
Manchester United vs. Leeds United, December 19
Leeds couldn’t have asked for a more difficult reintroduction to the Premier League than facing defending champions Liverpool on the opening day on September 12, though the newcomers must hold out until Week 14 for their first meeting against old rivals Manchester United on December 19.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal, October 17
The wait won’t be as long to see another edition of Guardiola versus former understudy Mikel Arteta, whose Arsenal side travel to face City in Week 5. Employing Arteta is already looking like the Gunners’ best move—on or off the pitch—in recent history, with the rivalry building between these two after Arsenal beat the Citizens en route to last term’s FA Cup triumph.
Everton vs. Liverpool, October 17
The first Merseyside derby of the campaign falls on the same matchday, when Ancelotti & Co. will be eager to show they’ve closed the distance on Klopp’s local kings.
Manchester City vs. Liverpool, November 7
Similarly, Liverpool fans may want to mark November 7 as a date of interest, Week 8 bringing their first clash against title rivals City at the Etihad Stadium.
Leicester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur, May 23
Manchester United vs. Wolves, May 23
Leicester City missed out on UEFA Champions League qualification after losing to Manchester United on the final day last season. The Foxes are scheduled to meet Tottenham Hotspur in Week 38 this time around, while United face a potentially season-defining trip to Wolves.
Premier League Week 1 Schedule
Saturday, September 12
Fulham vs. Arsenal, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN, streaming on fuboTV
Crystal Palace vs. Southampton, 10 a.m. ET
West Ham United vs. Newcastle United, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN, streaming on fuboTV
Liverpool vs. Leeds United, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, streaming on fuboTV
Sunday, September 13
West Bromwich Albion vs. Leicester City, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN, streaming on fuboTV
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN, streaming on fuboTV
Monday, September 14
Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Chelsea, 3 p.m. ET
Sheffield United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, streaming on fuboTV
Visit the Premier League website to see the fixture list in full.