Can anyone topple Manchester City this season?

Will this be the sight fans see come next May? We certainly think so. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2018
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Can anyone topple Manchester City this season?

  • We give your verdict on what we think is going to take place in the Premier League this season.
  • Who will lift the trophy and who is for the dreaded drop?

This weekend the most-watched league in the world kicks off for another nine months of goals, red cards, spats and controversy. The Premier League claims to be the most exciting on the planet, but in terms of predictability does it live up to the hype? Here we predict which teams will be smiling and which will be sad come the end of the campaign.

CHAMPIONS Manchester City:

It is probably no shock we have gone for Pep Guardiola’s men to retain the title. They were so far ahead of the pack last season and the addition of Riyadh Mahrez will only add to their superiority. There may be some worry that their World Cup stars — Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, John Stones, to name only three — will start the campaign slowly, but the squad has such strength in depth that City will cope with any early-season fatigue. Expect more fireworks from Pep’s players.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SPOTS Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham:

Again you can accuse us of lacking originality, picking the same top four as last season, but we cannot see either Chelsea — under a new manager, Maurizio Sarri, the Blues could lose Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, and suffer from a lack of a potent goal threat — or Arsenal — the Gunners have a lot of rebuilding to do under new boss Unai Emery — breaking into the European places.
Liverpool are the most likely to challenge City for the title. They have done well to keep Mohamed Salah and, with the addition of Naby Keita, will once again have an attack to worry any side. The purchase of Alison in goal strengthens their only glaring weak spot and they will finish second as a result.
For all the doom and gloom hanging over United, who got their season underway last night, the fact remains they have a great squad with plenty of options. Alexis Sanchez did not go to the World Cup and will be fresh. His form could well determine how soon the mood changes at Old Trafford. If they can keep Paul Pogba, and Jose Mourinho gives him freedom, the Reds will do better than their manager seems to believe.
Spurs are the only side in Europe’s top five leagues not to make a single signing this summer, and the only professional side in England not to bolster their squad ahead of the new season. The saying is that you always buy when in a position of strength, bolster competition for places and in doing so go up a gear. That tends to be true, but what the North London club does have is a strong squad and a belief and understanding of Mauricio Pochettino’s system. If Harry Kane can pick up where he left off from the World Cup, they should pip the other two London powerhouses for fourth spot.

THE DREADED DROP Newcastle United, Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town:

Every summer Rafael Benitez can be heard to moan about lack of transfer activity hindering the chances of whatever side he is in charge of achieving success.
This year he actually has a point. The Spaniard worked wonders last season and deserved money in the window to ensure Newcastle could challenge for Europe. Instead
the despondency is understandable and they are destined for the trap door.
Huddersfield, likewise, produced wonders to stay up last season. They have bought in eight players, but focused on youth rather than experience and will struggle as
a result.
Of the promoted sides, Wolverhampton and Fulham have the star quality and squads to stay up. The same cannot be said of Cardiff, who have bought in little quality and will end up last.


AS IT HAPPENS: Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes hold up India after tourists take early wickets at Trent Bridge

Updated 21 August 2018
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AS IT HAPPENS: Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes hold up India after tourists take early wickets at Trent Bridge

  • Another horror show for England's batsmen as tourists make early inroads in Nottingham.
  • Hosts chasing unlikely 521 for victory already four down at lunch.

AFTERNOON SESSION: England 173-4 & 161, India 329 & 352-7 dec: At last, some good news if you are an England fan, your team has won a session. 

Having seen four wickets fall quickly during the morning’s play the host knew they had to at least show some backbone and take the fight to India. 

They did this with some style, Jos Buttler (67 not out) and Ben Stokes (42 not out) playing with an ease and simplicity that seemed beyond their teammates this morning. Having lost all 10 wickets in the afternoon session on Sunday England lost none in the same period just two days later.

Prior to today Stokes and Buttler have had 11 partnerships in Test cricket and averaged just 15.9. This is their first hundred partnership and came in 195 balls.

Jos Buttler looked in fine touch out in the middle and frustrated the India attack. 

For India it was very much a case of from feast to famine. 

Virat Kohli and Co. will not be worrying though, they still have four sessions to get the six wickets they need for victory.

England went into tea on 173 for four and doubtless hoping for more of the same once back in the middle.

 

MORNING SESSION: England 84-4 & 161, India 329 & 352-7 dec: Chasing 521 England always knew victory was highly unlikely, this session, this day in fact was all about being positive. Positivity in defense, positivity in decision making, basically the exact opposite of what transpired over the first two hours at Trent Bridge. Having lost all 10 wickets in a single session on Sunday it was perhaps understandable that there were a few moments of indecision out in the middle. But whether that should have resulted in four wickets falling is another matter.
Keaton Jennings was the first to go. The left-hander played and missed several times on Monday evening and early on today India finally had their man — someone who with every innings looks more and more like a walking wicket — when he edged behind of the bowling of Ishant Sharma for 13. That left the hosts on 27 for one.
As sure as night follows day, the next wicket fell soon after. Alastair Cook is currently in one of his ever more-regular lulls in terms of run scoring. The former England skipper fell the same way as Jennings, caught behind off Ishant (two for 24) for 17. He has only one score of over 50 this year and the knives may well be out for him once this Test is over.
At the crease England had Joe Root and Ollie Pope — the present and the future of the side’s Test team runs. The pair fought well and hard, but never looked comfortable with the India attack, brilliantly led by Ishant, probing their techniques ball after ball.

Ollie Pope trudges off after a horror shot gifted India their fourth wicket of the morning. 


The order of the day would have been to hold out until lunch, but Jasprit Bumrah (one for 26) got Root (13) to prod at one outside his off-stump to be caught by KL Rahul in the slips.
62 for three soon became 62 for four as first ball of the next over Pope (16) tried to lay into a wide swinging delivery from Mohammed Shami (one for 28) only to edge to Virat Kohli at second slip.
It was just what England wanted to avoid and the dream session for the tourists.
It could have been worse, though, with Jos Buttler dropped on one. But there is little doubt that that will only extend England’s misery in the middle, and not effect the inevitable India victory.