With the season just over a week away and a flurry of transfer activity already completed, it's time to offer up some predictions for the Premier League season.
In this article, I'll break down the four teams I believe will earn a berth in next year's Champions League and the order they'll finish in the standings, while breaking the hearts of two fanbases who follow teams that will just miss out on a top-four finish.
Let's get to it.
Close But No Cigar: Tottenham and Liverpool
If it didn't seem inevitable that Spurs would lose Gareth Bale and the Reds would lose Luis Suarez this summer, both clubs would probably compete for a top-four spot this season. Each side has gotten better with savvy moves on the market this season and had a pretty good base to start from.
But alas, with each team likely to lose their top players, it's tough to slate them into the top four. Maybe next year.
Consistency has to stand for something, right?
The Gunners have now qualified for 16 straight Champions League campaigns, an impressive mark, despite the team's streak of eight seasons without a trophy. Give Arsenal this—the club maintains momentum, for better or worse.
No, the Gunners haven't made a major move in the transfer market yet, but it's hard to believe they won't at some point. With Suarez in their sights and the money to spend, expect a solid core to be furbished with a key signing or two.
3. Manchester United
You should never take too much away from the preseason. On the other hand, you have to take something away, and, thus far, the takeaway for Manchester United is that there will be an adjustment period under new manager David Moyes.
When you add in the fact that the Red Devils presumably have missed out on several key transfer targets—including a summer-long courtship of Cesc Fabregas that seems unlikely to pry the midfielder away from Barcelona—and the likely departure of Wayne Rooney, you get a team that seems destined to drop down the table a place or two.
Look, United won the title fair and square last season, but the Premier League wasn't exactly at its strongest. With both Chelsea and Manchester City improving this summer, don't expect the Red Devils to repeat.
In many ways, Chelsea have improved simply by staying the same. The Blues have kept a young, talented core in place—though Barcelona is on the prowl for defender David Luiz, according to Tom Bryant of The Guardian—while getting back talented youngsters who were loaned last season such as Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne.
Add in the addition of Andre Schurrle and you have arguably the deepest side in the Premier League this season.
Sure, striker remains a question mark, with Lukaku, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba all fighting for the starting spot. But as mentioned above, Rooney seems likely to leave Manchester United, and Chelsea are thought to be in hot pursuit.
This is not a Chelsea side without some question marks, but it is one that should be very dangerous this season, especially with Jose Mourinho back at the helm. The Blues may not win the title this season, but they'll be in the running.
1. Manchester City
It's hard not to love what Manuel Pellegrini has done with Manchester City this summer.
Jesus Navas will end up being one of the most important signings of the season. Stevan Jovetic will give City a dangerous facilitator and scorer in the attack. Alvaro Negredo will face a battle to earn playing time with Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero already on the roster, but he's a quality striker.
And Fernandinho will help to solidify a midfield already littered with quality players.
Pellegrini will bring something Manchester City never seemed to have under Roberto Mancini—tactical and formational consistency. That should allow players like Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and David Silva to truly shine.
This is a team loaded with talent, folks, and now, they have a stable manager with a track record of reformation projects. In City, he has more talent to work with than he's had since his brief tenure with Real Madrid.
Look for that combination to lead City to a Premier League title this season.