Less than two weeks remain before the 2014-15 Premier League season kicks off, and following one of the busiest opening months for a summer transfer window in recent times, the upcoming campaign promises to be full of surprises.
Several top clubs faced a lot of turnover during the summer, but judging by the results of Manchester United and Liverpool during the Guinness International Champions Cup, it looks like the primary title contenders have only gotten stronger.
The title race should be a spectacular one in 2014-15, with five clubs given strong odds to finish the season on top. Let's have a look at the full title odds for every Premier League club, courtesy of Oddschecker:
The Favourites: Manchester City, Chelsea
Two clubs seem to have distinguished themselves as early favourites for the title, and it's easy to see why. Manchester City are the defending champions; Chelsea had arguably the best transfer window of any club in world football, addressing every need the team had following the 2013-14 season.
Diego Costa and Didier Drogba don't just present an upgrade over Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba at the striker position—they will turn the club's biggest weakness last season into a major strength this season. Health will be key, but with the Blues' platoon of talented wingers, Costa in particular should shine.
Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis are two veteran, experienced options who will only add to what is already a talented and deep squad. Luis should be an impact starter, and he has every chance of establishing himself as the league's top full-back in his first season with the club.
As reported by the Daily Express' Ben Jefferson, Michael Owen sees the Blues as favourites for the title, as he wrote in his column for BetVictor:
I felt the Achilles' heel for Jose Mourinho's side last season was the inability of their strikers to score goals. I feel recent £32m signing Diego Costa is the final piece of the jigsaw for the West London outfit and I fully expect his goals to change a very good side into a title-winning one.
Ironically the Club have never adequately replaced Blues' legend Didier Drogba and whilst the Ivorian is not going to be the same player second time around I expect him to pick up his fair share of goals and have a positive effect around the Club.
Chelsea fans have every reason to be excited by the upcoming season, but they shouldn't overlook Manchester City. The Citizens did exactly what any defending champion should do: They didn't lose any vital pieces and brought in several solid additions, including Bacary Sagna and Fernando.
A stronger emphasis on the European campaign will make their title defence a difficult one, however, perhaps the biggest reason oddsmakers seem to favour Chelsea ever so slightly.
The Challengers: Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool
Call it the Luis Suarez-effect: Despite challenging for the title until the bitter end last season, Liverpool enter the 2014-15 season as the fifth favourites for top honours.
Losing your best player is never easy, and while the Reds brought in a number of interesting players during the summer, Brendan Rodgers opted to sign younger pieces rather than overpriced veterans.
Liverpool are reloading, and the future of the teams looks very bright. While fans won't be expecting a title run in 2014-15, the Reds will be in the thick of the race for the UEFA Champions League, and none of the other contenders will take them lightly.
Manchester United come in as a (somewhat) surprising third favourites, despite losing several key defenders and bringing in a new manager. Louis van Gaal won titles during his first season with Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, however, and success is expected in the Premier League as well.
The Red Devils made two splash signings with Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, but that shouldn't be enough to push the team over the top. Real Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti doesn't believe United will challenge the two favourites for the title, as reported by The Guardian's Jamie Jackson:
It will not be easy to win in the first year because there are many competitive teams who want to win. It is not easy to implement a new system. It is important that the player is convinced but it is difficult to say how long it will take.
He is a very good and very experienced manager, he has fantastic experience and he will do a fantastic job at United. He is a manager who has nothing to learn. After Ferguson, it was more difficult for United, but they now have to rebuild a team.
They have signed good players but building a team is not easy and the Premier League is a very competitive league.
The summer transfer window is far from over, however, and with one or two key signings, the Red Devils could present a serious threat to the Premier League crown.
The one team that seems to have improved the most of this group is Arsenal. The loss of Sagna will sting, but Mathieu Debuchy should be able to make up for his departure.
Alexis Sanchez should take the team's attacking unit to a whole new level, providing the sort of scoring threat the Gunners haven't fielded since the departure of Thierry Henry. While their depth is much improved, it's still somewhat behind that of the true top clubs, but this is an issue that could still be addressed in the market.
The Outsiders: Tottenham, Everton
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Both of these teams are long shots to win the 2014-15 title, but don't be surprised if Everton make a strong push for a top-four finish. While Tottenham may have been given the better odds, the Toffees have quietly had an excellent summer transfer window.
Re-signing Ross Barkley was key for Roberto Martinez, and with Muhamed Besic and Romelu Lukaku in the squad for the upcoming season, Everton have the potential to be very dangerous.
Spurs didn't have to be extremely active in the transfer market, as they added a number of talented youngsters last season. Getting those players to jell and adjust to the Premier League pace is key, and Mauricio Pochettino showed he is the right man for such a job at Southampton.
Chelsea look more than ready to challenge City, who will try and become the first club to win back-to-back titles since United did it between 2007 and 2009.
The clubs from Manchester have won the last four Premier League titles, the first time a city won that many consecutive titles since the league took on its current structure.
That streak has to be broken at some point. With a perfect blend of veteran experience and young talent, Chelsea barely beat the Citizens to the title.