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Soccer News

Soccer-Premier League team prospects (Part Two)

Sept 9 (Reuters) - Team-by-team preview of the 2020/21 Premier League season (Part Two):

LIVERPOOL

Manager: Juergen Klopp. Last season: 1st.

Major Arrivals: Konstantinos Tsimikas (Olympiakos Piraeus)

Major Departures: Adam Lallana (Brighton & Hove Albion)

After a season of such total domination, there is some sound thinking behind the decision not to alter the title-winning squad too much and trust again in those who delivered Liverpool’s first championship for 30 years.

Certainly there has been little to indicate that Klopp’s side will be any less effective this season, so long as injuries do not affect any of the German’s key performers.

Japanese attacker Takumi Minamino, brought in from Salzburg in January, has now had time to settle and will give the Reds another option and perhaps allow Roberto Firmino more opportunities to rest.

But Liverpool are favourites for good reason -- Klopp has a complete squad, strength-in-depth and an established system of play that few have been able to cope with.

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MANCHESTER CITY

Manager Pep Guardiola. Last season: 2nd

Major Arrivals: Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Ferran Torres (Valencia).

Major Departures: David Silva (Real Sociedad), Leroy Sane (Bayern Munich).

Pep Guardiola’s goals are clear for this season -- City must regain the upper hand over Liverpool domestically while finally unlocking the door to Champions League success after another disappointing end to their bid for European glory.

While midfielder David Silva will is a loss, the Spaniard’s departure should not cause a major shock to the system since he was already being eased out of a leading role last season and Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva are more than capable.

Guardiola will want to see his central defence look tighter and his full-backs more consistent contributors but who would bet against them pushing Liverpool all the way this season.

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MANCHESTER UNITED

Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Last season: 3rd.

Major Arrivals: Donny van de Beek (Ajax Amsterdam)

Major Departures: Alexis Sanchez (Inter Milan)

United made progress last season, securing a return to the Champions League and going deep in all Cup competitions, and while they are not ready to compete for the title they must at least show they are getting closer to City and Liverpool.

United fans will expect a couple of more new faces before the transfer window shuts with Jadon Sancho having been pursued all summer and the central defence also in need of more quality.

Without those moves United are likely to be limited to the same sort of challenge they made last year where they were restricted by their lack of decent cover in the squad.

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NEWCASTLE UNITED

Manager Steve Bruce. Last season: 13th

Major Arrivals: Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser (both Bournemouth), Jeff Hendrick (Burnley)

Major Departures: None

So much of the focus on Newcastle in the close season has been on the ownership and potential sale of the club but the bid from a Saudi-led consortium came to nothing and other suitors have generated more publicity than progress towards a deal.

While there has been so much uncertainty at ownership level, Newcastle have been clever in their transfer market dealings, picking up two of the best players to be relegated last season in Wilson and Fraser from Bournemouth and making the useful addition of Irish international Hendrick on a free transfer.

Fans may complain about lack of investment but those signings, along with some of the big-money moves in the past two seasons, leave Bruce with a pretty strong squad which should expect to finish in comfortable safety.

SHEFFIELD UNITED

Manager: Chris Wilder. Last Season: 9th.

Major Arrivals: Aaron Ramsdale (Bournemouth)

Major Departures: None.

The tricky second album? After making such a strong impression on their return to the top-flight last season it is going to be tough for the Blades to improve but Wilder has made a habit of confounding expectations.

Goalkeeper Dean Henderson’s loan from Manchester United has ended but Wilder moved quickly to bring in Ramsdale and hopes to see at least three more new faces before the campaign starts.

SOUTHAMPTON

Manager: Ralph Hasenhuettl. Last season: 11th

Major Arrivals: Kyle Walker-Peters (Tottenham Hotspur), Mohammed Salisu (Real Valladolid)

Major Departures: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Tottenham Hotspur), Harrison Reed (Fulham), Cedric Soares (Arsenal).

The Saints looked set for another battle against the drop last season after a poor start and a shocking 9-0 defeat by Leicester City in October -- the biggest away win in English top-flight history.

But the decision to stick with Austrian Hasenhuettl paid off as Southampton won 13 of their last 28 games to secure a creditable mid-table position, with striker Danny Ings scoring 22 goals.

The high energy pressing game that their manager had wanted to put in place has now been established and, while Saints fans will be wary of optimism given their struggles in recent years, another mid-table campaign looks well within reach.

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TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Manager: Jose Mourinho. Last Season: 6th

Major Arrivals: Matt Doherty (Wolves), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Southampton), Joe Hart (Burnley).

Major Departures: Kyle Walker-Peters (Southampton), Jan Vertonghen (Benfica), Victor Wanyama (Montreal Impact)

Jose Mourinho’s arrival in November following the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino brought a mini-revival at Spurs who scraped into the Europa League places by finishing sixth.

But their hopes of making the top four this season and returning to the Champions league after four consecutive seasons in Europe’s elite club competition look slim.

Mourinho usually buys top quality players to bring success but must work on a more modest budget at Tottenham where his brief will be to bring the trophy-starved club some silverware.

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WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Manager: Slaven Bilic. Last season: Promoted from Championship as runners-up.

Major Arrivals: Grady Diangana (West Ham United), Matheus Pereira (Sporting), Cedric Kipre (Wigan Athletic)

Major Departures: Nathan Ferguson (Crystal Palace), Gareth Barry (retired).

West Brom are back in the top flight after a two-year absence following a strong promotion push which was nearly undone by a late wobble before they finished second.

Promotion has allowed the club to turn loan deals for wingers Diangana and Pereira into permanent moves but they have avoided, so far, the temptation to alter the squad too much.

Having been sacked by West Ham in 2017, Croatian boss Slaven Bilic will hope to prove a point on his return to the Premier League but it is likely to be a tough battle for the Baggies.

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WEST HAM UNITED

Manager: David Moyes. Last Season: 16th

Major Arrivals: Tomas Soucek (Slavia Prague)

Major Departures: Roberto (Real Valladolid), Grady Diangana (West Bromwich Albion)

It was hard to fathom how a squad with the quality of West Ham’s ended up struggling near the bottom of the table but the replacement of manager Manuel Pellegrini with David Moyes brought just enough improvement to secure safety.

The mood at the London Stadium has been negative for so long that the Hammers really need to get off to a good start. If they can get some early momentum a top-half finish is feasible but equally another struggle cannot be ruled out.

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WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS

Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo, Last Season: 7th

Major Arrivals: Fabio Silva (Porto), Marcal (Olympique Lyonnais).

Major Departures: Helder Costa (Leeds) Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur)

In the two seasons since winning promotion back to the Premier League, Wolves have firmly established themselves as a top-half club, with last season’s campaign even more impressive given the long and demanding involvement in the Europa League.

Their 35 million pounds ($45.47 million) investment in 18-year-old Portuguese striker Fabio Silva, who has played just 12 senior games for Porto, raised many eyebrows.

However, regardless of how long it takes the youngster to adapt to English football, there is enough experience and ability in the team to make another push for European football.

$1 = 0.7698 pounds Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris

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