As a new season of the English Premier League kicks off today, we profile the frontrunners for the coveted title
The Merseysiders have strengthened their squad with seven new signings this season to offset the loss of Luis Suarez. If they have to win the title, players like Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and new signing Divock Origi will have to step up a notch.
Last season position: 2nd
What works in their favour: Last season's 2nd place finish. In 2013-14, they sustained their EPL title pursuit until the last day of the season and only fell short by two points in the end. This season, they will begin their assault on the EPL title with renewed rigour and confidence, thanks to their best finish to a season since 2008-09.
What doesn't: Loss of Luis Suarez. Despite his on-field indiscretions, he is arguably the best striker in the world. His absence will surely hurt Liverpool this time.
Key transfers: In: Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Lazar Markovic, Divock Origi, Emre Can, Rickie Lambert, Javier Manquillo
Out: Luis Suarez, Pepe Reina, Luis Alberto (loan), Iago Aspas (loan)
X-Factor: Daniel Sturridge. In the absence of Suarez, the onus of leading the line will fall on his shoulders. How well he copes with that will be difference between the EPL trophy and another season without the coveted title.
Key player: Steven Gerrard. After his slip-up in the last match of the 2013-14 season cost them the title, he will be keen to make amends. Liverpool have never won the EPL title with him in the side — a record that will still be rankling the Anfield legend.
No of goals Luis Suarez scored for Liverpool despite missing the first six matches of the season for biting Branislav Ivanovic.
Even though they are rank outsiders to win the Premier League title, Everton are strong enough finish in the top four this season.
Last season position: 5th
What works in their favour: Team spirit. Everton have retained all of their players that were key to them finishing fifth last season.
What doesn't: Lack of high-profile stars in their ranks.
Key transfers: In: Romelu Lukaku, Muhamed Besic, Gareth Barry
Out: Magaye Gueye
X-Factor: Ross Barkley. The 20-year-midfielder, who scored seven goals last season, is one of the most exciting prospects in English football at the moment.
Key player: Romelu Lukaku. The £28million man will have a point to prove after his motivation was questioned by Chelsea's Jose Mourinho last season.
Jose Mourinho dismissed his side's chances of winning the EPL title last season by calling them “little horses”. With the addition of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, however, they are now genuine title-contenders.
Last season position: 3rd
What works in their favour: Strike force. Chelsea's strikers — Diego Costa and Didier Drogba — have the quality to propel the Blues to the title. While Fernando Torres has been off-colour, he too can rip defences apart on his day.
What doesn't: Jose Mourinho's constant tiffs with officials. The Chelsea boss has a tendency to antagonise referees with his comments and that could hurt some of the decisions that his team get.
Key transfers: In: Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Filipe Luis, Didier Drogba
Out: David Luiz, Romelu Lukaku, Demba Ba, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Samuel Eto'o
X-Factor: Cesc Fabregas. The creative midfielder will be at the heart of every Chelsea attack this season and will be tasked with providing balls to the likes of Costa, Drogba and Eden Hazard.
Key player: Diego Costa. The prolific striker was key to Atletico Madrid's La Liga and Champions League exploits last season. Signing him will mean the Blues have eliminated the most probable reason for them missing out on the title last time around — lack of an in-form goal-scorer.
Number of clean sheets goalkeeper Petr Cech kept last season. However, this season Cech could be sidelined after the return of Thibaut Courtois
Last season's champions will look to emulate Chelsea and Manchester United to become only the third club to retain the title in the Premier League era. Having added the likes of Eliaquim Mangala and Bacary Sagna to an already star-studded side, they look unstoppable, at least on paper.
Last season position: 1st
What works in their favour: Bench strength. Some of their subs like Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Martin Demichelis could waltz into any of the top clubs' starting XI.
What doesn't: The 0-3 humiliation against Arsenal in the Community Shield. That defeat will have hurt confidence in City ranks.
Key transfers: In: Eliaquim Mangala, Fernando, Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna, Frank Lampard
Out: Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell, Gareth Barry, Costel Pantilimon, Joleon Lescott
X-Factor: Sergio Aguero. The prolific striker will once again want to lead the Manchester club to the EPL title after scoring 28 goals in 2013/14 campaign.
Key player: Yaya Toure. He was critical in leading City to the title last season, but has felt disrespected by the club as they didn't “give him a birthday cake”. How he overcomes the “slight” could decide City's fortunes.
Number of goals Manchester City's new recruit Frank Lampard has scored in the history of the Premier League — this tally is more than Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure, and David Silva combined
They were atop the EPL table for the most number of days last season before their campaign fizzled out. However, this season the pairing of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil could help them be on top when it matters most — on May 24, when the season ends.
Last season position: 4th
What works in their favour: Recent trophies. Until last season, Arsenal had gone nine seasons without a trophy. Now, they finally have that monkey off the back with the FA Cup title and the Community Shield trophy and will have the belief that they can win more.
What doesn't: Lack of a top-class striker. Arsenal strikers — be it Olivier Giroud, Yaya Sanogo or Joel Campbell — are not in the same class as an Aguero, Costa, Van Persie or a Rooney.
Key transfers: In: Alexis Sanchez, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina
Out: Thomas Vermaelen, Lukasz Fabianski, Bacary Sagna
X-Factor: Mesut Ozil. The midfielder, back from a World Cup-winning campaign with Germany, has been tipped by boss Arsene Wenger to finally come good this season.
Key player: Alexis Sanchez. With the Chile forward in their ranks, opponents will be wary of Arsenal's pace in attack. His presence will also be key in helping Ozil play to his full potential with defence-splitting through-balls.
United's EPL hopes this season will hinge on their ability to sign top-quality players before the transfer window ends. They certainly need two centre-backs, a central midfielder and a wing-back to be in contention for the title. It will be interesting to see how United adapt to van Gaal's style of playing three central defenders and whether it brings them success.
Last season position: 7th
What works in their favour: The absence of European football, which will mean their players are fresher for EPL games.
What doesn't: Lack of European football will also mean they will struggle to attract high-profile players.
In: Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw.
Out: Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
X-Factor: Louis van Gaal. After David Moyes' disastrous reign, if there is one man who could propel United to their 21st league title, it is him. An astute tactician, he is also a hard task master who can get the best out of players.
Key player: Wayne Rooney (right). He was largely unsettled under Moyes but will be more reassured this season after being named captain by van Gaal and could fire United to the title.
Number of points that separated Man United from league winners Man City last season
Did you know?
Louis van Gaal, then Bayern Munich manager, once dropped his pants in the dressing room to show that he had the guts to drop any of the players at Bayern from the starting XI.
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