Millennium Post

Dawn of a New Season

With European football teams investing heavily to acquire the best players for this 2018-19 season – a new dawn is on the horizon – with known faces in fresh colours, new perspectives, many surprises and the usual adrenaline thumping rivalry.

Twhe wounds of the World Cup hadn't yet healed – 25 days was all that separated an exhilarating World Cup final from the start of a new Premier League season. The preseason didn't contribute much for the clubs as the prolonged World Cup witnessed several key players skipping their teams' warm-up games.

This stilled the development in team dynamics, however as expected, also aided the managers in experimenting with fresh blood for creating backups. At the dawn of the 18-19 season – a fresh page of predictions, last season's analysis, and transfer outcomes contributed to the prologue.

Manchester City could be only the second team to repeat as champions (after Manchester United), should they win a successive season. Citizens offer a mammoth challenge to other clubs by boasting of a finely grained playing eleven along with a deep bench under Pep Guardiola. Kevin De Bruyne's unexpected knee injury does shake things up, though a talented bench bolsters their bid for a successive title.

91 goals scored just by the attacking trio of Salah, Firmino, and Mane alone in the previous term has given Liverpool a ray of hope for the new season. They have reinforced the momentum with signings worth $211 million. Four players from the top 10 transfers of this season have joined the quality squad led by Jürgen Klopp. They must avoid being brought back to parity in order to draw out the maximum points at their avail.

After massive investment in the $1.1 billion stadium being built at White Hart Lane, Spurs are the only team to have not spent in the transfer market this summer. Even so, Harry Kane & Co cannot be underestimated, especially after they defeated Real Madrid in the group stages of last year's UCL. Spurs have three straight away games between their switch from Wembley back to the new White Hart Lane, which may give them a shaky start, should they fail to win.

A sixth-place finish has deprived Arsenal of a UCL campaign for the new term, leaving them with a focussed approach towards the Premier League and a stint in Europa League under new manager Unai Emery. They may require time to settle quality new signings in a squad that has the likes of Özil, Ramsey, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. However, this Arsenal can promise competency, despite lingering concerns of sustainability – a full season

without injuries has been an evergreen issue for the Gunners.

Chelsea has hired 10 managers in 15 years to lead the club, the latest being Maurizio Sarri. Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kanté, and Willian can create trouble for the opposition and it would be intriguing to witness the tactical changes that Chelsea experience this term. After a faded performance from Alvaro Morata, supporters are eyeing for the revival of the sensational Madrid striker. Deadline day saw Chelsea's new record signing of Kepa Arrizabalaga following Thibaut Courtois' Bernabeu switch which included Mateo Kovacic on a season-long loan deal, making him an interesting inclusion into the midfield.

A decent preseason and a winning start to the season could see Mourinho's team emerge as strong contenders for this year's title. The signing of Fred, whose creativity in the midfield alongside Matic can help unleash Pogba on attacking fronts, will strengthen the Red Devils' attack. Alexis Sanchez can make the difference for United, given his quality. However, Dea Gea and Lingard are the ones to look out for as the season-long heroes of this confident United under the 'special one'.

The addition of Jack Wilshere from Arsenal and club record signing of Felipe Anderson from Lazio brightens the team sheet. Fulham captured Jean Michael Seri from Nice, while Wolves recruited Rui Patricio and João Moutinho. With star Ruben Neves, Wolves can bring in a surprise top-ten finish in the new season. Fulham boasts bright prospects in 18-year-old Ryan Sessegnon, the best player in the Championship's last season with 23 goals and 12 assists. The club became the first promoted team to spend above $100 million in the summer, capturing five players alone on deadline day.

Southampton's new signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh – instrumental for his team scoring 21 goals in Dutch Eredivisie, James Tarkowski in the heart of Burnley's defence, and Gerard Deulofeu arriving on loan from Barca for Watford, remain the ones to look out for. Jamie Vardy and Harry Maguire will be heavily relied upon in attack and defence respectively, but losing out on Mahrez to Citizens has somewhat damaged the Foxes' attacking force. Everton completed deadline day acquisitions of three players straight from Barcelona.

The Premier League stands as unpredictable as ever with the top six battling it out for the top spot, while the mediocre teams look to land surprise upsets. However, La Liga is still expected to pose a three-horse race. Barcelona and Real Madrid look towards their glittering squads that will ensure mouth-watering Classicos in the new season despite the absence of Real's all-time leading goal scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, following his switch to Juventus. In a 'one of a kind' deal, Facebook gets the monopoly to broadcast La Liga across the Indian subcontinent in a bid to expand 'free' and wide outreach of the competition.

League winners Barcelona, who had a 37 games undefeated run last term, added Arthur, Malcom, Arturo Vidal, and Lenglet to reinforce their squad. However, with the likes of Phil Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele on the flanks, and Luis Suarez leading the attack alongside Messi, it's any way a formidable squad by a great margin. They won the Supercopa de España beating Sevilla 2-1 to capture their first trophy of the season, boosting their confidence before the season opener against Alaves.

Los Blancos have been heavily linked with signings that haven't formalised. Yet, their consecutive UCL triumphs are enough to speak of the talent and squad depth that this team rejoices. There's no Zidane and Ronaldo, however, Real possesses a star-studded squad overflowing with quality. Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Asensio, Vasquez, and young talisman Isco together make Real a serious attacking threat. Arrivals of Odriozola and Courtois can be interesting additions to this elite Real dugout. Under the new manager, they lost the curtain raiser, UEFA Super Cup, to bitter rivals Atletico Madrid 2-4 on Wednesday.

Atletico Madrid has registered efficient signings in Santiago Arias, Gelson Martins, Nikola Kalinic, and Thomas Lemar. As Rojiblancos try to challenge the Spanish dominance controlled by Barca-Real once again, the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa, Godin, and Saul – all-star performers – would be instrumental. Maybe this time around they can lift the curse of UCL defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals, Real.

Geoffrey Kondogbia of Valencia CF stands out as the star midfielder, while Sergio Canales, Takashi Inui, and Portuguese midfielder William Carvalho are quality additions to a Real Betis side who look to challenge Valencia for the fourth place. Yellow Submarines have finalised the return of Santi Cazorla to their line-up along with Funes Mori, Miguel Layun, and Gerard Moreno among the notable. Their newly shaped team sheet looks to upset Valencia and Real Betis for the fourth spot. Joris Gnagnon, Sergi Gomez, and Aleix Vidal are the new faces that can help Sevilla reshape its defence in the upcoming season. The newly promoted Rayo Vallecano and Real Valladolid are joined by debutants SD Huesca from Liga 123 into the Spanish top flight.

Every club is geared to clinch a better run with their respective objectives for the new season. The young players, besides the key ones, along with squad rotation and sustainability will be brought to test as the new season gets underway. As the usual performers register victories on their opening fixtures, the long season boasts of action and drama with surprising upsets on the cards reaffirming football's high margin of unpredictability on a given day.

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