We will be the champions: The Football Show previews Premier League title contenders

Twenty teams begin the Premier League season, but only four qualify for the richest and most prestigious tournament in the world. Realistically, there are seven teams with a shred of hope to finish in the top four. This season, five teams are not only battling it out for the Champions League spots, but for the Premier League title as well.

Some say the UEFA Champions League is the best soccer tournament in the world. Better than any other continental competition. Better than the World Cup.

Neil Barnett and Garth Crooks, the newest SiriusXM FC host and former Tottenham forward, examined the chances of all five title contenders on The Football Show Friday: Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Liverpool found its way back into the top four last season, finishing second overall under Brendan Rodgers. But the club has to replace the league’s best player from 2013-2014: Luis Suarez.

Former Liverpool midfielder Nigel Spackman helped Barnett and Crooks preview the club’s chances this season. Spackman liked the new signings of Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert. Lambert is expected to replace Suarez on the pitch … for now.

“I hear they’re trying to get [Edinson] Cavani on loan from PSG,” Spackman said. “They definitely need a goal-scoring center forward.”

What attracts top players? A top manager. Rodgers will be under immense scrutiny as he attempts to keep Liverpool in the upper echelon of the table.

“Now the test is in the Champions League, where he’s never managed,” Spackman explained. “He’s got to get his tactics right and rotate his squad well. Otherwise, he’ll come under pressure.”

Arsenal fans breathed a long sigh of relief last season after taking home the FA Cup, their first trophy in nine years. With a revamped team, they look primed to contend for a top spot in the Premier League once again.

Ray Parlour, former Arsenal great in the midfield and current talkSPORT pundit, is relieved that Arsene Wenger is finally showing he’s not afraid to spend big money on big-time players. Arsenal brought in Chilean national team and Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez to bolster their squad for a cool fee in the neighborhood of $58 million, according to Sky Sports.

Yet a player already on their roster might be the key to success this season. Parlour, who played in 339 games for Arsenal, raved about Gunners midfielder Aaron Ramsey, comparing him to an English footballing legend.

“I like the all-round midfielder like a Bryan Robson. That was my idol growing up,” Parlour told Barnett and Janusz Michallik on Wednesday. “Ramsey is very similar to him. He can get forward, he can get back into defensive situations. He’s a very fit player, probably running 12.5k a game. It’s very hard to find players like that.”

Both Barnett and Crooks agree that Arsenal is an improved squad.

“If Arsenal play to his strengths, Alexis Sanchez could score 20, maybe 24 goals,” Crooks, who scored 192 goals in his playing career, said on The Football Show.

Scoring goals might not be an issue for Manchester United. They boast one of the most talented trios up front in Juan Mata, Robin Van Persie – who just played for manager Louis Van Gaal for Holland in the 2014 World Cup – and Wayne Rooney.

Rooney was recently chosen to be the captain for this season.

Former Manchester United winger and MUTV analyst Mickey Thomas told Barnett and Crooks that he didn’t don the armband in the first few games United played in America this preseason, but earned it with his attitude on the training pitch.

“When he’s on his game, he will be the main reason United do well this season,” Thomas said.

Without the extra games and stress of playing in the Champions League, or even Europa League, Manchester United can focus on their domestic league and cups. A blessing in disguise, perhaps, after finishing an unfathomable seventh last season.

Thomas expects Van Gaal to try to win any trophy he can as quickly as possible to relieve the pressure on himself and the entire front office.

Reigning champions, the other team from Manchester, Manchester City, won their second title in three seasons last campaign.

The roster is mostly unchanged. Eyes will be on goalkeeper Joe Hart, England’s No. 1 netminder, who’s position in the club was in flux throughout last season.

Manuel Pellegrini has a lot of world-class talent to work with up front, which perhaps is the reason he’s come out and said the club is going for all four trophies. City will compete in the Premier League, FA Cup, Capital One Cup and the UEFA Champions League.

Having so much recent domestic success, City fans still await success in Europe.

Chelsea is the betting favorite to win the Premier League this season.

Jose Mourinho has formed a team more in line with his style of play ahead of his second season during his second stint with the club. Frank Lampard could be visiting Stamford Bridge with Manchester City this season. Romelu Lukaku was allowed to sign with Everton. In his place will be Diego Costa, who lead Atletico Madrid to the La Liga title last year. “He’s strong and holds the ball up. He’s quick,” Spackman, who starred for Chelsea as well, said of Costa. “If Chelsea can keep him fit, I think Chelsea’s the team to beat.”

Also new to the squad is former Gunner and Barcelona midfielder, Cesc Fabregas.

But it’s Chelsea’s defense that will likely be the difference maker. Last season they allowed the fewest goals in the Premier League. Another Atletico Madrid product, Felipe Luis, joins the defense as a left back.

In goal, there will be a new player who could take over for Petr Cech, a living legend at the club, which might count as an upgrade. Thibaut Courtois – who helped deny the US Men’s National Team a spot in the World Cup Quarterfinals for Belgium – has returned from a multi-year loan at Atletico Madrid, and although Mourinho has yet to name a starter, it appears Cech’s days could be numbered.

Most guests chose Chelsea as the prohibitive favorite to win the Premier League this season. If they are to do it, they’ll need a little more than excellence on the pitch, according to Spackman.

“[Mourinho] is the man who can take Chelsea forward, but he’s got to do it with a little more swagger this year.”

Stay tuned to SiriusXM FC throughout the season as Chelsea and the rest of the EPL begin their pressure-packed 38-game season.

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