Premier League top four predictions: Familiar names in the mix
Finishing in the top four in the Premier League will be the minimum target for several clubs in the upcoming 2022-23 season.
With the new campaign fast approaching, it is time to assess who looks best placed to finish in the Champions League places.
City and Liverpool are top four regulars
Reigning champions Manchester City have finished in the top four for the past 12 years and the last time they finished below fourth was back in the 2009-10 season.
Pep Guardiola's side have won the title in four of the past five years and are expected to be the team to beat once again.
While nothing in football is guaranteed, it would be a monumental surprise if they were not in the top four come next May.
Liverpool are widely seen as City's nearest challengers again in the new season after the Reds pushed them all the way last term, finishing just one point behind in second place.
Like City, Jurgen Klopp's side have been ever-present in the top four in each of the past six seasons and, after they finished 18 points clear of next-best Chelsea in 2021-22, it is very difficult to imagine the Merseysiders not being among the top four by the end of the campaign.
So if we are to assume two of the places are pretty much settled even before a ball is kicked, it looks like being a scrap between at least four other clubs for the remaining two places.
Last season it was Chelsea and Tottenham who ended up third and fourth and both will again expect to be right in the mix.
Improving Tottenham will be aiming high
Tottenham have improved under Antonio Conte and edged out North London rivals Arsenal in a tight fight for fourth last term.
However, this season their sights might be set higher.
Conte and his players will believe they could even challenge for the title and, after some smart summer recruitment which has seen Richarlison, Clement Lenglet, Ivan Perisic and Yves Bissouma join, third place at least could be within their grasp.
Chelsea were tipped by many to be title challengers 12 months ago but, after a bright start, they faded in the second half of the campaign as their well-documented ownership issues somewhat overshadowed events on the pitch at Stamford Bridge.
After an uninspiring pre-season, which included a 4-0 defeat in the US to Arsenal, Chelsea are perhaps the most vulnerable of last season's top four teams.
Raheem Sterling has joined from City and centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly's arrival from Napoli goes some way to cover for the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen but Thomas Tuchel may have his work cut out keeping the Blues in the Champions League places this season.
Arsenal seeking return to top four
Arsenal will be looking to make up for the disappointment of finishing fifth by sealing a return to the top four.
The Gunners look like they have recruited well with striker Gabrlel Jesus and defender Oleksandr Zinchenko arriving as Premier League winners from City, while Fabio Vieira strengthens their midfield following his move from Porto.
Mikel Arteta will have to juggle Thursday night Europa League football alongside the league campaign but the North Londoners look well primed to make a significant bid for at least fourth.
Manchester United have Erik ten Hag in charge going into the new season and they will hope the highly-rated Dutch tactician can oversee a much better campaign than last time.
The Red Devils finished sixth and lost their last six away games as the interim appointment of Ralf Rangnick failed badly following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking in November.
United could be off the pace again
Ten Hag appears to have had an early positive impact on the squad if some encouraging pre-season results are to go by, while the signings of Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez look like good business.
However, they have failed to secure long-term target Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona and there remains a transitional feeling around Old Trafford.
The top four will clearly be the target for Ten Hag but United finished 13 points adrift of fourth last season and it may well be out of reach again in his first campaign in charge.
Finally, a mention for some of the outside top four candidates.
West Ham have been in contention for the Champions League places in the past two seasons before frustratingly fizzling out in the final weeks.
David Moyes is sure to again have his sights set on being in and around the top six, although bridging the gap to the top four looks too big an ask for the Hammers.
Leicester City, who finished fifth in both 2020 and 2021 before slipping to eighth last season, will be targeting the top six but a top-four push looks out of reach for the Foxes.
Newcastle may have future aspirations to be considered a top-four club but the upcoming campaign will probably come too soon for them to be fighting for the Champions League places.