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Premier League Season Preview: Manchester United the biggest threat to Chelsea's title crown

It's that time of year again, when the pre-season tours and friendlies start to fade out of view to be replaced by the Community Shield and then, finally, the return of the Premier League.
Last season, the division was completely dominated by Chelsea - they led practically from start to finish, were the standout team in the league by far and richly deserved to lift their fifth league title and their third under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.
It's tricky to assess the 2015/16 title chances of the runners and riders at this stage of the summer - the transfer window is still open and one feels like there is still a decent amount of business to be done, especially by Arsenal (who have only signed Petr Cech so far).
But what do we know? Well, we know that a maximum of five teams, at a push, realistically have a chance of winning it - Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. So let's take a look at each of the contenders.

Liverpool 30.00
I would suggest that Liverpool don't really have much of a chance at all - the market has them at30.00, and I am happy to write them off when comparing them to the other teams in the race. It may seem like a big price at first glance, but can we honestly say we fancy them to overhaul last season's 25 point gap between them and Chelsea? 'Unlikely' is probably generous, even with the multitude of signings they've made.

Arsenal 5.50
It's difficult to know whether not making any outfield signings so far is a good or bad thing - Arsene Wenger is hit and miss in the transfer market and with Theo Walcott returning to full fitness and Chuba Akpom impressing in pre-season, he may not feel he needs to bolster his side upfront.
Along with the rest of the Arsenal supporting public, I'd like to see them add a genuine world class holding midfield player with a bit of steel, and until they do that it's difficult to see them lasting the pace and the price of 5.50 is not a tempter.

Manchester City 4.10
And, sorry City fans, but I'm not predicting much in the way of a title push from your team this season either, and certainly not at 4.10. I was surprised to see Manuel Pellegrini keep his job this summer after the capitulation from around January to April which effectively handed Mourinho's Chelsea the title last season. I wonder if he has the ability to keep a lot of those players performing at their very highest level consistently for an entire campaign - the performance and concentration level of some of those players was truly shocking at times.

Manchester United 6.00
When it comes to improvement on last season, Manchester United have to be looked at seriously. They have added world class players to their side in areas they needed to strengthen, their manager (who is also world class) has another year of learning about English football under his belt, and they are a generous price at 6.00. The only fly in their ointment is possibly the lack of a centre-back of genuine quality but they could invest in one of those by the end of August, and with the extra protection they'll have in front of the defence this year they may not even need one anyway.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is an inspired signing, a true Rolls Royce of a player with experience of winning everything at the very highest level. He gets injured more than he used to, but if he can stay fit more often than not, then United have a huge presence in that midfield area and someone who will relish the cut-and-thrust of English domestic football. Anyone that thinks his best years are behind him must not have been watching the World Cup last year.
Matteo Darmian looks tailor-made for the Premier League, Morgan Schneiderlin has bags of experience and was arguably one of the best midfielders in the division last season. Memphis Depay will add a lot of pace and excitement to an attack that was occasionally static for Van Gaal in 2014/15.

Chelsea 2.68
The spectre at this feast is obviously Chelsea. They're the best side in the league and have strengthened as well as you'd expect. In many ways though, their biggest asset never even enters the field of play and that's manager Jose Mourinho. Despite winning the league last season, there won't be a hint of inertia and he is a man that inspires complete devotion to the cause from not only his players but Chelsea's fans too, and they are clearly favourites at just 2.68 with good reason.

It's hard to put up a back of a team that are 2.68 before a 38-game high-intensity season has even started though, and the value bet here has to be United. They are sure to trade at something considerably shorter than 6.00 this term, and it might even be sooner than you think - their season opens with a relatively easy August, and Liverpool at Old Trafford aside in September they don't have a truly tough game until October when they head to the Emirates. Chelsea are sure to start well, too and by the end of October we may already have a two-horse race.
But if any of the challengers to Mourinho's men can overhaul the points gap, it has to be Manchester United, and at that price it's a tempting back-to-lay proposition.

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