Last season I correctly predicted the winners of all five major European leagues, even though Manchester City, PSG and Barcelona had failed to win their domestic leagues in 2016/17, while I also tipped Real Madrid to retain the Champions League. France were one of the three teams I expected to lift the World Cup too. All in all, not bad!
I can’t see too much changing at the top this year either, although I expect a power shift in the Champions League.
Winner: Manchester City
Top four: Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United
Manchester City are the obvious favourites this season to win the league title once more, having retained their key players and added Riyad Mahrez. They were dominant in the Premier League last season and I don’t think any other team will be able to overtake them this year. They’ll face strong competition from Liverpool though. The Reds have signed Naby Keita, Alisson, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri and now have a very strong squad. It will be interesting to see how a Wenger-less Arsenal fare this coming season, but I think it will be a huge challenge to get back into the top four.
The upheaval at Real Madrid over the summer has given Barcelona the chance to cement their place as the dominant team in Spain. Los Blancos have parted ways with their talisman and legend, Cristiano Ronaldo. Zinedine Zidane has also left and, like last season, the club haven’t made any major signings to date. I feel Atletico will be there or thereabouts, but I think the current champions will win it easily.
Thomas Tuchel has arrived at the Parc de Princes, but I don’t see much else changing. PSG won the treble last year, including a 7-1 win over runners-up Monaco to lift the title, and Kylian Mbappe has announced himself on the big stage after match-winning displays at the World Cup. If anything, I think PSG could improve on last season’s points tally.
Napoli ran Juventus close last season, but since then the Old Lady have brought in Ronaldo and I don’t expect him to slow down. Carlo Ancelotti has taken charge of Partenopei and I expect them to be more conservative this season and I don’t think they’ll repeat last season’s efforts. I also expect Inter Milan to close the gap at the top, but they won’t challenge for the title.
Winner: Bayern Munich
Bayern won the Bundesliga last season by a margin of 21 points. They basically could have stopped playing in March and still won the title! Niko Kovac has taken charge now, and the only major change in playing personnel is Leon Goretzka replacing Arturo Vidal. Dortmund have been busy in the transfer market, but so far I’ve taken more notice of the departures. I’m not sure how well Schalke can manage their European schedule either.
As I’ve already mentioned, Real Madrid haven’t made any major signings and I think that the aura that surrounds them has left with Ronaldo and Zidane. As a result, the tournament is a bit more open this season. Barcelona’s line-up looks incredibly strong, and the addition of Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal can only make them stronger. I think Manchester City can reach the semi-finals this year too, while Liverpool’s priority will be on the Premier League.
As hosts and the current holders, Cameroon are obviously the team to watch here. That said, they couldn’t make it to the World Cup, where Nigeria and Senegal impressed me. Neither reached the knockout stages, but in a year’s time they will have more experience. I’m also excited to see how Egypt do with a fully fit Mo Salah. They came close to winning the trophy in 2017, and they could go a step further this time.