Even with Manchester City’s dominance, Premier League filled with stories to watch

City is widely expected to win its third straight title, but Erling Haaland, Leeds United and the race for Champions League soccer are reasons to follow England’s top flight this season.

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Erling Haaland (left) and Manchester City are favored to beat Roberto Firmino and Liverpool to the Premier League title.

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Let’s get one issue out of the way: Manchester City will win the 2022-23 English Premier League title.

The reigning champions are the odds-on favorites to three-peat, and with good reason. Known for most of their history as the “other” Manchester club, City has used its immense oil wealth to capture the English game and become one of the most dominant forces in world soccer.

Even though the title seems like a foregone conclusion, there are other stories to watch as the Premier League kicks off this weekend.

Player to watch: Erling Haaland, Manchester City

The latest example of City’s might was the purchase of striker Erling Haaland, 22, from Germany’s Borussia Dortmund after activating a $61 million release clause. Born in England but raised in Norway, Haaland’s transfer to one of Europe’s true heavyweights was long-anticipated, and City nabbed him to lead an attack that scored 99 goals over 38 games last season.

If Haaland settles quickly and lives up to the billing, City’s offense could be even scarier. At 6-5 and blessed with athleticism and a knack for finishing, Haaland has the potential to become the best striker on the planet. Playing in front of a loaded City lineup and for legendary manager Pep Guardiola, Haaland will get plenty of chances to score.

Team to watch: Leeds United

If you’re an American soccer fan looking for a team to support, you could do worse than Leeds United. Coached by Fire legend Jesse Marsch after a long trek up the managerial ladder, Leeds signed two US nationals in midfielders Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams.

Alas, if you gravitate to Leeds, you could be in for a bumpy ride. After avoiding relegation on the last day of the 2021-22 campaign, Leeds lost its two best players, selling midfielder Kalvin Phillips to Manchester City and winger Raphinha to Barcelona. For Marsch, who replaced club hero Marcelo Bielsa in February, finishing 17th and keeping Leeds in the Premier League should be the goal.

Races to watch: Who qualifies for the Champions League? Who avoids relegation?

Last spring, Liverpool pushed City to the last minutes of the season but lost the title by a single point. Yet even though they lost forward Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich, the 2019-20 winners should still have enough to finish in the top four. Tottenham Hotspur, which finished fourth in 2021-22 under world-class coach Antonio Conte, strengthened itself over the summer and should have enough talent to overcome its bumbling history to claim a Champions League spot.

That leaves Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and maybe even West Ham United to battle for fourth place and a coveted spot in the following season’s Champions League.

At the other end of the table, Leeds isn’t the only famous club that could be in danger of finishing in the bottom three and plummeting from the Premier League. Everton narrowly avoided relegation last season and hasn’t added much over the summer, potentially setting themselves up for a drop to the second division for the first time since 1954.

Other potential relegation fodder includes newly promoted sides Bournemouth, Fulham and Nottingham Forest, plus holdovers Brentford, Southampton and Wolverhampton. It would be especially sad to see Forest, a two-time European champion back in the Premier League for the first time since 1999, go right back down.

2022-23 PREMIER LEAGUE
2021-22 champion
Manchester City

Promoted clubs
Bournemouth, Fulham, Nottingham Forest

Relegated clubs
Burnley, Norwich City, Watford

Predicted Top 4
1. Manchester City
2. Liverpool
3. Tottenham Hotspur
4. Arsenal

Predicted Bottom 3
18. Everton
19. Brentford
20. Bournemouth

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