The Scout: EPL Season Preview

Manchester City to win the league – $1.75*

Liverpool pushed Manchester City all the way to the final game last season and another arm wrestle of an English Premier League title challenge looks the most likely scenario in 2022-23.

Don’t read too much into last weekend’s Community Shield fixture, which Liverpool won 3-1, with City dominating possession and having twice as many shots on target. It was little more than a pre-season friendly for both sides, although a goal for Darwin Nunez was a positive sign for Liverpool’s new front man.

Liverpool are $3.50 second favourites but it’s hard to see past Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ($1.75). With City having won four of the past five EPL titles, and the last two in a row, Guardiola is on the cusp of a remarkable hat-trick of hat-tricks. He won three successive LaLiga titles with Barcelona from 2009 to 2011 and won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich from 2014 to 2016. He might not have the charisma of Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp but there is no doubt about his capacity to achieve.

Both Liverpool and City have added firepower up front (see The Scout’s top scorer scenario below) and allowed quality talent to move on. Sadio Mane left Liverpool and City allowed both Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus to join Arsenal, and Raheem Sterling to move to Chelsea.

Both managers have oodles of talent at their disposal but The Scout reckons City have the edge – just. Of the new arrivals at City, Erling Haaland will score goals, despite his misfiring Community Shield performance, and former Leeds man Kalvin Phillips will add depth to a midfield that already includes Ilkay Gundogan, Jack Grealish, Rodri, Bernardo Silva and, of course, Kevin De Bruyne.

City have what it takes to give Pep a triple treat.

Mohamed Salah Top Goalscorer – $5.50*

It’s tempting to look to either of the Premier League’s big new arrivals, Darwin Nunez ($12) or Erling Haaland ($3.75 favourite), to finish the new season as the English Premier League’s top scorer.

Haaland was lethal for Borussia Dortmund, and last season banged in 22 goals in just 24 Bundesliga appearances. But he missed 10 games through injury and the rigours of the Premier League might cause the big Norwegian a few headaches.

Uruguayan Nunez looked unstoppable in Portugal’s top tier, scoring 26 goals in 28 games for Benfica. He was also instrumental as Benfica charged into the Champions League quarterfinals where he scored twice in two games against Liverpool.

This season, he finds himself at Anfield where he will line-up alongside goalscoring phenomenon Mohamed Salah ($6). The Egyptian was equal top scorer in the Premier League last season with 23 goals, a number also achieved by Tottenham’s Heung-min Son, who is paying $17 to be this season’s top scorer.

Since signing for Liverpool in 2017, Salah has scored 118 goals and has only once failed to score at least 20 goals in a season – he scored 19 in the 2019-20 season. While Nunez will be expected to chip in with plenty this season, the departure of Sadio Mane demands that Salah also keeps up his incredible feats in front of goal.

He turned 30 recently but The Scout reckons his pace, power, mesmerising skill and a knack for the spectacular will put him ahead of the pack.

Nottingham Forest Best Promoted Team – $2.55*

The Scout has a soft spot for Nottingham Forest that goes way back to those Brian Clough days. Confused? Ask your dad. They were great to watch and won trophies, including the European Cup (twice). No-one in their right mind would suggest the good times are ready to roll again at the City Ground just yet. But under Steve Cooper, Forest, who are back in the EPL for the first time since 1999, could at least be heading in the right direction.

Having been promoted by the play-off route, it would be easy to dismiss Forest as the weakest of the promoted teams. Championship winners Fulham finished 10 points clear of Forest and have recent EPL experience to guide them through the 2022-23 campaign. But Forest, who had lost six of their first eight Championship games before Cooper’s arrival, were transformed under the new manager to finish fourth and, ultimately, achieve promotion.

Since that play-off final win over Huddersfield, Cooper has been busy strengthening his side. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson has arrived on loan from Manchester United, while England international Jesse Lingard turned down West Ham’s advances to join Forest. Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi, who scored 15 Bundesliga goals for Union Berlin last season, looks to be a solid acquisition. He is one of four players Forest have nabbed from Germany with Orel Mangala (Stuttgart), Moussa Niakhate (Mainz)  and Omar Richards (Bayern Munich) also snapped up.

Forest also conducted some shrewd business to sign right-back Neco Williams from Liverpool. Williams had played 14 times on loan at Fulham last season and scored twice in helping them win the league.

*Odds correct as at 9am, 2nd August 2022.

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