Liverpool are the side that will provide reigning Premier League champions Manchester City with their sternest title test this season.
That is according to Mark Bosnich, who told Stats Perform he also expects Chelsea and his former club Manchester United to be in the running for top spot.
City won their third title in four seasons last time out, and a fifth in 10 years, as they finished 12 points clear of closest challengers United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have strengthened with the signing of Jadon Sancho and imminent arrival of Raphael Varane for reported combined fees of £115million.
City spent £100m to make Jack Grealish the most expensive player in British history, meanwhile, and Chelsea have re-signed Romelu Lukaku for just less.
That makes the £36m Liverpool paid to sign Ibrahima Konate seem modest by comparison, yet Bosnich believes the 2019-20 champions are capable of ousting City this term.
“The real dark horse, if you can really say that, is Liverpool,” Bosnich told Stats Perform. “They’ve won it before, very recently.
“And I really do think that the injury to Virgil van Dijk hurt them last season far more than anyone realised at the time.
“I think that out of three contenders, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, they are probably the best placed to really mount a serious challenge.”
City, who still want to add Harry Kane to their ranks, won the title with three games to spare last season and have bolstered their attack with Grealish, offsetting the departure of club-record scorer Sergio Aguero and defender Eric Garcia, who were both used sparingly last season.
But while Bosnich considers Pep Guardiola’s side as favourites before a ball is kicked, the former Australia international expects them to prioritise the Champions League after finishing as runners-up to Chelsea in 2020-21.
“For me and for a lot of people, understandably so after signing Grealish, they will definitely start as favourites, but I’m not so sure they’ll win it,” Bosnich said. “There’s no doubt in their qualities – we saw what they achieved last season.
“That was a phenomenal run. But if you think back, I think it was about up to about around November, they had a bit of a poor run and they changed things around and they went on a 15 or 16-game unbeaten spree.
“But their main focus, and understandably so, is the Champions League. Guardiola hasn’t won it since 2011 and City have never won it before.
“I think you have to say that it’s their graduation of truly, from a football perspective, being in the big club of clubs.
“I really think the focus would go on that, and I’m not so sure that they will win it. They’ll definitely start favourites, but I’m not sure that they will win it.”
Bosnich’s former United team-mate Solskjaer has yet to win any silverware in his two and a half seasons in charge of the club, losing four cup semi-finals in that time and falling just short in last season’s Europa League final.
After finishing third and second in the last two campaigns, Bosnich feels it is time for Solskjaer to end United’s nine-season wait for top-flight silverware or else he may be out of a job.
“Solskjaer, although I’ll admit I’m biased, has for me done a really good job thus far,” Bosnich said. “The only thing that’s stopping me from saying ‘an excellent job’ is the fact that he hasn’t won a trophy.
“The Villarreal Europa League final, obviously losing on penalties was disappointing. But they now have Sancho and I think Raphael Varane will prove to be one of the signings of the season.
“People who have watched LaLiga over time, or France, will realise what an absolutely outstanding asset he is.
“And I really do think that it gives Solskjaer so many options as well, because they could play three at the back with [Victor] Lindelof and [Harry] Maguire if they wanted to. He could go right-back if they really wanted him to.
“I’d dearly love to see them sign one more like Harry Kane, but I don’t think that will happen this summer. I still think that they’ve got to win the title in my opinion, for Ole’s sake, within the next two seasons.”
As for Chelsea’s title prospects after winning the Champions League last season and the Super Cup this week, Bosnich cannot see Thomas Tuchel’s men quite bridging the gap in the league just yet.
“Tuchel came in and did an absolutely outstanding job last season. But 19 points is too much for them to catch up,” Bosnich said. “But they still probably have a better chance of doing it than a lot of teams.
“With the signing of Lukaku, I think that’s really important for them. He’s an outstanding player, simple as that. I don’t care what anyone says. And I’ve always held that close – he’s an outstanding player.
“I don’t think they’ll be able to make up the 19-point gap, but I don’t think they’ll be far off.”
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