7500 To Holte’s annual pre-season roundtable is back and better than ever this year. We’ll be tackling our predictions and opinions for the upcoming season in three days this year — today, we look at football outside the Championship, tomorrow we’ll take a look at the Championship, then Saturday we’ll dive into Aston Villa and see how we think our club’s season will play out.
This year’s roundtable is a bit different — we’ve done it in our Slack channel, so in some spots, you’ll see a discussion breaking out.
Feel free to bookmark this so you can come back and taunt us when we’re inevitably wrong, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Who will win the Premier League?
James Rushton: There’s a part of me that really wants to see Manchester United win it, but Mourinho is drawing too fondly from the HP Lovecraft school of management right now. I want Liverpool to step up, but I think they are a few seasons off perfecting their football. I honestly think Tottenham have a good shout, and Chelsea might be too far behind. I’ll have to go for Manchester City. They are so well drilled, and don’t have the morale issues that seem to plague the rest.
Alex Carson: It’s interesting, because City were by far and away the best team last season, to a level I don’t remember seeing for some time. Yet the defending champions always seem to struggle the next season to bring the same level of performance. I think I trust Pep Guardiola and City to not have too huge of a fall-off, so I’ll go for them to win again, but think Liverpool could be in with a great shout if they do. Juergen Klopp is a great manager and when Liverpool do their thing, they play wonderful football. Jose Mourinho Manchester United should be in the race, but something just seems off at Old Trafford right now.
Jake Fenicle: I think City have it, but I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s theirs to lose cause it’ll be a lot closer than last year. I think Liverpool and Arsenal also make top 4 just not sure where.
Phil Vogel: City — and I will say it is theirs to lose. It is going to be about the focus that defending champions often lose and I think the team is built well enough and have the right mentality to hold it all together. I think (and hope) it will be a closer competition than it was last year.
Matt Booher: I don’t see any reason why City wouldn’t repeat. They aspire to win the Champions League so unless something happens there that draws attention away from the Premier League title race, it’s theirs to lose.
JF: I just look at how [City] struggled versus a squad like Liverpool and even Man U last season when it came down to it, and if teams like Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool can stop losing/drawing games they should easily smash, they could give City a serious run for their money.
MB: Agree and just need to look at what Liverpool did to City in the CL. But I think they’re just built for the long haul and most of the PL is so bad they can rack up points against the minnows, which is something they do better than just about anyone.
JF: Oh 100%. Pep doesn’t lose those games with this City team like the others in the top 6 do. But things like Liverpool’s shoddy defense, Wenger making Arsenal do Arsenal things, those are looking a bit different this year, but yea all-in-all I do think City will still win it like you said, just not as easily.
Sean Evans: Having spent the better part of university in Liverpool, I’d love to say they finally see past Gerrard’s slip. However, it is City for me in maybe a bit tighter of a race.
Who will win the Champions League?
JR: Real Madrid will settle this season. There’s a lot of change going on in that side. I firmly expect Juventus to step up in their stead and claim it.
PV: Bayern Munich. The Germans will try to erase a rough, putting it mildly, World Cup with a strong run. But Champions League should be a great watch with eight or so teams that could hold the prize up in May.
JF: I love the level playing field with headlines everywhere this year just solely about UCL. Will Ronaldo win it at Juve? Can PSG get it done with a well-assembled squad AND will Buffon finally get his? Real still has their whole team that won it 3-straight, now with someone like Isco/Asensio filling in and Bale starting consistently...they could definitely 4-peat. OR could it finally be an English team like City/Liverpool to win it? Even Bayern like Phil said can figure it out and win it but I have to go with PSG if they can stay healthy.
MB: The Champions League always seems to have a dark horse emerge from the fray. But this year it feels like Juve’s year. Or maybe City. It feels like its time the oil money pays off.
AC: Last year, I felt like Real Madrid had at least a 50/50 shot to win it, and they backed that up. But with Ronaldo gone, I think the field opens up some. Real still have a good chance, but I could see any of 8-10 clubs making a run at the crown this year. All that said, I think this could be Manchester City’s year. They’ve got the talent, they’ve got a manager who’s done it before. I’d love to see them win it.
SE: I’ll take a gamble on this one and say that Paris Saint-Germain might get it done under Tuchel.
Who should win the Ballon d’Or this year?
JR: It really should be Mo Salah, shouldn’t it? Ronaldo will be up there, and honestly you’ve got to give Harry Kane plaudits for what he’s done this season — but come on, Mo Salah has had a heck of a season. Let’s ignore the fact that people are acting like his dislocated shoulder is comparable to an ACL tear, though.
PV: It will likely be Ronaldo... because he is Ronaldo. Luka Modrić deserves a shout though.
JF: Ronaldo will win because he won the UCL again, but I would love to see a Mo Salah or Modric pull it off.
MB: Ronaldo. He’s going to score a ton in Serie A.
AC: As an American of Croatian descent, I am contractually obligated to argue in favor of Modrić here. He’s the best midfielder in the world and won his third straight Champions League in May before leading Croatia all the way to the damn World Cup final, a tournament in which he was a worthy Golden Ball winner. Ronaldo’s probably going to win though, because things suck sometimes.
SE: Ronaldo. Science says he has the body of a 20-year-old and I venture to say, no man or woman disagrees.
What is the most compelling story line outside the Championship this season?
JR: Joey Barton is managing Fleetwood Town, so yeah. I honestly can’t look past that.
PV: Brexit and all the potential impact on football. All eyes on March 29, 2019.
JR: Phil, forget the Football, we’ll be eating the players in April when we’ve got no food.
MB: What’s Timmy Sherwood up to these days? Wherever he pops up next ought to be fascinating. I think a Mourinho meltdown at Manchester United is imminent, and I’m here for that.
Sherwood Bot: It’s not a gilet, it’s a coat.
AC: I don’t really think Tim’s up to much of anything right now. Not gonna lie, I still wish he could’ve had an entire season with that ‘14/’15 squad.
AC: That said, it’s maybe not the most compelling story line, but Parma are set to start their first campaign back in Serie A (after three consecutive promotions) on -5 points because of a match fixing attempt. Beautiful kits with a hint of corruption — what more could you ask for from Italian football?
JF: That’s a great story even just for the history of the club alone too — from bankruptcy and Serie D in 2015 to Serie A 3 years later is wild.
JR: Italian Football has to do something about the money problem. For real.
SE: Staying with my Brexit bias (i.e. just kidding), I think it is Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. I’ll never forget the day in which Sir Alex told fans to support their new manager. They did not and things for that club have not been the same. Nor has he since he self-proclaimed his greatness. Will he get the sack and who might they bring in?
Outside of the Championship, who’s one footballer you have your eye on this season?
JR: I really like the look of Kieran Tierney. He’s very young, but honestly he’ll go down as one of the greatest full-backs of all time if he carries on going this way. He’s captaining Celtic on a few occasions and is approaching 100 appearances for The Bhoys. I’m really excited about his development. Just seems a cut above.
AC: Brescia’s Sandro Tonali has been described as the new Pirlo, so yeah, I’m very here for that.
MB: I’ll be following Christian Pulisic at Dortmund for fear of losing my American soccer fan card.
PV: I hate saying this — and yes that is because I’m still bitter — I want to see how Ryan Sessegnon does in the Premier League.
AC: Honestly, I think Fulham and Sessegnon will do well. 5/1 to finish top half doesn’t sound like an awful shout to me.
SE: As a yank it has to be Pulisic. The lad looks a proper star if we could finally get behind the proper football.
Who other than Villa are you keeping an eye on this season?
JR: I’m really enjoying Gennaro Gattuso at Milan. Refreshing to see a “Tim Sherwood” type who knows his stuff and seems to work well with his team. I’ll also be interested to see how Steve Gerrard gets on at Rangers as well.
Sherwood bot: He’s sticking them away in matches and that’ll do for me.
PV: I’m rooting for more Sherwood bot.
JR: Deep thought analysis and random generation could manage better than S*erwood.
JF: Honestly I wanna see if Liverpool can repeat their play from last season, if not do better and be in serious contention for the Prem.
MB: Dortmund and Everton. I hate to say it about Everton, but that’s where Villa should be so I’m always curious how they’re doing.
AC: I try to keep tabs on a number of teams during the year — I’ll be in on Union Berlin and Racing Strasbourg again this season of course, but also going to try and keep an eye on the aforementioned Parma in Serie A and Dulwich Hamlet in the National League South. Maybe next summer I’ll get into Sweden’s Allsvenskan or Norway’s Eliteserien to pass some time.
SE: When Villa aren’t in the Premier League, for me it is the two top Merseyside clubs. I’d like to see them both get on well for the time being. I will also keep an eye on Serie A because I think Ronaldo under Allegri might tear up the stone pines in Rome.