OpinionPaul McGrath

The boys in blue have it sewn up

The boys in blue have it sewn up

Chelsea and Manchester City will fight out this season’s Premier League title — and the winner will be the club who are not distracted by going for the Champions League title as the season reaches its climax.

European glory means so much to both these teams this season, almost as much as domestic success I would argue.

Yes, Manuel Pellegrini will want to get the Premier League crown back, but if the club’s Abu Dhabi bosses are disappointed about any aspect of their investment in the club, it has to be the lack of success in Europe.

Jose Mourinho may go on about wanting to defend the Premier League title — and I don’t doubt him. But surely, too, he wants to be the first manager to win the Champions League with three different clubs.

To win in Europe in any normal season you are going to have to beat two of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Can I say with hand on heart that I’d take either of England’s Sky Blues or The Blues to do that next March, April or May? No, is the clear answer.

So it is back to fighting for the big prizes back home, where Manchester United will be waiting.

They have definitely strengthened their forces with the likes of Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger coming aboard, and I suspect another striker will arrive at Old Trafford before the end of this month.

I wonder did Bayern Munich see former manager Louis van Gaal coming when they arranged the Schweinsteiger deal? United paid E15m for the 30-year-old German but 10 days later Bayern used some of that money, and more, to sign the excellent Arturo Vidal, the top-notch Chilean star, from Juventus.

Why didn’t United cut out the middleman and get Vidal, who is 28 and the sort of commanding and influential midfield player the club has not had, dare I say it, since Roy Keane departed.

Schweinsteiger is in the Keane mould too, he’ll demand the ball, he will dictate play, he will marshall the troops.

The one issue is will the midfielder be fit enough to do himself justice?

The lad has missed a lot of football in the last two years, even in the months coming up to Germany’s World Cup triumph of 2014. 

A fully-fit Schweinsteiger could certainly turn United into challengers, but if I was on the Stretford End I’d be wondering why my club didn’t get Vidal instead.

Arsenal will look to keep going from a fine end-of-season three months ago and at least this term they do not have to worry about Champions League qualifiers in midAugust that can make or break your season

Without a doubt Petr Cech is a great buy as their first-choice goalkeeper and there will be many Chelsea supporters who will be wondering if their owner’s generosity in allowing the Czech keeper to leave for the club of his choice will come back to bite them this season.

Liverpool have bought plenty of players of late, but they have lost Raheem Sterling, who is a young player full of talent but was clearly unhappy at the club and there was no point in keeping him.

A good start will be half the battle for Liverpool as Brendan Rodgers’ side have a horror opening run of fixtures which sees them play five of last season’s top seven away before mid-October.

At the other end of the table, staying up will be a brilliant success for Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich, while the likes of Sunderland and Leicester City will be hoping to stay out of a relegation struggle.

The Aston Villa lover in me would love to see the club’s great run in last season’s FA Cup repeated, even if it all ended in tears in the end. 

But what I don’t want happening again is for the Claret and Blue to be 
clinging on to Premier League status with a couple of games to go. The club is bigger and better than that and Tim Sherwood will want them to get off to a decent start.

Who will be this season’s surprise side? I say it will be Southampton again who will catch us all out with a very good season even though the French star Schneiderlin has left the club.

Ronald Koeman led the Saints to a brilliant campaign last term even though Liverpool and Manchester United had taken so many of his stars in the summer of 2014.

He may well have the system to do it all over again, as long as nobody comes in for the likes of Jose Fonte or Shane Long, as there is surely a limit to how many good players the team on the south coast of England can sell.