Premier League 2013-14: Phil McNulty's predictions
The Premier League's top three - along with Everton and Stoke - are under new management, star players at Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool are under a cloud and Cardiff, Hull and Crystal Palace will all be experiencing the anticipation and trepidation of newcomers.
The new season starts on Saturday. Can Manchester United win their 21st title? Can Manchester City wrestle it back from Old Trafford? Can Jose Mourinho recreate former glories at Chelsea?
Who will win the battle of north London between Arsenal and Spurs and can those newly promoted sides defy the odds and stay up?
Time to polish the crystal ball and get the tin hat at the ready and make those Premier League predictions.
And remember this crucial escape clause - these predictions are made well before the close of the transfer window and big signings might make a big difference.
What do you think of my predictions? Who do you think is destined for the top and the drop? Give your view via #plpredictions and follow the debate in Sportsday live - Premier League special.
The return of Jose Mourinho will bring added box office to the Premier League - but can he defy the old adage about never going back? If one man will believe he can it is Mourinho and I am tipping him to do just that by bringing the title back to Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho is still chasing the marquee signing in the shape of Wayne Rooney but he hardly inherits a squad on its knees after the Europa League win under Rafael Benitez. Oscar and Eden Hazard will be better for their Premier League experience and Juan Mata is class personified.
Romelu Lukaku looked to be developing as an outstanding talent at West Brom while Mourinho's old boys such as Petr Cech and Frank Lampard will be vital.
Mourinho could still make that big signing and has plenty to prove. A champion combination.
2012-13 - Third
MANCHESTER CITY (Runners-up)
The failure to defend their title and dressing room disharmony cost manager Roberto Mancini his job last season. Many fans thought this was harsh so there will be high expectation on successor Manuel Pellegrini.
But this composed, experienced man will bring measure to Manchester City's fine squad and around £90m of talent has been brought in in the shape of Fernandinho (that's some midfield power alongside Yaya Toure), Jesus Navas,Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic.
Add this to the likes of Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero and this is as powerful a squad as the Premier League possesses. If they can recapture the hunger they are unquestionably potential champions - and a half-decent Champions League showing would be progress.
2012-13 - Second
MANCHESTER UNITED (Third)
New manager David Moyes must surely have wished to have had a big signing in place by now after succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson - but as yet no high-price newcomers have been added to a title-winning squad.
Life without Ferguson will take some getting used to inside and outside Old Trafford and, problems with Wayne Rooney apart, this is a squad that needs the addition of a world-class midfield player. It still, however, possesses the brilliance of Robin van Persie.
They romped to the title in style last season but will find it harder with Mourinho back at Chelsea and Manchester City playing the markets heavily again.
Cesc Fabregas is the calibre of player they need to capture to retain the title and become serious players in Europe once more.
This is a big task for a manager who, no matter how much experience he had at Everton, will find the sheer scale and expectation at Old Trafford on a different level to anything he has ever experienced.
2012-13 - Champions
The battle for the final Champions League place will be fought in north London between Spurs and Arsenal.
Arsenal have made a habit of getting the better of their rivals in those particular placings - but at this moment manager Arsene Wenger still needs to do his major work in the transfer market.
And, of course, Spurs could yet be struck a huge blow with the departure of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.
But, as of this day and with the squads currently assembled, I'll plump for Spurs to just edge out Arsenal.
Paulinho has the potential to be outstanding. He adds strong presence alongside Mousa Dembele and Sandro. Roberto Soldado should bring goals while Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue add depth and quality.
So much, however, will still depend on Bale.
2012-13 - Fifth
This was to be the summer when Arsenal's spending moved on to another level to end the barren years and stop questions about the future of manager Arsene Wenger - but as yet he still waits for the big breakthrough in the market.
Arsenal looked to be down the road with a deal for Gonzalo Higuain before he went to Napoli. Attention then shifted to Luis Suarez with the unusual bid of £40,000,001 that Arsenal thought would trigger a deal - only to be met with refusal and defiance from Liverpool.
The offer for Suarez showed that ambition and if they could somehow revive this deal (looking unlikely at this stage) it would be a game-changer on almost every level for Arsenal and Wenger.
Wenger also needs to strengthen at the heart of his defence and cross everything that midfielder Jack Wilshere stays fit.
There is still the capacity for Wenger to alter perceptions in the closing weeks of the transfer window - and in their hearts he and Arsenal's fans know he must produce that signing or face another struggle to win trophies.
2012-13 - Fourth
It was a something and nothing first season for Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool manager - a few emphatic victories but they struggled to beat the bigger clubs. They now need to move along and there were signs of the attractive team he wishes to build.
In Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge he made two January signings who could go a long way to shaping their season, especially if Luis Suarez continues to be so publicly disaffected.
Rodgers will rely even more heavily on Steven Gerrard with the departure of two strong dressing room characters in defender Jamie Carragher and goalkeeper Pepe Reina, while he will be hoping new signings such as Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto adapt to the Premier League.
Simon Mignolet is a fine goalkeeper and Kolo Toure brings experience. I'm not expecting Liverpool to make the top four but think there is just enough to see them edge above neighbours Everton this season - especially if they can make the big signing Rodgers seeks before the deadline.
2012-13 - Seventh
Transition time at Everton under the charismatic Roberto Martinez following David Moyes' departure for Manchester United after 11 years.
This is a big examination for Everton and their new Spanish manager. Was Martinez simply the perennial relegation fighter or an operator punching above his weight and winning the FA Cup at Wigan?
Martinez will implement his attractive passing style at Everton and the arrival of his old backroom staff and players such as Arouna Kone,Antolin Alcaraz and goalkeeper Joel Robles hint at the heavy Wigan influence.
For Everton, however, it will about who they keep as much as who they buy. Keeping Leighton Baines away from Manchester United is a must, even more so than Marouane Fellaini. Keep this strong squad together while adding to talent such as Kevin Mirallas and Everton have the capability to have a fine season.
Lose Baines and the landscape alters.
2012-13 - Sixth
WEST HAM (Eighth)
As ever, manager Sam Allardyce had his critics last season but who can seriously quibble with a top-10 finish in West Ham's first season back in the Premier League?
He made his intentions clear by bringing in winger Stewart Downing to add to the likes of Matt Jarvis supplying Andy Carroll. Now he relies on the big England striker staying fit and repaying his £15m transfer fee.
If this happens there is every chance of Allardyce improving on last season's placing, especially if they remain as formidable in front of those wonderfully passionate supporters at Upton Park.
2012-13 - 10th
ASTON VILLA (Ninth)
Paul Lambert had a traumatic first season in charge at Aston Villa with a long struggle against relegation and a Capital One Cup semi-final defeat over two legs by Bradford City - but by the close there were real signs of progress.
And the mood has been lifted by the decision of outstanding young Belgian striker Christian Benteke to withdraw his request to leave and sign a new long-term contract. Matthew Lowton, excellent after his move from Sheffield United, was also given a new deal.
Lambert is a driven man and will have learned much about himself and his players last season, which is why I am tipping them for much better things.
2012-13 - 15th
After speculation about managerial unrest, Swansea City have backed Michael Laudrup and now they look in good shape to build on last season's ninth place and that historic Capital One Cup win.
Influential Ashley Williams remains at The Liberty Stadium while Laudrup will hope his strike force of £12m record buy Wilfried Bony from Vitesse Arnhem and Michu - arguably last season's finest piece of transfer business - will provide plenty of firepower.
2012-13 - Ninth
Southampton showed real promise at times last season and Mauricio Pochettino has been given strong financial support to bring in highly rated defender Dejan Lovren from Lyon and powerful midfielder Victor Wanyama from Celtic in a £12.5m deal. Saints will hope they provide added strength and stability.
Rickie Lambert, now an England goalscorer following his debut against Scotland, proved he can score goals throughout the divisions and in left-back Luke Shaw they have one of the game's outstanding young prospects.
2012-13 - 14th
Making any prediction about Newcastle United is always dangerous - starting with how the new relationship between director of football Joe Kinnear and manager Alan Pardew pans out.
There is no doubt, however, that there is real talent in this Gallic-influenced squad and Loic Remy showed glimpses of his quality at QPR last season.
A bit of a roll of the dice but if they can avoid turmoil (a big if on Tyneside) then I expect Newcastle to hover around mid-table.
2012-13 - 16th
There is a new owner at Craven Cottage as Shahid Khan replaces Mohamed Al Fayed - and some interesting new faces in Martin Jol's squad.
Dimitar Berbatov will once more be their talisman while their wild card will be Adel Taarabt (I'm not convinced at all) but it will make Fulham interesting viewing and I fully expect them to stay out of trouble.
2012-13 - 12th
Will this be the season it is revealed just how good a job Tony Pulis did at Stoke City? Mark Hughes arrives with supporters to convince and a reputation to repair after his dismal spell at QPR.
But he showed he can be a very capable manager at Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City (in spells) and during a tidy tenure at Fulham. He also has much to prove so will not be short of motivation.
What will be a huge factor will be those supporters in the atmospheric Britannia Stadium so I expect a steady season without struggle.
2012-13 - 13th
WEST BROM (15th)
Top eight last season but may be tough for Steve Clarke to repeat that feat.
Romelu Lukaku's return to Chelsea is a loss but in his place comes the enigmatic but wonderfully gifted Nicolas Anelka. Can Clarke coax some of the old magic out of him and get goals from on-loan Matej Vydra, such a success in the Championship with Watford last season?
Solid if unspectacular, the Baggies will be comfortable and in Youssouf Mulumbu they possess one of the most underrated midfield players in the Premier League. This is a prediction that may err on the pessimistic side if they can get their form going at The Hawthorns.
2012-13 - Eighth
It's been a busy summer in the transfer market for Chris Hughton after an anxious end to last season. At first glance he looks to have bought very well so there is real scope for potential improvement.
It will be interesting to see how Netherlands midfield man Leroy Fer, who saw an £8.5m move to Everton collapse on medical grounds last season, plays. Plenty of good judges rate him very highly.
2012-13 - 11th
Life on Wearside under Paolo Di Canio will not be dull but will it be enjoyable? There has been a hive of activity this summer to cure inconsistencies that saw a magnificent win at Newcastle United matched by abject humiliation at Aston Villa towards the end of last season.
Sunderland, like their manager, may be highly unpredictable and I fear for them if the momentum starts to swing the wrong way.
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is a big loss and much pressure is on the shoulders of his replacement Vito Mannone.
Could be in danger.
2012-13 - 17th
Cardiff City have a fine manager in Malky Mackay and if one of the newcomers is to stay in the Premier League, my money would be on the latest Welsh addition to the ranks.
Mackay will be desperate for forward Craig Bellamy to stay fit and he will want new signing Steven Caulker to continue his development. He also has high hopes for £11m record signing, Chilean midfield man Gary Medel.
Will have the backing of a hostile atmosphere on their own ground and will hope to get off to a good start and follow the example of their fierce rivals Swansea.
Not convinced they have enough yet to stay up but Cardiff have plenty going for them.
2012-13 - Champions (Championship)
CRYSTAL PALACE (19th)
There will be plenty of noisy days and nights at Selhurst Park but I can see Ian Holloway suffering a similar fate as he did with Blackpool and the season ending in gallant relegation.
One to watch will be young Spaniard Jose Campana - and Kevin Phillips is always welcome in the top tier.
2012-13 - Play-off winners (Championship)
Manager Steve Bruce achieved a miraculous feat in taking Hull City up into the Premier League, answering plenty who doubted his quality as a manager.
Now he faces an even bigger task in keeping them there. Tom Huddlestone will bring experience and composure in midfield while goalkeeper Allan McGregor has international pedigree with Scotland.
Would love to see Hull stay up for Bruce alone - just don't see it happening.
2012-13 - Second (Championship)