For five of this season's 20 Premier League clubs, any finish outside the top four will simply not do.
Of course, five does not go into four, meaning that one of the 'big hitters' in English football is going to miss out on Champions League football.
Here's what our gang of writers thinks will happen. And when you've checked that out, add your own selection and tell us why in the comments section at the bottom.
Alex Chick (Twitter: @alex_eurosport):
Liverpool – Steven Gerrard’s slip aside, last season was Liverpool performing at their absolute maximum. This was a campaign in which very nearly everything went right, and they would struggle to repeat it even with Luis Suarez. But you can’t lose one of the world’s greatest players and not feel the pain (probably in your shoulder). As for Manchester United – even if Louis van Gaal can only split the difference between Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes, United will climb from seventh to fourth.
Tom Adams (Twitter: @tomEurosport):
Manchester United - Chelsea and Manchester City are a given so it's one from three of United, Liverpool and Arsenal. Somehow, Arsenal always seem to make it and they are stronger than last season so will probably sneak in with the help of Alexis Sanchez, and while Liverpool won't win the title without Suarez, they are still more than capable of battering teams given the superb attacking players they still possess. Grappling with an unfamiliar formation, lacking new signings, possessing a dodgy defence and with a new managerial appointment, United look the most vulnerable as they continue to repair the damage done by David Moyes. I know, it looks ridiculous when written down, doesn't it?
Sean Fay (Twitter: @Sean_Fay):
Manchester United - Bookmaker odds and most pundits seem to suggest that Manchester United will rise this season and Liverpool will dip. This will probably be the case but I'm not ready to say that the swing will be so great that the chasm between the two teams last season will be breached. Luis Suarez would be on my all-time Premier League 'Mount Rushmore' but to say Liverpool were a one-man team last year is completely unfair. They absolutely annihilated United at Old Trafford near the end of last season and while Louis van Gaal will be a marked improvement on David Moyes, United have to make some serious signings before I'm ready to announce them as a top-four team. Liverpool have been criticised for signing promising, expensive youngsters instead of proven stars but couldn't the same be said of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw? Chelsea, City and Arsenal all look safe for top four spots for me so that means United miss out.
Liverpool - A lot of Reds fans have pointed out, correctly, that while the Cannibal of Ajax stole the headlines last season, Daniel Sturridge's goals statistically accounted for more points - while Suarez was comparatively speaking just padding the goal difference. And while that's certainly true to an extent, it's wishful thinking. The difference between nearly winning the title and finishing outside the top four is often as little as 10 or 15 points, and Suarez's goals are certainly worth at least that. City have by far the best squad in the league; neither Jose Mourinho nor Louis van Gaal will fail to secure what they're paid to secure; and Arsenal look exciting and confident, and have spent well this summer. Take all that into account and there's simply no space for Brendan Rodgers' men.
Liam Happe (Twitter: @liamhappe):
Liverpool – In a weird way, Liverpool are the team of the five above who would suffer the least damage by coming fifth. After the sale of Luis Suarez, even the most blindly-loyal Liverpool fan will expect to finish lower than they did last term. Champions League football ending again after one season would hurt, but I suspect there’ll be faith in Brendan Rodgers’ long-term project even after they’re narrowly edged out by Arsenal and United in the race to reach Europe’s top club competition.
Dan Quarrell (Twitter: @Dan_Eurosport):
Manchester United - Okay, so they have a forthright and uncompromising new manager who is respected the world over. But have you seen the squad at his disposal lately? Van Gaal is a wonderfully charismatic and able coach, but he can only do so much given the players that are currently in the ranks at Old Trafford. Surely United will bring in two or three fresh faces before the start of the season, but fans look set to be disappointed when they realise the paucity of, particularly defensive, world-class targets the club can pursue in the market. Unless five or six truly exceptional players can be brought in before the window closes, United will see their absence from the top four extended by another year.
Reda Maher (Twitter: @Reda_Eurosport):
Liverpool – Last season’s run was so dependent on Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, and the former has gone while the latter’s legs appear to have joined him. While Brendan Rodgers has bought well value-wise, there are no stand-out signings and a risk that so many new players could disorientate the squad. There remains a gaping hole up front, and a lack of depth at full-back, and provided the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal hit the ground running, the Reds could find themselves back on terms with their city rivals Everton.
Manchester United - It is difficult to make such lofty predictions with almost three weeks of this transfer window remaining, 19 days to be precise, but at the time of writing United look the most vulnerable. Why? Because Louis van Gaal has added only two fresh faces in Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera to the sorry old mix that hobbled home in seventh spot last season. And most casual observers agree that they needed (and continue to require) much more than two players to enhance their threat. Plenty of conjecture surrounds who else will be washing up at Old Trafford with a couple of defenders and midfielder still essential viewing, but the team that could open against Swansea on Saturday suggests there may be problems ahead. Unlike Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, who all appear as forceful if not markedly stronger than last time out, United's likely stating line-up says enough.
Marcus Foley (Twitter: @mmjfoley):
Liverpool - It is always going to be hard to replace a player of Luis Suarez’s calibre. However, of Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert, Lazar Markovic, Emre Can and Javier Manquillo, who would dramatically improve this Liverpool starting XI? Who would even get into their starting XI? Liverpool have spent heavily but have they spent wisely? In this writer’s opinion, they have not. The other four contenders have all strengthened to a certain degree but without having lost their stand out player. Add to the mix a Champions League campaign and Liverpool will do very well to stake a claim for a top-four spot.
Ben Snowball (Twitter: @BenSnowball):
Liverpool - “We’re not doing a Spurs. We’re not doing a Spurs. We’re not doing a Spurs,” has been the Anfield mantra of late. Well, sorry Liverpool fans, but you probably are. A wave of new faces have arrived as the club looks to juggle domestic and continental competition, but the parallels with Tottenham’s post-Bale collapse are already evident. It’s the one criticism that can be levelled at Brendan Rodgers – his mediocre success in the transfer market. That’s not to say that all Liverpool’s signings will flop – Dejan Lovren and Emre Can in particular look like decent acquisitions – but new players take time to gel. With their aforementioned rivals looking strong ahead of the new season, the Reds will narrowly miss out on a Champions League spot.
Joshua Hayward (Twitter: @JoshuaHayward99):
Arsenal – It’s been quite some time since all five of the so called ‘big clubs’ have been at full strength in order to sustain a serious title challenge, but it seems that this will be the case this year. Of course, that means that one team must lose out on a top-four spot, and that will be Arsenal. Admittedly, Liverpool’s Champions League exploits will surely prove a burden in their hunt for Premier League glory, but Rodgers has strengthened his Liverpool side sufficiently to cope with their European endeavours. Chelsea and City will be the last two clubs standing, and I have a cheeky feeling that Louis van Gaal will mastermind a top-four finish. It’ll look like this at the end of the season: Chelsea, City, Liverpool, United, Arsenal. Put your money on it and thank me on May 24…
Carrie Dunn (Twitter: @carriesparkle):
Liverpool - They won’t have a better chance to win the league than last season for some years to come. That Suarez money might be sitting in the bank but it’s not been spent wisely, and there’s nobody to step into the boots of last season’s Player of the Year quite yet.
Liverpool - 7 votes
Manchester United - 4 votes
Arsenal - 1 vote
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- Luis Suarez
- David Moyes
- Louis van Gaal