15 bold predictions for 2017/18: Spurs miss top four, Barça finish third and more
1. Leicester qualify for Europe
New boy Vicente Iborra, while no N’Golo Kante, is a combative leader – someone you’d want to go to war with
In 2017, Leicester scrapped their way out of relegation - hardly the conventional way of defending your domestic crown. It’s time for the Foxes to normalise now. Craig Shakespeare took over a team one point clear of the drop zone back in February and, under his guidance, the champions went undefeated in 11 of their remaining 16 games. That form should carry over to the new season.
New boy Vicente Iborra, while no N’Golo Kante, is a combative leader - someone you’d want to go to war with. His personality and steel in midfield will strengthen Leicester’s spine, and assuming they can hold on to Riyad Mahrez – 50/50 at this rate – Shakespeare's steady hands could steer them into Europe.
2. Milan's comeback season - a double on the horizon
Andre Silva is one of their most exciting attacking signings in years – perhaps since Mario Balotelli blitzed Serie A with 12 goals in 13 games in 2014
The summer of 2017 will be remembered as the summer of Milan's revival. They've thieved Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus and will partner him at centre-back with Mateo Musacchio, who was a pillar of Villarreal’s outstanding defence last term.
Elsewhere, Andre Silva is one of their most exciting attacking signings in years - perhaps since Mario Balotelli blitzed Serie A with 12 goals in 13 games in 2014. Silva is even more versatile than the Italian and could easily top the Serie A scoring charts, while proven left-back Ricardo Rodriguez will bolster the defence. Throw Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu and Lucas Biglia into the mix, and Juventus have plenty to worry about.
Amid the madness, Gianluigi Donnarumma has committed his future to the club having appeared to be on his way out, and manager Vincenzo Montella has penned a new contract. Milan might lack a little squad depth, but in a do-or-die game their starting line-up is capable of throwing some heavy uppercuts against even the best Europa League and Serie A opponents. The Rossoneri will be a difficult team to thwart.
3. Tottenham slip out of the top four
On paper, Arsenal are a top-four team and they’ll be hungry to avenge losing their customary fourth-place position last time out
In a vacuum it’s hard to see Tottenham regressing, but they're up against a revival of Manchester’s two big clubs and an Antonio Conte-led Chelsea. All three of those teams have bolstered their squads significantly this summer, while Tottenham have relied on continuity (not unwisely) and sold Kyle Walker to their rivals. Whisper it quietly, but their beloved White Hart Lane home has been demolished, and a season at Wembley awaits.
Competition for fourth place will come in the form of Arsenal, who will depend upon Alexandre Lacazette’s prowess and healthy seasons for Alexis Sanchez (if he stays), Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil. On paper, the Gunners are a top-four team and they’ll be hungry to avenge losing their customary fourth-place position last time out.
4. Real Madrid win the Treble
They have already won consecutive European crowns, but this could merely be the start of Madrid's run
Last season, FFT predicted that Real Madrid would make history by retaining the Champions League (it was the only thing we got right, but hey). If any team had the capability to do it, it was one with brilliant depth which Zinedine Zidane managed masterfully. Now it’s time to take that prediction one step further.
Madrid have already won consecutive European crowns, but this could merely be the start of their run. The squad's average age is 24, which could decrease further if Kylian Mbappe is acquired, and there are plenty of options in every position.
Following three Champions League titles in four years with a treble season may seem unlikely, but sport continually proves us wrong with what is and isn't possible. If anyone can do it, it's Zidane's Madrid.
And with that...
5. Barcelona finish third behind Atletico
They’ve focused all their efforts on Messi’s gargantuan contract, but have yet to really strengthen the team around him
There's something strange going on behind the scenes at Barcelona. The players they’ve been linked with this summer - Paulinho, Dani Parejo - wouldn't fill their glaring midfield holes. The Marco Veratti dream looks all but gone, and the Neymar saga is unsettling. They’ve focused all their efforts on Messi’s gargantuan contract, but have yet to really strengthen the team around him.
Meanwhile, Madrid snatched Dani Ceballos from underneath Barça’s noses, and Atletico will be bolstered by Diego Costa (TBC) and Vitolo in January. It could be a struggle for the Catalans.