sport news Sportsmail assesses the Premier League top six ahead of the new season

The Premier League returns on Saturday after the briefest of breaks with arguably the fiercest of battle of recent seasons about to unfold.

Will champions Liverpool struggle to defend their crown without any major additions? Are Manchester City best equipped to dethrone them or is that now Chelsea, after their spending spree? And can Wolves or Leicester gatecrash the party?

Sportsmail assesses the candidates. 

Liverpool begin 2020-21 as Premier League champions but can they defend their title?

Liverpool begin 2020-21 as Premier League champions but can they defend their title?

LIVERPOOL

Jurgen Klopp's title holders have had a subdued summer with only one addition to the first team squad in Kostas Tsimikas from Olympiacos to provide back-up to Andy Robertson at left back. A necessary addition, but not an eye-catching one.

Most of the spotlight has instead been fixed upon Liverpool's interest in Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, but it seems inevitable that a move will only materialise if Georginio Wijnaldum departs for Barcelona.

So for fresh impetus in Klopp's team, players such as Takumi Minamino and Naby Keita are the ones to watch out for. Minamino has taken time to settle since his January move from Red Bull Salzburg but has impressed in pre-season and snatched a goal in Liverpool's Community Shield defeat by Arsenal.

Keita, meanwhile, has excelled in flashes in the two years that has followed since his move from RB Leizpig. If he can stay fit for a sustained period of time, he will definitely add an extra dimension to Liverpool's midfield. 

With no major additions yet, players such as Naby Keita will need to stand up and be counted

With no major additions yet, players such as Naby Keita will need to stand up and be counted

Takumi Minamino has also impressed in pre-season and could step up after a January switch

Takumi Minamino has also impressed in pre-season and could step up after a January switch

But a lack of transfer activity, enforced by the Covid-19 outbreak, means Liverpool are relying on innovation on the training field rather than fresh faces to take them to the next level.

There are plenty of young players who will keep improving - Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez are still only 21 and 23 respectively - while the rest of the squad are at the age that suggests they have another level in them. Robertson and Fabinho are 26, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are 28 while at 29, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk will recoginse that 2020-21 is another campaign in their peak. 

If Liverpool are to defend their title - and perhaps the harshest of critics will say that they should, after winning the league by 18 points last season - they will need those players to stay in top form.

MANCHESTER CITY

Fresh faces have been needed at Manchester City and fresh faces is what they have but perhaps inevitably, their summer will be defined by the one that got away.

Pep Guardiola's side were frontrunners to pounce for Lionel Messi before the Barcelona talisman accepted that he would be unsuccessful in forcing his Nou Camp exit. A transfer of that ilk would have been City's 'nuclear' option but Guardiola has still made some key additions to his team.

Their defence was, at times, woeful last season for a club defending the Premier League title so Nathan Ake's £40m arrival from Bournemouth was key. He fits the calibre of defender Guardiola likes - comfortable on the ball and reads the game smartly - but he will have to address critics who have underlined his involvement in a Cherries defence that shipped 65 goals last season.

Nathan Ake's arrival from Bournemouth provides Man City with vital defensive reinforcement

Nathan Ake's arrival from Bournemouth provides Man City with vital defensive reinforcement

Ferran Torres will an exciting watch as well - he impressed on international duty for Spain lately and had a host of clubs across Europe interested in him while at Valencia. But it was City who swooped, and the 20-year-old winger will fill the void left by Leroy Sane.

City missed Sane for the lion's share of the 2019-20 campaign so the addition of Torres will feel particularly useful once a jam-packed season properly gets going. 

And if Ake can forge a swift understanding with Aymeric Laporte - another long-term absence for Guardiola in 2019-20 - City will back themselves to make a real fist of reclaiming the title. 

Ferran Torres, a new addition from Valencia, was impressive in the recent international games

Ferran Torres, a new addition from Valencia, was impressive in the recent international games

As ever for City, players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are crucial for them

As ever for City, players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are crucial for them

It hasn't yet been the summer of transfers Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was hoping for after United crashed out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage, but it hasn't been a disaster.

United appeared to be on the brink of landing Jadon Sancho from but the German club have dug their heels in and, in truth, there doesn't seem a huge sense of urgency from Sancho to move.

But Solskjaer has bolstered his midfield with Donny van de Beek from Ajax and the prospect of a partnership alongside Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes is a fascinating one, especially with a trio of Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial ahead of them.

Donny van de Beek signed for Manchester United in a £40million deal from Dutch giants Ajax

Donny van de Beek signed for in a £40million deal from Dutch giants Ajax

Yet while United have unquestionably improved under Solskjaer's guidance, talk of a title challenge may well be premature this season. Solskjaer definitely knows his best 11 but he doesn't seem to have too much faith in the

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