Some people would argue that it’s never been away, but, for English Premier League aficionados, June and July dragged on interminably as we counted down the days until the resumption of the most entertaining league in the world.
The new campaign kicks off on Saturday August 17, but the big question is, can Manchester United possibly retain their title now that Sir Alex Ferguson has called time on his stellar managerial career after 27 years in the Old Trafford dug-out?
His successor, David Moyes, will consider anything less than the Premier League title to be a failure, but can a manager who’s won no major silverware handle the pressure and weight of expectation that comes with managing arguably the biggest club side in the world?
Manchester City will surely contend under new boss Manuel Pellegrini, and Arsenal are being tipped in some quarters now that manager Arsene Wenger has loosened the purse strings, but EX magazine’s tip for glory this season has to be Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho has returned as boss after a six-year odyssey in Europe that has seen him clinch an historic treble at Inter Milan, and pip Barcelona to the 2011-12 La Liga championship.
During his first stint in charge of the Blues between 2004 and 2007, Mourinho guided the club to a brace of Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups, and only a fool would back against him repeating that level of success, such is the talent at his disposal at Stamford Bridge.
Elsewhere, Liverpool and Spurs will be in the mix for top four places, and down at the bottom, Crystal Palace, Hull City and Norwich City look particularly vulnerable to the relegation trap door.
PREMIER LEAGUE WINNERS:
Norwich City, Hull City, Crystal Palace
FA CUP WINNERS:
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINNERS:
Whatever happens, it’s going to be one hell of a ride. Now check out the best places to watch all the football matches here…