The 5 clubs hoping to challenge the Premier League’s European places

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Outside of the Premier League‘s big six, only four other sides have finished in the top six in the last decade. There’s a handful hoping to challenge it this season.

Leicester did it last season, eventually finishing fifth after spending much of the campaign in the top four. They’ve since lost Ben Chilwell and made no significant signings but Brendan Rodgers will still be judged upon keeping the Foxes in the European mix in 2020/21.

Just outside the top six were Wolves, who finished level on points with Tottenham. Nuno Espirito Santo will have the same target as Carlo Ancelotti at Everton and Rodgers at Leicester in attempting to upset the big six.

Meanwhile, Sheffield United were occupying the European places for long periods last season, but ultimately tailed off post-lockdown and ended up finishing on the same points as Burnley.

The team who finished most strongly was Southampton, who stuck with Ralph Hassenhutl and reaped the rewards of a patient approach.

We spoke to fans of these five clubs who will all have the same hopes for the season ahead. Will any of them crash the top six party?

EVERTON

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Monday, July 20, 2020: Everton's Richarlison de Andrade (3rd from L) celebrates scoring the only goal of the game during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Everton FC at Bramall Lane. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

FAN: Matt Jones – @MattJFootball

Where do you think Everton will finish?

About eighth. Over the course of a campaign, Carlo Ancelotti’s managerial acumen should be enough to drag this ramshackle squad into the top half. If they add a couple of high-quality signings, then they might be able to push for a European spot.

Advice for visiting supporters to your stadium…

Drink on Dale Street – Rigby’s and the Ship & Mitre – in town, then get a taxi up to the ground. Otherwise, enjoy it while it’s still here!

Goodison Park isn’t perfect, but it feels like one of the few authentic football venues left in the country. Who knows what Bramley Moore will be like!

Anything new at your club?

We’ve got some lovely new kits from Hummel. Ancelotti has also continued his lockdown glow-up; the man looks the business at the moment, despite the stresses of being in charge of the Toffees.

There are no new players as of yet, although Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez should improve a midfield that was wafer-thin last term.


WOLVES

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 12, 2020: Wolverhampton Wanderers form a pre-match huddle before the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Everton FC at Molineux Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

FAN: The Wolves 77 Club – @77ClubPodcast

Where do you think Wolves will finish?

It has been an underwhelming transfer window. Selling Matt Doherty to Tottenham for the bargain price of £16 million sent ‘Wolves Twitter’ into meltdown.

Only Ben Chilwell could boast better stats in that position in the Premier League last season – it’s a steal for Jose Mourinho and he knows it.

It actually means Wolves don’t have any first-team regular wing-backs available after Doherty’s move and Jonny doing his ACL in the Europa League.

If some big signings are made – and they need to be big first-team additions – I think we will be OK.

A seventh-place finish is the minimum now after back-to-back seasons in that position. But ever the optimist, I will say a comfortable ninth… and a League Cup win.

Advice for visiting supporters:.

It’s all change, for obvious reasons, but if we are allowed into stadiums anytime soon, take your social bubbles to Birmingham if you fancy a drink and something to eat pre-match.

Grab the right train from Grand Central to Wolverhampton, and you will be outside Molineux in 35 minutes (the direct one from Birmingham to takes 20 minutes, but has to be the non-stop one).

Anything new at your club?

The days of ‘spare tickets’ look to be over in the post-Covid world – photo IDs are going to be introduced for the first time – so if it’s not your ticket, you won’t get in!

I, for one, am in favour of this. It stops people cashing in on their season tickets and cherry-picking the ‘bigger games’ on the premise they will never need to worry about getting one.

On the other side, it is a shame that some tickets will go to waste if people can’t go. But like I say, it is the right move overall, in my opinion.


LEICESTER

FAN: For Fox Sake Podcast – @FFSPod)

Where do you think Leicester will finish?

I believe Leicester will finish around eighth. With the increased regularity of games through being in Europe, the squad does look quite stretched currently.

It could well be that cups are prioritised over the league at certain points.

Advice for fans visiting our stadium?

Visit the Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Memorial Garden – as you approach the King Power away end it is at the end of the stand to your left.

Also if you are travelling by train you can walk past Welford Road Stadium, home of the Leicester Tigers.

There are plenty of bars on the 20-minute walk, too.

Anything new at your club?

It is a big year for Leicester. European competition doesn’t come around too often and won’t be taken lightly by the team or the fans.

A £100 million training ground will open in the first few months of the season and there are major plans to redevelop the King Power Stadium and the surrounding area, too.

Leicester City Women are now completely under the same banner, which is something I personally have been championing for a few years.

Meanwhile, a new maroon third kit has generally gone down well with fans, but I think it is spectacularly dreadful.


SHEFF UTD

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Monday, July 20, 2020: Sheffield United players line-up before the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Everton FC at Bramall Lane. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

FAN: Danny Hall – @dannyhall04

Where do you think Sheffield United will finish?

I’d snatch your hand off now for another top-10 finish and will repeat my prediction of last season, which was mid-table.

Advice for visiting supporters:

If you like your real ale, you’re in luck in Sheffield. Make a weekend of it and make sure to visit the Kelham Island region. And please, don’t refer to United as just ‘Sheffield’.

Anything new at your club?

Not particularly. Transfer activity has been fairly slow at the time of writing, with two weeks before the season starts, but Chris Wilder expects that to crank up soon.

There will be a new face in goal for the first time in a while, after Dean Henderson returned to Man United. Aaron Ramsdale has big gloves to fill, but has all the ability to make a good fist of it. Pardon the pun…


SOUTHAMPTON

Danny Ings of Southampton celebrates after scoring their first goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Southampton at St. James's Park, Newcastle on Sunday 8th December 2019. (Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto)

FAN: Richard Brereton – @RichardBrer

Where do you think Southampton team will finish?

Our form after the restart was the third-best in the league and there were signs that we have finally started to sort out our woeful home record. The shortened pre-season should work in our favour, allowing us to maintain our form from the end of last season.

Securing Kyle Walker-Peters on a permanent deal plus the acquisition of Mohammed Salisu should massively improve our defence and give us the platform to push for European qualification this season. I think we will finish eighth this season.

Advice for visiting supporters to your stadium…

Resist the temptation to drive. The parking situation near the stadium is fairly dire. Southampton Central train station is about a 20-minute walk from St Mary’s and there are lots of pubs on the way.

Anything new at your club?

We have taken a break from our traditional red and white vertical striped kit this season and gone for a red kit with a white sash.

Our slightly dubious Chinese sponsor – it’s unsure whether they ever truly existed – has reportedly gone bust, leading us to hastily replace it with a betting company, which has proved controversial. This all happened after some fans had bought the new shirt with the old sponsor’s logo on it!


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