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September 23, 2017

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Five of the most important Premier League questions for 2014-15

LONDON -- The new Premier League season gets underway on Saturday. Here AFP Sports looks at five questions that will emerge as key storylines in the forthcoming campaign:

Can Van Gaal Revive Ailing United?

With the dismal David Moyes era consigned to the history books, United fans are praying Dutch coach Louis van Gaal can quickly revive the fallen giants.

Van Gaal arrives at Old Trafford with a glittering CV, but the former Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Netherlands coach has never faced a challenge of this magnitude.

Not only will he face ferocious competition for a top four finish from Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool, he must also rebuild a squad that grew stale and lethargic under Moyes without the lure of Champions League action to attract top stars.

More Second-season Success for Mourinho?

"Next season will be better," Jose Mourinho claimed after Chelsea finished empty-handed last term and the ever-confident Blues boss has every reason to believe his faith will be rewarded.

Mourinho has a handy knack of winning major trophies in his second season at a club — he lifted the Champions League in year two at Porto and Inter Milan as well as landing the La Liga title in his sophomore campaign with Real Madrid, so few would bet against the Portuguese coach ending his personal run of two years without silverware.

He has invested 80 million pounds to overhaul an underachieving squad and Spain striker Diego Costa and former Arsenal playmaker Cesc Fabregas should both greatly improve the attacking positions that so vexed Mourinho last season.

Can Reds Handle Life without Suarez?

With Luis Suarez sold to Barcelona after his latest moment of madness at the World Cup, Liverpool could be forgiven for feeling a little trepidation about the new season.

Suarez's 31 league goals carried the Reds agonizingly close to the title before they fell just short. But even when Liverpool surged through an 11-match winning run over the closing week, boss Brendan Rodgers was aware his squad lacked strength in depth and needed a world-class centre-back to set the tone in a defense that leaked 51 league goals.

So, bolstered by the Suarez fee, Rodgers embarked on the biggest pre-season spending spree in Anfield history, with around 90 million pounds splashed out to secure the services of Rickie Lambert, Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi and Javier Manquillo. Those new recruits must make an immediate impact to ensure a smooth start to the post-Suarez era.

City Slickers Ready to Defend title?

Manuel Pellegrini's first season in charge of City went almost perfectly as the Chilean delivered the Premier League title and the League Cup to the club's demanding Abu Dhabi-based owners.

But at a club of City's wealth Pellegrini knows there is no time to rest on his laurels as any drop in standards can lead to the sack — as his predecessor Roberto Mancini found to his cost.

Will Sanchez Live Up to the hype?

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger splashed out 30 million pounds on Chile forward Alexis Sanchez in the hope the former Barcelona star can provide the kind of game-changing brilliance that can turn a team from title pretenders into serious contenders for the English crown.

In the absence of the injured Theo Walcott, the 25-year-old is likely to start on the right wing, where he has been deployed for much of his career, but Wenger believes he can also be a major threat as a striker.

Either way, Sanchez needs to get off to the kind of fast start that eluded Arsenal's club record signing Mesut Ozil last term.

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