'It's ominous' – Gary Neville identifies early Premier League title favourite

Gary Neville believes Chelsea will be ‘very difficult to stop’ in the Premier League title race this season and was hugely impressed by their performance against Aston Villa on Saturday.

The Champions League holders only made one permanent transfer this season, bringing in Romelu Lukaku in a £97.5million deal, though they did also add Saul Niguez on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid.

Having offloaded a host of players for sizeable fees, Chelsea only had a small net spend while Manchester City smashed the British transfer record to sign Jack Grealish and United brought in Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho.

But, despite a slightly quieter summer than their rivals, Neville still feels Chelsea could be the team to beat this season and says their ruthless, relentlessly methodical performances could take some stopping this season.

‘It was interesting because I’d expect Manchester United to beat Newcastle the way in which they did – with or without Ronaldo,’ said the United legend on The Gary Neville Podcast.

‘But then I went home from Salford to watch the Chelsea-Villa game and Villa played well, and Villa are a decent side, but Chelsea again, just like robotic, methodical.

‘When they scored that first goal, Lukaku, I just thought, “Ooh, it’s ominous”. The striker scoring, guaranteed, the players in behind him, a good midfield. They’re going to be very difficult to stop.

‘The talk will all be about Manchester – Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United – but Chelsea I think everyone knows they’re serious.

‘We’ve watched them now two or three times this season, I watched them against Liverpool at Anfield and it was a real performance.

‘They’re just a good team. Good at Arsenal, they’ve got Tottenham next week away from home, that will be interesting.’

Also bringing Liverpool into the title equation, Neville added: ‘A brilliant Premier League and I’m looking forward to what’s going to come in the next few months. We just have to let it develop.

‘Obviously everyone is looking to predict the champions earlier – Manchester United? Chelsea? City? – but Liverpool are really in it. They really are in it.’

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