There’s just two days to go, and excitement has reached fever pitch around England, and this little corner of Mexico City, as the Premier League prepares to launch into a new season. And it could be the most interesting season in years…
Manchester United and Chelsea have had the top two places wrapped up by Christmas for the last few seasons, but there is reason to believe that they will at the very least be pushed a little harder this time. Whilst United have spent big again, they seem to have reinforced positions and their squad rather than made significant improvements to their starting line up. Nani has scored some spectacular goals in pre season – will Ryan Giggs get as many games as he hopes this year? I suspect not.
Chelsea have Malouda added to their books, but they will be hoping for better luck than last year when they repeatedly lost half their top players to injury. Despite United having such a fantastic campaign, they would probably have won the title had they been able to field 11 of their best 16 players on a regular basis.
Manchester Utd win the Charity Shield and secure first blood of the new season
The challengers? Liverpool have spent big, but in pre season have been struggling to score goals again. Torres, Babel and co will have to gel into a unit quickly, and one of their strikers must knock in 20+ goals in the league. If that happens, then the possibility of the title returning to the Anfield trophy room is a genuine one. Watch out for Babel and the lesser spoken of Lucas Leiva. The latter was the star of Brasilian football last year, and whilst he probably won’t have a starting place at the beginning of the season, he may well have cemented himself as a first pick by the end of it. Mascherano has hot competition for his place!
Tottenham have spent big as well, and there is every chance they could break into the Top Four. Bent is key – he’s managed to score plenty of goals for under performing teams. If he can score a few more for a decent team, maybe Spurs could even challenge for an automatic Champions League spot by grabbing 2nd place. But their biggest likely reward will be to finish above Arsenal, who will be something of an unknown entity this year. We know they’ll play the best football, but will the new signings make up for the loss of Henry? They may do. We’ll have to wait and see.
Despite the mass of cash splashed out, the rest are fighting for UEFA spots or to avoid relegation. But there are a couple of teams of interest to look out for. Sven Goran Eriksson has ended his exile, and returned to league football at Machester City. He’s spent plenty of money, albeit on a selection of relatively unknown players. But Eriksson is no mug, and is one of the most successful managers in the Premier League, perhaps second only to Ferguson. They are one to watch.
Martin O’Neill went from Leicester Hero, to Celtic God and then to….well, mid table obscurity with Aston Villa. In fact, since Villa’s last flourish with success in the early 80’s when Peter With scored to win the European Cup for the Midlanders, the words ‘Aston Villa’ and ‘mid table obscurity’ have come to mean much the same thing. O’Neill is better than that. He has been touted for the biggest jobs in football over the last few years – Man Utd and England – and now that he has a ‘Deadly’ Doug Ellis free boardroom and a little more money, he must step up Villas game. Perhaps a vital piece of his jigsaw was secured today, in the season long loan of Liverpool’s England keeper Scott Carson. If he can keep a few extra goals out, Villa could well surprise.
And what about Roy Keane and Sunderland. Yet another of Ferguson’s protoges, tipped to one day take up the Old Trafford hot seat, enters the foray. Kidd, Robson, Quieroz, McLaren have been before him and failed. Can Fergies favourite do better? I doubt it?
So who’s for the top and who’s for the chop? My predictions…
Champions: Chelsea, followed closely by Liverpool and Man Utd. Spurs to wrap up the ECL places.
Demotion: Wigan, Sunderland, Birmingham
First Manager Sacked: Steve Bruce
European Cup : Liverpool
F.A. Cup : Liverpool
League Cup: Spurs