Having lost the Champions League Final on penalties and been pipped to the Premiership title by just two points, Chelsea were the ultimate bridesmaid last season.After a summer to lick their wounds, the Blues will come back stronger in 08/09.
With Luiz Felipe Scolari now at the helm and having Link Judi Online24Jam captured Deco and Jose Bosingwa this summer, Chelsea have what it takes to beat United to the league title this time around.
The Stamford Bridge club have achieved a massive victory in maintaining Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, even if its only for another year. Time in which to win a league title.
2 -Manchester United
United are likely to be without Ronaldo for August and September, meaning their star winger will miss trips to Liverpool (13 Sept) and Chelsea (21 Sept). Two games that could well be make or break to United’s season.
Even when he’s not playing, the Portuguese star is bound to be the key topic of conversation. Can he possibly deliver as greatly as he did last campaign? Will he still have the desire to achieve with United, having seen his dream move to Madrid deteriorate?
Following last season’s Champions League and Premiership double success, Fergie’s men start the new campaign firm favourites to win the league again. But Chelsea have what it takes to win the crucial head-to-head clashes between the two heavyweights this time around, meaning United will have to settle for a close second place finish.
3 – Liverpool
The pressure will be on for Rafa Benitez to see his Liverpool side close the gap on the top two this season having finished eleven points behind United and nine points off Chelsea in 07/08.
The signing of Robbie Keane will prove crucial in running both clubs closer in the title chase and possibly breaking the top two stranglehold before long.
United and Chelsea still boast stronger line-ups and strength in depth and for that reason , Liverpool will have to make to with third spot this season with the promise of better to come.
Success in the Champions League or domestic cups is a strong possibility.
4 – Arsenal
Having lost Thierry Henry last summer, many foresaw the wheels coming off the Arsenal wagon. With Arsene Wenger at the helm though, those people should have thought twice.
On song, Arsenal still play the most attractive, free-flowing football in the division. But that’s not to say the Gunners always personify the beautiful game. Cesc Fabregas had a massive downturn in form at the back end of last campaign and William Gallas’ displays of petulance brought widespread condemnation.
Samir Nasri should prove a more than adequate replacement for the overrated Aleksandr Hleb, while Aaron Ramsey is a great buy for the future.
Had Arsenal the funds to compete in the transfer market with Chelsea and United, then one wonders what team Arsene Wenger would be capable of putting together. That’s for the Emirates dreamers to speculate, as they finish off the title charge again this season.
5 – Tottenham
Having been strongly tipped to break into the top four last season, Tottenham flattered to deceive with a mid-table finish.
But with Juande Ramos in charge for his first full season at White Hart Lane, such disappointment won’t be repeated. Boasting players such as Heurelho Gomes, Jonathan Woodgate, Ledley King, David Bentley, Luka Modric and Giovani dos Santos, Spurs have the strongest squad outside the top four.
While Robbie Keane (and possibly Dimitar Berbatov’s) departure from N17 was a big blow for Spurs, they have personal elsewhere on the pitch to compensate for this.
6 – Portsmouth
In Defoe and Crouch, Portsmouth have the best strike force outside of the top four. Having won the FA Cup last season, the pair can fire Pompey to becoming a member of the top six in English football.
Due to lack of strength in depth at Fratton Park, Harry Redknapp may find it difficult to juggle his players to fulfil the commitments of playing European football and competing in the league. Priority is therefore likely to be given to their domestic campaign.
Home form must be improved upon last season to make a top six finish a reality.
7 – Aston Villa
Having been plagued with the Gareth Barry, will he, won the go to Liverpool saga all summer, Aston Villa will just be looking forward to getting on with playing.
The amount of English players in Martin O’Neill’s side is highly pleasing to see and Luke Young, Steven Sidwell and Nicky Shorey should complement their squad well.
Ashley Young was one of the league’s best players last season and Gabriel Agbonlahor has the ability to net more goals than he did last campaign.
Like Portsmouth, Villa are very much a club going in the right direction.
8 – Blackburn Rovers
The loss of David Bentley to Tottenham will prove highly significant, given the supply he provided the likes of Roque Santa Cruz and Benni McCarthy last season.
Paul Ince has everything to prove as a manager and his signings of Robbie Fowler and Carlos Villanueva don’t look particularly wise moves on paper. That said, Paul Robinson could prove a highly shrewd investment if he can recover his form and confidence.
With goals harder to come by at Ewood Park this season, Blackburn will yet again miss out on UEFA Cup qualification.
9 – Everton
With the departure of Andy Johnson and the lack of transfer activity in the summer, the Toffees are set to lose their grip on the Premiership’s top six this campaign.
While there is quality across the pitch in the likes of Yobo, Lescott, Arteta, Neville and Cahill, the lack of a recognised front pairing will be their undoing this campaign.
Yakubu will need to improve his hall of 13 league goals from last season, while David Moyes will need to identify a new striking partner.
10 – Fulham
The west Londoners have been busy in this summer’s transfer window and have the players capable of becoming this season’s surprise success story.
Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora should form a prolific partnership upfront, boosted by the supply of Zoltan Gera, Simon Davies, Danny Murphy and Jimmy Bullard.
Defensively they don’t look so impressive but it was attacking endeavour that brought Fulham so much success in the second part of the last campaign.
Craven Cottage will be an enjoyable place watch high scoring, end-to-end football this season.
11 – Manchester City
Poor old Sven Goran Eriksson was sacked after leading City to ninth in the Premiership – an improvement of five places on the previous season. What more can a manage do to please his chairman?
Mark Hughes is an excellent manager, but with the controversial former Thai Prime Minister and club owner Thaksin Shinawatra increasingly medalling in team affairs, his position could become compromised. Recent media speculation has suggested Hughes already feels unsettled by communication difficulties between him and his board.
Jo is capable of scoring 20 Premiership goals in his first season and in Micah Richards, City have one of the best defenders in England. But with lack of harmony behind the scenes, that will translate on to the pitch.
12 – Sunderland
The Mackem’s spent £40m last season to ensure Premiership survival. Having finished three points and three places above the dreaded drop zone, it proved to be money well spent.
Roy Keane has had another busy summer wheeling and dealing to help his side continue their progress this season. Steed Malbranque and Teemu Tainio will greatly improve Sunderland’s midfield, while El-Hadji Diouf increases their goal scoring potential. Pascal Chimbonda also brings a wealth of experience, if a not slightly questionable attitude, to the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland are a way from becoming a top ten side, but a significant improvement on last season’s league position awaits this campaign.
13 – Newcastle United
Like any great soap opera, Newcastle United are never more than a couple of weeks away from chaotic storyline.
The Magpies uncanny ability to shoot themselves in the foot was evident throughout last season with only relegated sides Reading and Derby conceding more goals than them. Fabricio Coloccini has been brought in to try and shore things up at the back. Whether he can make a significant difference to the goals against tally remains to be seen. But at least he’s better than the hapless Claudio Cacapa.
Damien Duff, Nicky Butt and Alan Smith are just some of the big name underachievers in Newcastle’s squad. The biggest questions are, can Kevin Keegan get the out of his players? And will the boss stick around if the going gets tough?
14 – West Ham United
Expectation always exceeds reality at Upton Park and this season will prove to be no different.
Having finished tenth with injury ravished squad last campaign, West Ham fans probably expect a challenge for a UEFA Cup spot with a fully fit side. But even with a full strength squad to select from, there are so many better equipped teams than West Ham.
While the likes of Tottenham, Manchester City, Portsmouth and Fulham have seriously invested in their squads this summer, the Hammers have spent modestly.
Behrami looked decidedly average at Euro 2008, Jan Lastuvka failed to impress on loan with Fulham, while Balint Bajner and Orn Eyjolfsson have never played in a top league.
A tough campaign awaits for Alan Curbishley, who is already the bookies favourite to be the first managerial casualty of the season.
15 – Wigan Athletic
Small crowds and average players make Wigan one of the most unfashionable clubs in the Premiership. But going into their forth season in the top flight, nobody at the JJB Stadium is particularly concerned about their image.
Steve Bruce has made some good signings during the summer, with Oliver Kapo capable of bring flair to a midfielder of tough tacklers. £3.5m youngster Lee Cattermole also represents value for money.
Marlon King and Emile Heskey give Wigan a cutting edge upfront that the new boys along with Bolton and Middlesbrough lack. For that reason alone they should be safe come April.
16 – Bolton Wanderers
Top ten finishes and forays into Europe seem a distant memory for Bolton post Sam Allardyce. Nowadays it’s all about survival.
Cult heroes El-Hadji Diouf and Ivan Campo left the Reebok during the summer and their replacements look suspiciously second rate. £10m striker Johan Elmander failed to score, or make any sort of impact for Sweden in Euro 2008, while Mustapha Riga was part of a Levante team relegated from La Liga last season.
Matthew Taylor, Kevin Nolan and Kevin Davies have enough ability to ensure Bolton survival. But the rot has well and truly set in at the Reebok for a Wanderers team a shadow of it’s former self.
17 – Middlesbrough
The Teesiders have enjoyed mid-table security under the management of Gareth Southgate, with twelfth and thirteenth finishes respectively in the last two years. But having failed to significantly improve on last season’s squad, Middlesbrough could be surprise relegation candidates this time around.
From back to front, Boro lack inspiration and quality. Keepers Ross Turnbull and Brad Jones lack the presence to install confidence in their back four, the midfield bar Stuart Downing is bland and unimaginative.
Jeremie Aliadiere has managed just 5 goals in 29 games for Middlesbrough while strike partner Mido spent the most of last season injured, overweight or out of form.
Goals and entertainment are set to be at a premium at the Riverside as Boro battle for their Premiership lives in 08/09.
18 – West Bromwich Albion
Despite the difficulties experienced by newly promoted teams in the Premiership, it’s not since 1998 that all three new teams have been relegated together after one season.
Unfortunately the class of 08/09 are just about to find out how big the gap between the top and second tier of English football is.
West Brom’s have a decent spine of goalkeeper Scott Carson, defender Paul Robinson, midfielder Jonathan Greening and forward Ishmael Miller. But while they looked impressive in the Championship, the Premiership is a completely different kettle of fish.
As the Albion fans that chant ‘Boing Boing Baggies’ know, what goes up, must come down. Sadly their yo-yo act of recent years will continue this season.
19 – Stoke City
Last season’s new boys Sunderland spent £40m on new players to finish just three points and three places above the drop zone, proving just how big the gap between the Championship and Premiership is.
Having invested just £8.5m in their squad this summer, Stoke’s chances of survival are minimal. Forward Dave Kitson is a shrewd purchase from Reading and in ex-Manchester United winger Liam Lawrence, Stoke have a decent midfield supplier. But other than that, the squad has Championship side written all over it.
The passion of the Potteries crowd coupled with Tony Pulis’ long ball tactics could pose problems for early visitors to the Britannia Stadium. Alas, Stoke will have peaked by the end of September and be long gone by May 2009.
20 – Hull City
Derby County were relegated from the Premiership last season with a record low points total of 11. Bookmakers are now offering short odds on Hull taking the Rams’ unwanted record in 08/09.
Hull’s squad consists of Premiership veterans and misfits sprinkled with a few talented youngsters. Doubtful that this mix will cut it in a league full of multi-million international superstars.
Phil Brown failure to sign Manchester United’s striker Fraizer Campbell, who was on loan at the KC Stadium last season, doesn’t bode well for the new campaign. Neither does a 4-0 pre-season defeat at Crewe.