Having followed football for my entire life, I am struggling to remember a season that has been as eagerly as anticipated as this upcoming one. The return of the special one, new leaders of each of the Manchester clubs, players coming in from all over the world eager to stamp their talents on the best league in Europe, and 3 promoted teams who all have shocks and survival firmly fixed on their minds. With the football league and Scottish league returning on Saturday, that should wet the appetite for 2 weeks until the big time league returns and therefore here are my predictions for the upcoming Barclays Premier League.
Champions: Chelsea. The title race this year could be the closest in recent years with Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City all under new stewardship which is sure to make every game as crucial as the last. For me though, the return of Jose Mourinho should be enough to ensure that the Premier League trophy returns to London after an extended stay in Manchester. What with the inform Romelu Lukaku leading the line and the attacking options that Mourinho has at his disposal then I feel that they will be more than adequate to see off the challenge of City and United.
Top 4: Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal (in that order). The hardest decision about this topic was whether City or United would finish as runners up to Chelsea. I feel that City will just pip United to second due to the fact that they have recruited wisely so far in the transfer window. However, if United go on to sign Fabregas and another one or two quality players then this will all change, but at the present moment I feel that City will be stronger. I also feel that Liverpool and Tottenham will push Arsenal all the way for that elusive fourth spot.
Relegation: Crystal Palace, Hull and Cardiff. For me the three promoted teams this season are three of the weakest that have been promoted in recent seasons. All three of the promoted teams haven’t really strenghted their sides as I type, although Cardiff are on the verge of one or two decent signings if they can be pulled off. However as we enter a new season I fear that these three teams could find themselves struggling for much of the season and if they are going to survive then they need to ensure that they make each of their home grounds one hell of a fortress. I also feel that teams such as Fulham, Stoke and Newcastle could be right down there struggling too but they should have enough about them to make a good fist of it.
Villa’s Position: After a whirlwind season last time out which saw us flirt with relegation right up until the very last game, the optimism around Villa Park is very much gathering pace and many feel this could be the season in which we try and establish ourselves as a force once more. The signings we have made have been impressive and perhaps more impressive is the players who have signed new contracts and a particular Belgian beast in particular. For me, I predict Villa to finish an impressive 10th.
Signing of the summer (so far): Their is always a player who is braded the signing of the summer as he normally does things to aid his team that most other teams would love to have a player of their own to do. So far this summer there have been many players who have arrived, players that could have a big impact on the league this season. Wilfried Bony chose to sign for Swansea with a lot of teams sniffing around him and he comes with a tag of being one of the best young strikers in Europe, many Villa fans had touted him as a replacement for Benteke had he left. At the age of 24 he is at an age to push on in his Career and at Swansea he has a very good chance of doing that. At £12million it is a hefty price tag but one that I’m sure many football fans will feel he can live up to and justify the faith shown in him by Michael Laudrup.
Player to watch this season: Many players had impressive seasons during the 2012/2013 campaign and showed promise that has attracted interest from some of the best and most prestigious teams across the globe. However during the second half of the season there was a player who caught not just my eye but the eye of many football fan, journalist, pundit, everyone connected with football. Philippe Coutinho lit up the premier league from January onwards and has carried on that form well in to pre season terrorizing defences across the globe with his pace and trickery. Strangely enough he is a player that Villa had a chance of signing once but foolishly enough we pulled out of a deal much to Liverpool’s advantage now, and he is sure to continue in the same vein of form next season which will benefit Liverpool in any challenge that they take on.
Overall, I hope for a much improved campaign from Villa’s point of view and firmly expect us to be a much more formidable force home and away then we were at some stages last season. The younger players who were thrown in to the deep end last season will have had a year of experience under their belts now and they themselves can begin to stamp their authority on games at places many would fear to step foot. A top 10 finish is not out of our reach and another good run in either one of the cups would be another welcome bonus. Whatever happens though I have full confidence that we will not be in another relegation battle and who knows what could happen with a bit of luck for once.