The Blues are the inevitable fron-trunners for the Premier League title given the return of José Mourinho and the shrewd bit of business done in the transfer window. At these early stages, there does appear to be calm at Stamford Bridge, with the astute signature of Andre Schurrle has adding to that. Oddly, Chelsea are perhaps one of the most stable sides in the league, and with two new managers at the helm in Manchester, the Blues are capable of producing consistent performances. With an ageing squad, it was imperative for the Europa League winners to find the right mixture of both youth and experience needed to really challenge for the title. With the addition of a prolific striker, as doubts remain over Fernando Torres’ form, Chelsea could emerge as the league winners come next May.
The top three is a foregone conclusion but that all important fourth spot is well and truly up for grabs. Depending on how the transfer window pans out, specifically with the movements of Gareth Bale and Luis Suárez, it could be a three-way battle between Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool. Going on the squads right now, Spurs are the favourites for that ever allusive top four place. However, that hinges on their ability to keep hold of their Welsh wizard Bale. The thinking for this comes in the signings brought in by André Villas-Boas over the summer. Soldado in particular is a massive addition. The Spanish front man is a prolific goalscorer and if Bale is to stay at White Hart Lane, the pair would for the perfect platform for a Champions League ascent.
Predicting the relegation scrap is always a difficult one and this year is no different. It is always tough for any newcomer coming into the top flight and that is compounded by a relative lack of new signings for both Hull City and Crystal Palace. Stoke under the management of Mark Hughes are going to struggle immensely. Hughes isn’t exactly renowned for performing well at teams with a restricted transfer budget. City were lingering dangerously above the drop zone last season and with only three signings brought in this summer, Hughes has been unable to stamp his authority on the squad. They will certainly be there or there about come the end of the season.
The FA Cup is difficult to predict but Manchester United are arguably the favourites. David Moyes will be looking to secure his first piece of silverware this season, and with the transitional period his side will be in, they will find it tough in Europe and in the league. Moyes knows all too well what it takes to reach the final during his time with Everton, and with a much stronger squad in front of him now, he could well go all the way. Securing the FA Cup could be the Scot’s one saving grace.
Chris Hughton has made some outstanding additions to his side during the transfer window. With Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper spearheading the attack, Hughton is set to ditch the defensive approach taken last season and embrace an attacking brand of football. Their sturdy defence is what kept them afloat last season as only Queens Park Rangers and Stoke registered less goals. Now with the three additions of Hooper, Van Wolfswinkel and Nathan Redmond, Hughton’s men have plenty of firepower in the forwards department. With Grant Holt departing to Wigan this summer, the Canaries will be looking to move away from their traditionally direct approach. The two new strikers bring with them plenty of mobility and with the pace and delivery of Redmond, Norwich could find themselves battling for a top eight place.
Kinnear is certain to be the biggest flop of the season. The new director of football has sent shock waves throughout St James’ Park since arrival in June. He spent an eventful year in charge on Tyneside in 2008 in which he had a foul-mouthed spat with a number of journalists and repeatedly criticised the squad’s lack of strength and depth. He was forced to leave his role after falling ill but has since returned. Despite his new role, the club have only signed Loic Remy on loan and a 16-year-old….
The Spanish forward has impressed during pre-season and Brendan Rodgers was able to prize this potential diamond away from La Liga side Celta Vigo for a mere £7.5m. Perhaps not as gifted in the technical department as Brazilian Philippe Coutinho, Aspas is able to make up for that with his constant movement and twisting and turning in the penalty box. Remind you of anyone? The 26-year-old provides a consistent platform for the frontmen to work of and he is a potent finisher in front of goal. Look for Aspas to elevate the Reds attacking threat this season.
Seeing the new Spanish stars in action
This year has seen another influx of talent from Spain with the likes of Álvaro Negredo, Jesús Navas, Gerard Deulofeu, Aspas and Luis Alberto making the move to England. The Spanish national side, across all age groups, are thriving with a glut of talent in the national pool available. It will be intriguing to see how they fare in the Premier League and Deulofeu’s loan spell at Everton will be a fascinating prospect.
Not a resounding yes but they will just scrape through. With two home games against leaders Montenegro and Poland ,it would be a farce if Roy Hodgson’s men failed to qualify for Brazil next year. A worrying aspect for England will be their struggles up front but with the imminent return of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge that shouldn’t be too much cause for concern.