Manchester City. Up to six or seven teams have been mentioned in terms of the Premier League title race, but ultimately it will boil down to two or three teams. Manchester City and Chelsea have the strongest squads, followed closely by an intriguing Arsenal side. The champions have retained all their best players and have added a couple more to add some steal to their spine. Most importantly, Pellegrini and his staff have a year of experience under their belts and the Citizens will have learned that they cannot play with two strikers in every game in the Premier League. Fernando and Frank Lampard give them more depth and experience, allowing them to play three in the centre more often. Much hinges on Yaya Toure; his commitment can be lacking at times, but if he has put his issues behind him, City will be formidable. Like the Citizens, much depends on one player for Chelsea: Diego Costa. His goals are needed by a team that struggled to score last season. The other strikers are past it, so any injury or a lack of form could mean curtains for Chelsea. In the end, it will be City by a hair.
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Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. City and Chelsea look to be certainties to qualify for the Champions League. Same could be said for Arsenal, who are not far behind. The attacking talent in their side will be a delight to watch, but they are missing a dominant player in midfield that they’ve lacked since Patrick Vieira. Mikel Arteta is not a holding midfielder, and their midfield was overrun in the big games, resulting in a few huge losses. Arsene Wenger has yet to address this in the transfer window, and by making Arteta captain it would appear that he will continue to play in that position. Fourth should come down to Liverpool and Manchester United. There are questions about both sides coming into the season. Brendan Rodgers has lost his best player and has bought a lot of players this summer. It remains to be seen whether he has bought quality or just quantity – similar to Spurs last summer. Louis van Gaal has raised expectations to astronomical levels, but his squad is worse than David Moyes’s side last season. The rest of the transfer window is crucial and if there aren’t significant improvements, Van Gaal will have to pull off something special for United to return to the Champions League.
Manchester United. The strength in depth of the top teams in the Premier League makes it difficult to suggest a surprise package in the FA Cup. Arsenal’s victory in May showed the importance of the trophy, and all the top teams will be gunning for some silverware this season. Van Gaal has experienced success in his first season at his previous clubs and he understands the importance of the return to winning ways for his team and the fans. With no Champions League, the Dutchman will be all-out for the FA Cup, especially if they fall away in the Premiership.
Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker. Harry Redknapp made a couple of shrewd moves in bringing in two established Premier League centre-halves into his squad for a combined £8m. Rio Ferdinand appears motivated to play and his experience could prove to be an essential addition to the promoted side. His partnership with Caulker will be crucial in their bid for survival and gives them both quality and Premier-League tested quality that the other teams around them will be lacking.
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