Liverpool Preview

Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Stadium: Anfield
Captain: Jordan Henderson
Top Scorer: Steven Gerrard (13)

Liverpool will be disappointed with their campaign last season after a slow start they were given life after Christmas by none other than their captain and hero Gerrard. A crazy finish saw the Anfield club finish 6th a finish that surprised many including Rodgers who will have been surprised considering his team was lacking in goals.

Liverpool had a dream a dream to send Steven Gerrard off with that 1 trophy missing from his personal trophy cabinet laden with honours including captaining England and a Champions League. Alas it was not to be for the Reds. The run of 3 straight defeats in November to Newcastle, Chelsea and Crystal Palace highlighted the difficult opening few months for the club. This saw them only net 2 goals and concede 6. The lowest point came in the grudge match at Old Trafford as their nemesis won 3-0.

Steven Gerrard walking out for his final game at Anfield.

Steven Gerrard walking out for his final game at Anfield.

This was followed by an outstanding run from 21st December until 16th March as Liverpool failed to lose a game and managed some tough away wins against Swansea and Southampton both of whom were strong at their respective homes last season. But this run was ended by Manchester United who did the double with a 2-1 win at Anfield in March stalling the progress made by Liverpool in the preceding months of wins and draws. A stuttering end to the season saw many Liverpool fans experience a case of deja vu as Crystal Palace took a 3-1 win before Stoke bullied Liverpool into submission by beating Gerrard in his last Premier League game 6-1 at the Brittania Stadium.

The elephant in the Liverpool dressing room will be can anybody step up and replace Gerrard. The candidate that many have cited is of course Jordan Henderson, but it’s not the same it never will be as the last giant of Liverpool leaves and heads for Hollywood and the MLS. Henderson will obviously have a large part to play in the coming months and seasons should he stay at Anfield unlike Raheem Sterling. There is also big things expected of Sturridge who has an injury plagued season last season which saw him struggle and deprived Liverpool of the goals as Balotelli and Lambert failed to hit the target. If Liverpool are to succeed they will need to improve in front of goal and find that player that can change the game from the middle of the park.

Last season there were few players to choose from that really performed bar Gerrard and Sterling. Lazar Markovic turned up more often than not for the club with some good attacking displays and a varied passing game he was one of the shining lights in Liverpool’s darkest times. Adam Lallana had a fairly good second half of the season with some good displays at times as he finally replicated some of the form he had shown at St Mary’s on the south coast. Phillipe Coutinho also had a sterling run of form as the season and closed and many fans hope he can continue in that vein when the new season kicks off.

Phillipe Coutinho celebrates scoring a goal with Gerrard.

Phillipe Coutinho celebrates scoring a goal with Gerrard.

Liverpool have been busy in the transfer market bringing in 7 players all high profile names whilst offloading 6 players that have played a part in Liverpool’s recent history. Liverpool have decided that they need goals and have brought in 2 new strikers and an attacking midfielder in Ings, Benteke and Firmino all of whom will provide goals. Former Villa hitman Benteke scored managed 15 goals last season, Ings netted 11 goals for Burnley whilst Brazilian Firmino scored 10 goals. Rodgers will be desperate that the new boys can score their goals and win games. He’s also visited his favourite hunting ground Southampton and snapped up Nathaniel Clyne, right back being a problem position for Liverpool Glen Johnson never really made that shirt his own. The England right back could be a really good signing should he perform to his best ability. James Milner and Ádám Bogdán are 2 experienced players to bring in Milner could bring that professionalism and high standard in training that Gerrard offered, that air of confidence and experience that Gerrard exuded. Ádám Bogdán comes in as back-up and adds some experience to the squad.

Nathaniel Clyne in action for England.

Nathaniel Clyne in action for England.

The league’s worst kept secret was that England midfielder Gerrard was thinking of leaving, he left the club to join MLS side LA Galaxy. Another secret was Raheem Sterling wanted to leave and win trophies, his transfer saga went on too long before he finally made the move to Manchester City. Glen Johnson also leaves the club after a difficult couple of seasons at Anfield as his performance level dipped leaving him being dropped by Roy Hodgson for his replacement at Liverpool Clyne.

IN: Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton, £10 million)
Joe Gomez (Charlton Athletic, £3.5 million)
Roberto Firmino (1899 Hoffenheim, £21.3 million)
Christian Benteke (Aston Villa, £32.5 million)
Ádám Bogdán (Bolton Wanderers, Free)
James Milner (Manchester City, Free)
Danny Ings (Burnley, Tribunal)

OUT: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City, £44 million)
Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo, £5 million)
Sebastián Coates (Sunderland, £4 million)
Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy, Released)
Glen Johnson (Stoke City, Released)
Brad Jones (Free Agents, Free)
Javier Manquilo (Atlético Madrid, Loan Cancelled)

Liverpool will be different without Gerrard and will be a completely different prospect with the team. They have also lost their most complete, creative, attacking player Sterling to Premier League rivals. Their squad and recruitment make them a tough team to face this season and they will be confident of being able to fight but they will struggle to compete at the top of the table.

Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring against Leicester.

Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring against Leicester.

My Liverpool XI (4-3-3): 22 S.Mignolet; 2 N.Clyne 37 M.Skrtel 17 M.Sakho 38 J.Flanagan; 20 A.Lallana 14 J.Henderson (C) 10 P.Coutinho; 11 R.Firmino NA C.Benteke 15 D.Sturridge

Bench: 34 Á.Bogdán 6 D.Lovren 18 A.Moreno 4 K.Touré 23 E.Can 50 L.Markovic 28 D.Ings

Last Season: 6th

Prediction: 7th

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Leicester City Preview

Manager: Claudio Ranieri
Stadium: King Power Stadium
Captain: Wes Morgan
Top Scorer: Leonardo Ulloa (13)

Leicester City have played some great football last season only winning 2 games pre-Christmas. The transformation after Christmas was huge and played some wonderful football after Christmas. Leicester have a squad full of stars that if they perform can make a go of qualifying for European football.

A stunning 5-3 win over Manchester United was a wonderful game to watch and and 1 that I will remember for some time to come. Leicester showed some pace and slick movement to beat Van Gaal’s hapless Reds. They also enjoyed impressive wins over Newcastle (3-0) and QPR (5-1) that showed the rest of the league that they can be a very clinical side they managed to net 46 times over the course of the season although they conceded 55 goals in the process as well but the promoted side put in a good season under Nigel Pearson and it is a shame that scandal swept through the club costing the manager his job. However Ranieri is an accomplished professional and could raise Leicester to new heights.

Ranieri has enjoyed spells at a number of top clubs including Chelsea and Inter Milan.

Ranieri has enjoyed spells at a number of top clubs including Chelsea and Inter Milan.

Throughout April and May Leicester only lost 1 game and that was champions Chelsea, they also only conceded 7 goals in that time 3 coming in the 3-1 loss to Chelsea. They finished with a flourish, they would have been hoping the season would never end as they built up a head of steam and started to look the real deal throughout the Spring. They have some very strong players in attack with the likes of Vardy who earned himself an England call-up after a strong season for the Foxes. Jamie Vardy can be a great finisher and proved that on multiple occasions he has plenty of partners such as Nugent, Ulloa, Kramaric and Okazaki all of whom can finish.

Vardy celebrates scoring a goal for Leicester City.

Vardy celebrates scoring a goal for Leicester City.

Leicester have very big boots to fill after Argentine legend Cambiasso announced he will not renew his contract at the King Power Stadium. Esteban Cambiasso was named Player of the Season for Leicester last season and it is unclear who will replace even though Ranieri has said he will sign a replacement. They will hope to build on their return to England’s top tier and look to score like they did last season. They should have no problem avoiding relegation the question is by how much?

Jamie Vardy is a key man for Leicester as is Schmeichel who has been a rock in between the sticks always a key position for clubs looking to avoid going straight back down. The son of the legendary Manchester United keeper Peter is finally stepping out of his father’s shadow as a Leicester City star. He will be key again this season, the goalkeeper will hope he can keep Leicester playing well and hold off the challenge of 42 year old veteran Mark Schwarzer who has played for multiple Premier League clubs.

Robert Huth is a very good signing for the midlands club and his Premier League experience will be invaluable. Huth should be able to play a big part in Leicester kicking on as a Premier League side. The signing of Japanese striker Okazaki has made 93 appearances for his country netting 43 goals and at Mainz he scored 27 goals in 65 games. A very good finisher and sure to add some more firepower to an already powerful strike force.

Robert Huth in action for his new club.

Robert Huth in action for his new club.sche

Leaving King Power Stadium are some players that weren’t making waves bar Cambiasso who was huge for Leicester City. Knockaert has been at Leicester a while and made 93 appearances for the club scoring 13 goals as he leaves for Standard Liege. Leicester have also have offloaded Chris Wood who spent a lot of time on loan whilst he was at Leicester his move to Leeds sees Leicester lose a promising striker.

IN: Robert Huth (Stoke City, £3 million)
Shinji Okazaki (Mainz 05, £7 million)
Christian Fuchs (Schalke 04, Free)

OUT: Esteban Cambiasso (Free Agents, Free)
Chris Wood (Leeds United, £3 million)
Anthony Knockaert (Standard Liege, Free)
Paul Gallagher (Preston North End, Free)

Leicester City will be a hugely challenging prospect at times over the course of the season. It could be quite a tough challenge to go to King Power Stadium with a team that has big aspirations and a squad full of names that any self-respecting football fan knows add to that a couple of promising youngsters and there you have a team that can go places.

My Leicester City XI (4-4-2): 1 K.Schmeichel; 2 R.De Laet 5 W.Morgan (C) 14 R.Huth 19 C.Fuchs; 7 D.Hammond 10 A.King 8 M.James 11 M.Albrighton; 9 J.Vardy 23 L.Ulloa

Bench: 32 M.Schwarzer 17 D.Simpson 3 P.Konchesky 18 L.Moore 4 D.Drinkwater 20 S.Okazaki 35 D.Nugent

Last Season: 14th
Prediction: 14th

Everton Preview

Manager: Roberto Martinez
Stadium: Goodison Park
Captain: Phil Jagielka
Top Scorer: Romelu Lukaku (20)

Everton have played some good football over the season with the likes of Stones and Barkley stepping up and leading the team to a strong finish. Everton may struggle this season especially if one of the top clubs can prise John Stones away from Goodison Park.

Everton made some important additions prior to the start of last season such as England midfielder Gareth Barry and former Chelsea striker Lukaku is instrumental for the Liverpool based club. Everton finished the calendar year with the second worst defensive record in the league due to a tumultuous campaign with the losses over the Christmas period to Southampton and Newcastle United leaving Martinez and his team mid-table.

Romelu Lukaku scores a goal against West Ham.

Romelu Lukaku scores a goal against West Ham.

Roberto Martinez’ style of play has made his team one of the best teams to watch aside from Manchester City. On the attack Everton have some very special players in the midfield and up front such as England attacking midfielder Barkley and Lukaku so goals were not hard to come by it was the defending that was worrying for the Blues. Everton managed to score a goal in every league match until November when they played Swansea and drew 0-0. However it was in the same month they recorded only their second home win of the season over Londoners West Ham winning 2-1.

Their record in the Europa League was much stronger as they topped the group with a game to spare losing just once to Krasnodar 1-0 in their final group match at Goodison Park. March marked the turnaround for the club was Martinez’ team went on a run of 6 games undefeated with 5 wins including crushing 3-0 wins over Newcastle and Manchester United both at home. The second half of the season was a huge improvement as from December they didn’t suffer home defeat again until May when Sunderland beat them 2-0.

Romelu Lukaku scored 20 goals for the team last season banging in 10 in the league. He was prolific in Europe netting 8 times in 7 starts and 2 appearances off the bench. The Belgian forward has been a deadly finisher for a number of years including his loan spell at Everton in the 2013-14 season. He is only 22 and has already made 37 appearances at international level scoring 8 goals. The prolific finisher has been a hugely big influence on the club justifying his £28 million price tag making him a club record signing.

Everton have not been overly busy in the transfer market signing 3 players only spending just over £4 million bringing in Cleverley on a free. His torrid time at Manchester United has finally come to an end he played at Aston Villa next season and was huge for Tim Sherwood in the final part of the season. The 25 year old could be a success at Everton and Martinez will hope the England international can finally settle after a flurry of loans whilst he was at Old Trafford. They have also brought in Barcelona forward Deulofeu who never really broke into the 1st team at Nou Camp and spent last season with Sevilla, he has only made 2 appearances for his former La Liga club. He spent the 2013-14 season at Goodison Park so he’s no stranger to the Premier League a real bargain at just £4.2 million.

New signing Cleverley in action for Manchester United.

New signing Cleverley in action for Manchester United.

A lot of players being released from duty at Everton to trim their squad to a reasonable size a trend this season among the Premier League clubs. Distin heads to newly promoted Bournemouth after 174 appearances for Everton the 37 year old could be important for the Cherries. Chris Long also leaves the club for Championship outfit Burnley, not surprising considering the acquisition of Deulofeu and with Lukaku and Koné well established in the squad the England under-20 forward has gone in search of pastures new after graduating from the Everton academy. John Stones future hangs in the balance, Everton will be keen to keep hold of him but if he does go, you can be sure it will be for a premium.

IN: Tom Cleverley (Manchester United, Free)
Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona, £4.2 million)
David Henen (Olympiakos, £200,000)

OUT: Sylvain Distin (Bournemouth, Free)
George Green (Oldham Athletic, Free)
Chris Long (Burnley, Undisclosed)
Antolin Alcaraz (Free Agents, Free)
Curtis Langton (Free Agents, Free)
Ben McLaughlin (Free Agents, Free)
John Lundstram (Free Agents, Free)
George Newell (Free Agents, Free)
Arlen Birch (Free Agents, Free)
Charley Edge (Free Agents, Free)

Everton are sure to entertain again this season and although they will hope to push for the top 8 I think it will be tough and if Stones doesn’t leave this summer January will be tough. With little strength in depth Everton could struggle all over the park come April and May when the fatigue sets in. It will be an interesting season up on Merseyside.
My Everton XI (4-2-1-3): 24 T.Howard; 23 S.Coleman 6 P.Jagielka (C) 5 J.Stones 3 L.Baines; 18 G.Barry 16 J.McCarthy; 20 R.Barkley; 19 G.Deulofeu 10 R.Lukaku 11 K.Mirallas

Bench: 1 J.Robles 2 T.Hibbert 27 T.Browning 7 A.McGeady 15 T.Cleverley 9 A.Koné 14 S.Naismith

Last Season: 11th
Predicition: 12th

Should Gatlin be Allowed to Race?

The 100 metres can be one of the most enthralling events in the world of athletics especially with the superstars of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Justin Gatlin all incredible athletes in their own right. Gatlin has clocked the fastest times this year by some way running under 9.8 a number of times.

The question is should the two time doping cheat be allowed to run and compete in the sport’s biggest events such as the Beijing World Championships in August or the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games next summer. The American served his first ban in 2001 after testing positive for amphetamines which he claimed was from medication. The next ban came in 2006 when the sprinter failed a test by USADA as he was taking some sort of testosterone boosting drug.

Justin Gatlin at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Justin Gatlin at the 2012 Olympic Games.

These tests led to bans but Gatlin returned and only three years ago he claimed the bronze medal at the London Olympics. The fact that he has been able to compete at all after his second ban mystifies me. As does the return of Jamaican drug cheat Powell who has been another one of the form runners this season. Then there is former Olympic champion Tyson Gay who received a one year doping ban in 2013 for using a banned steroid.

Asafa Powell only received a 6 month ban for using a banned substance.

Asafa Powell only received a 6 month ban for using a banned substance.

How can it be that these athletes that have cheated can be allowed to race? Especially in the prestigious events such as the Diamond League meets, World Championships or Olympics the pinnacle of athletics.

Justin Gatlin is likely to beat Bolt and Blake to the gold medal in China next month and for the drug taking cheat to win a gold medal in such a big, prestigious event is a horrific damnation of the sport to rise up this cheat as an idol for young aspiring athletes to try to follow.

Justin Gatlin after winning a Diamond League event in Rome.

Justin Gatlin after winning a Diamond League event in Rome.

How sporting brand Nike can still sponsor the American sprinter is sickening. For such a well thought of and popular brand to sponsor the substance abusing liar of an athlete doesn’t sit right with me. How can the other athletes with ‘clean’ records be expected to watch opponents like Gatlin or Powell pick up these plaudits when they have in the past been using banned substances?

I hope that one day athletics governing body the IAAF can show a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on substance abuse and hand lifetime bans to these athletes ruining the competitive spirit and overshadowing the incredible achievements of these truly remarkable athletes.

Crystal Palace Preview

Manager: Alan Pardew
Stadium: Selhurst Park
Captain: Mile Jedinak
Top Scorer: Dwight Gayle (10)

Crystal Palace had a real transformation when former Newcastle boss Pardew joined the club he had enjoyed a successful spell at as a player. He took Crystal Palace from a possible relegation scrap to mid-table safety and with some very talented players I see no reason they can’t secure an even better spot this season and possibly fight for European football.

Jedinak celebrates scoring against Liverpool.

Jedinak celebrates scoring against Liverpool.

Crystal Palace claimed some impressive scalps throughout the season against top sides with wins against Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs all falling foul of the London club. The victories made them confident and that was expressed in the second half of the season and with players like Bolasie, Zaha and Jedinak made chances for the likes of Chamakh and Gayle. Crystal Palace are a force to be reckoned with as the teams found out over the course of the season.

After Pardew took over Crystal Palace won 10 games and lost only 7 in a run that lifted the club into mid-table and away from a relegation scrap which became closer to call as the season progressed. Crystal Palace’s form at Selhurst Park over the course of the season will give the club hope for next season especially with the recruitment Pardew has made over the summer as well as shifting some deadwood in the squad. Their cup runs were also credible only falling to Liverpool in the FA Cup and Newcastle in the League Cup in early stages but to only lose to Premier League opposition should stand them in good stead heading into the cup competitions this coming season.

Given the mentality Crystal Palace built under the stewardship of Pardew they can head into this season proud but eager to progress to the next level in terms of quality and clinical ability. Crystal Palace have proved themselves now and their aim for this season has to be a top 8 finish. The way they finished the season was impressive as they practically switched places with Newcastle as the latter crashed into the relegation battle which was something to admire when watching the London club.

Yannick Bolasie was so strong for Crystal Palace last season his pace down the wings make him very good at beating defenders some of the strongest full backs have their work cut out against him. The winger was instrumental to his team’s attack and worked well in covering in defence. When he fires though not many defenders would fancy their chances. I am surprised the winger has not been approached by the likes of Liverpool who are in the market for a replacement for City attacking midfielder Sterling. Bolasie will have a huge effect on Crystal Palace’s fortune this season.

Yannick Bolasie on the ball against Everton.

Yannick Bolasie on the ball against Everton.

Crystal Palace have seen a reunion over the summer with the recruitment of former Newcastle midfielder Cabaye to Crystal Palace. Cabaye adds some creativity to the Crystal Palace midfield and if the French international plays well then Palace will most likely have a good season. Cabaye is a strong provider and will also add goals with his venomous shot. Yohan Cabaye made 79 appearances for Newcastle and scored 17 goals, he also has made 39 appearances for France and scored 3 goals. Palace have recruited a goalkeeper to add strength to an already strong pool of talent with Speroni and Hennessy already at the club. He is unlikely to make the team with the already talented duo at the club.

Cabaye joining Crystal Palace will see a reunion with former Newcastle boss Alan Pardew.

Cabaye joining Crystal Palace will see a reunion with former Newcastle boss Alan Pardew.

Pardew has done well in recruitment and also in offloading some of the players that were not really adding anything to the squad except for taking up space on the wage bill. Jerome Thomas is leaving in one of the high profile names relative to some of the names on the list as Cabaye comes in another former Newcastle man Shola Ameobi leaves the club on a long list of names that leave the club this summer.

IN: Yohan Cabaye (Paris Saint-Germain, £10 million)
Alex McCarthy (Queens Park Rangers, £3.5 million)

OUT: Shola Ameobi (Free Agent, Free)
Sonny Black (Free Agent, Free)
Michael Chambers (Welling United, Free)
Shawniki Clement-Peter (Free Agent, Free)
Bradley Commins (Free Agent, Free)
Kyle De Silva (Notts County, Free)
Stephen Dobbie (Free Agent, Free)
Mandela Egbo (Borussia Monchengladbach, Undisclosed)
Morgan Ferrier (Free Agent, Free)
Owen Garvan (Free Agent, Free)
Jahmal Howlett-Mundle (Heart of Midlothian, Free)
Elliot List (Gillingham, Released)
Kiye Martin (Free Agent, Free)
Lewis Price (Sheffield Wednesday, Free)
Peter Ramage (Free Agent, Free)
Ghassimu Sow (Free Agent, Free)
Jerome Thomas (Free Agent, Free)

Crystal Palace have a squad capable of winning big games next season and finishing in a strong position couple with that with the addition of a star midfielder and there you have a team that could do something special. They have to aim for an improvement on last season and if they play like we all know they can then that is inevitable.

My Crystal Palace XI (4-2-3-1): 1 J.Speroni; 2 J.Ward 6 S.Dann 27 D.Delaney 34 M.Kelly; 15 M.Jedinak (C) 18 J.McArthur; 7 Y.Bolasie 14 Y.Cabaye 11 W.Zaha; 29 M.Chamakh

Bench: 13 W.Hennessy 5 P.McCarthy 4 B.Hangeland 28 J.Ledley 22 J.Mutch 42 J.Puncheon 9 P.Bamford

Last Season: 10th
Prediction: 8th

Chelsea Preview

Manger: José Mourinho
Stadium: Stamford Bridge
Captain: John Terry
Top Scorer: Diego Costa (21)

Chelsea had a wonderful season last term with the return of the ‘Special One’ to steer Chelsea to a wonderful League Cup and Premier League double. He signed some deadly players last season snapping up the duo of Luis and Costa from the Spanish capital as well as Cuadrado developing this team into one of the most dangerous and coveted in Europe.

Chelsea after winning the Barclays Premier League.

Chelsea after winning the Barclays Premier League.

Chelsea only lost 4 games all season, 3 coming in the Premier League and the final 1 in the FA Cup 4th round. That is an astonishing achievement they went a whole Champions League campaign without losing still to get knocked out by French giant PSG who went through due to the frankly ridiculous away goals rule. Chelsea also only lost away from home with trips to St James’ Park, White Hart Lane and The Hawthorns proving too tricky for the champions. It took them until 6th December to lose their first match as Newcastle beat them 2-1. Chelsea were to beat them just over a month later in the return leg for sweet revenge but not before an excellent solo Harry Kane performance handed Chelsea defeat number 2.

Following the loss to Tottenham they went 16 matches unbeaten including a 5-0 thrashing of Swansea away from home and 1-0 win over Manchester United in impressive fashion. Chelsea were strong in attack and defence ending the season 8 points clear of 2nd placed Manchester City. Having conceded just 32 goals Mourinho could rest assured his team was not just the brilliant Costa, Fabregas combination that seemed unstoppable for the first half of the season leading to Costa’s 21 goals over the course of the season.

Chelsea’s Champions League run was also impressive only conceding 3 goals over the course of the group stage but racked up 17 including a 6-0 hammering of Maribor and a 5-0 thrashing of Schalke which was hugely impressive. Chelsea have just been outstanding in every facet of the game, nobody can quite get close to Chelsea in terms of class and strength in depth as well as the world class names like Hazard, Costa and Cahill they have the youngsters such as Loftus-Cheek and Solanke coming through to join the side that cannot stop winning trophies.

Costa was impressive last season, so was Fabregas, Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill the list goes on but the best player for Chelsea was Eden Hazard. An innovative, magic attacking player. his turn of pace and touch make him one of the most desirable midfielders in the world, he’s young as well at only 24 the Belgian has plenty more time to develop into one of the best players in world football. I’m surprised the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG and Bayern Munich haven’t come knocking for Hazard, if he continue this form into next season nobody will have a chance.

Eden Hazard celebrates a goal against Hull.

Eden Hazard celebrates a goal against Hull.

Chelsea’s title winning season meant they didn’t need to bring in a huge amount of players especially with the youth coming through the ranks at Stamford Bridge. They have signed 4 players with Begovic being the most significant bringing in back up for the fabulous Courtois who has been the standout goalkeeper in the league ahead of De Gea, Hart and anybody else in England. That signing could prove to be hugely important ahead of the new season where depth could be important for Chelsea.

New signing Begovic in action for Stoke.

New signing Begovic in action for Stoke.

Chelsea have lost two veterans in Ivorian striker Drogba and Czech keeper Cech and they were sent off in style by the stylish London club. Czech was sold to rivals Arsenal which probably led to the capture of Begovic from Premier League rivals Stoke. They have also sold young midfielder McEachran to Brentford for a surprisingly low fee for such a talented player who has been crying out to be played more which shouldn’t be a problem at Brentford.

IN: Asmir Begovic (Stoke City, £8 million)
Kenedy (Fluminese, £6.3 million)
Nathan (Atletico Paranaense, £4.5 million)
Danilo Pantic (Partizan, 1.25 million)

OUT: Petr Cech (Arsenal, £10.9 million)
Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach, £5.85 million)
Gael Kakuta (Sevilla, £2.5 million)
Josh McEachran (Brentford, £750,000)
Didier Drogba (Free Agent, Free)
George Brady (Sunderland, Free)

Chelsea have made some worthwhile additions to an already strong squad. Chelsea are dangerous and they are well on course to bag the trophy again for Mourinho and Stamford Bridge. A back to back Premier League winning season would be something special but you’d have to be crazy to bet against it.

My Chelsea XI (4-2-3-1): 13 T.Courtois; 2 B.Ivanovic 24 G.Cahill 26 J.Terry (C) 28 C.Azpilicueta; 21 N.Matic 4 C.Fabregas; 10 E.Hazard 8 Oscar 11 J.Cuadrado; 19 D.Costa

Bench: 1 A.Begovic 3 F.Luis 5 K.Zouma 12 J. Obi Mikel 7 Ramires 36 R.Loftus-Cheek 9 R.Falcao

Last Season: Champions
Prediction: Champions

Bournemouth Preview

Manager: Eddie Howe

Stadium: Dean Court

Captain: Tommy Elphick

Top Scorer: Callum Wilson (23)

Bournemouth were outstanding last season and played a good brand of entertaining, attacking football that was a delight to watch and with finishers like Kermorgant and Wilson in their ranks goals were not hard to come by. Bournemouth continued their meteoric rise from obscurity last season, it being only their second year in English football’s second tier they dispatched of all opposition to take the title at a canter and bring them the season in the Premier League they longed for. A stunning run from 28th February saw them go 13 games unbeaten until the end of the season beating some tough opposition in the process including hammering Fulham 5-1 at Craven Cottage and a 3-0 win over Middlesborough at Dean Court.

Bournemouth celebrate winning the Sky Bet Championship.

Bournemouth celebrate winning the Sky Bet Championship.

The Cherries looked red hot in that final run and racked up 90 points over the course of the season scoring 98 goals in the process making them one of the most deadly teams in the football league. This form is bound to be a lot harder to come by against Premier League opposition but if the likes of Ritchie and Atsu can supply Bournemouth’s forwards with enough ball in front of goal they should score enough goals to keep them away from a relegation scrap. An impressive League Cup run also saw some impressive displays such as the 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion in the 4th round and the 3-0 demolition of Cardiff in the Welsh capital in the 3rd round. Liverpool ended Bournemouth’s cup run but many fans from all over the country will still have been hugely impressed by displays put in before Christmas by Bournemouth. So many players impressed last season none so more than former Swindon midfielder Matt Ritchie. The Scottish international was key to Bournemouth all over the pitch last season scoring goals as well as providing the strikers which is shown with his 15 goals from 46 appearances in the league from Ritchie last season. His impressive form for Bournemouth earn him the international call-up in March of this year to play against Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. If Bournemouth are to stay up Matt Ritchie will have to be at his best come August.

Matt Ritchie celebrates scoring against Derby County.

Matt Ritchie celebrates scoring against Derby County.

As is to be expected from a promoted club Bournemouth have had a busy summer in the transfer market. They have brought in five players whilst offloading eight players over the summer. Bournemouth have also brought in quality players like Boruc, Mings and King all likely to play a large part and considering Howe had to fork out £8 million for defender Mings plus loan out Ryan Fraser to Ipswich for the season he must be expecting to play Mings in some sort of role. Bringing in Boruc and Distin adds Premier League experience to a side distinctly lacking in that area.

Former Ipswich defender Tyrone Mings in action.

Former Ipswich defender Tyrone Mings in action.

They have lost a lot of the ‘deadwood’ from their squad mostly through releasing the players from their contracts the only standout name on the exodus in Pitman who leaves Dean Court to join Ipswich Town. With the recruitment of King and loan deal for Chelsea winger Atsu it looked unlikely that Pitman would play much in the Premier League anyway due to the riches Bournemouth have at their disposal looking to next season.

IN: Artur Boruc (Southampton, Free) Sylvain Distin (Everton, Free) Adam Federici (Reading, Free) Joshua King (Blackburn Rovers, Free) Tyrone Mings (Ipswich Town, £8 million + Ryan Fraser loan deal)

OUT: Brett Pitman (Ipswich Town, Undisclosed) Joe Partington (Eastleigh, Free) Josh McQuoid (Luton Town, Free) Mohamed Colibaly (Racing Santander, Free) Miles Addison (Free Agent, Free) Ian Harte (Free Agent, Free) Darryl Flahavan (Free Agent, Free) Benjamin Büchel (Free Agent, Free) Bournemouth statistically have the best chance of staying up out of the promoted sides and looking at their squad it looks like they will be staying up so long as they play the way they did last year. It’s shaping up to be tough yet enjoyable season for Bournemouth players and fans alike.

My Bournemouth XI (4-4-2) 1 A.Boruc; 15 A.Smith 5 T.Elphick (C) 3 S.Cook 14 T.Mings; 30 M.Ritchie 4 D.Gosling 8 H.Arter 20 C.Atsu 13 C.Wilson 17 J.King

Bench: 23 A.Federici 25 S.Distin 11 C.Daniels 19 J.Stanislas 6 A.Surman 9 T.Rantie 18 Y.Kermorgant Last Season: Championship Winners Prediction: 17th

Aston Villa Preview

Manager: Tim Sherwood
Stadium: Villa Park
Captain: TBA
Top Scorer: Christian Benteké (15)

Aston Villa really struggled last season with an awful start to the 2014/15 season seeing them slump to 17th place only three points clear of Hull City who were relegated to the Championship after losing to Manchester United on the final day of the season.

Aston Villa struggled to score goals throughout the season especially towards the start with Belgian pitman Benteké sidelined through injury, Aston Villa started a startling run from the 20th September until the 2nd November where they failed to score a goal they ended this run losing 2-1 to Tottenham. In that period they suffered defeats to QPR, Everton, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal conceding 13 goals in the process.

Benteke celebrates scoring a goal against Spurs.

Benteke celebrates scoring a goal against Spurs.

Aston Villa also suffered over the turn of the year as they went 12 Premier League games without a win picking up just three points between 13th December and 28th February a run that left them in the relegation zone and was a period which saw the fans finally lose patience with Lambert as he was sacked on 11th February and Tim Sherwood took over three days later.

Although Villa’s league form was far from what the fans were hoping for last August the club did somehow manage to reach the FA Cup Final at Wembley beating formidable opposition such as Leicester City, West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool as they marched to the final which they lost 4-0 to Arsenal. This marked some achievement by the management and may have helped Tim Sherwood keep his job over the summer.

Last season so many players impressed but inconsistently, Jack Grealish is a real one to watch for the future and Delph was instrumental for Aston Villa earning an England call-up. If Scott Sinclair can stay fit he could help Villa mount a challenge for European football.

The transfer window has season a flurry of changes at Villa Park and a host of stars leave Birmingham in search of trophies with Delph leaving for Manchester City and Given headed for Stoke they have lost undoubtedly two important senior players for the club. Benteké has also agreed a deal to join underachievers Liverpool after their dire year in front of goal. The Belgian forward’s deal is yet to be confirmed but is understood it is only subject to a medical.

Fabian Delph in action for England.

Fabian Delph in action for England.

The big name heading to Villa Park is former Manchester City and England defender Micah Richards who may be able to sure up a defence that shipped 57 goals last season in the Premier League alone. Sinclair’s loan also being made permanent could give Aston Villa that creative spark in attack that they lacked for much of last season.

Micah Richards shortly after signing for Fiorentina.

Micah Richards shortly after signing for Fiorentina.

IN: Mark Bunn (Free Agent, Free)
Idrissa Gueye (Lille, Undisclosed)
Micah Richards (Fiorentina, Free)
Scott Sinclair (Manchester City, Undisclosed)

OUT: Fabian Delph (Manchester City, £8 million)
Shay Given (Stoke City, Free)
Darren Bent (Free Agent, Free)
Andreas Weimann (Derby County, Undisclosed)
Enda Stevens (Free Agent, Free)
Matthew Lowton (Burnley, Undisclosed)
Yacouba Sylla (Rennes, Undisclosed)

My Aston Villa XI (4-3-3): 1 B.Guzan; 4 M.Richards 14 P.Senderos 6 C.Clark 2 N.Baker; 28 C.N’Zogbia 15 A.Westwood 40 J.Grealish ; 9 S.Sinclair 27 L.Kozak 10 G.Agbonlahor

Bench: 13 J.Steer 33 J. Amavi 5 J.Okore 21 A.Hutton 12 J.Cole TBC A.Tonev 37 C.Robinson

Last Season: 17th
Prediction: 16th

Arsenal: Preview

Manager: Arsene Wenger

Stadium: Emirates Stadium
Captain: Mikel Arteta
Top Scorer: Alexis Sanchez (25)

Arsenal are one of the best teams in the country and from November time onwards the north Londoners were in excellent form. They were exceptionally hard to beat at the Emirates Stadium last year.

Arsenal have this amazing ability to mix the sublime brilliance with the horrific mistakes that cost teams titles which may explain Arsenal’s decade long trophy drought which haunted Arsenal until the 2013/14 season.

They walked away from last season once again having shown the inconsistency we have come to expect from the north London club having been as low as 8th in early December they then couldn’t stop winning after beating Manchester City 2-0 on 18th January.

On 10th February they started a staggering run of eight league wins as they beat Leicester City 2-1. It could only be ended by Chelsea in a 0-0 draw. This amazing run of form is the type of form that has made Arsenal such a formidable force not just in England but also Europe during that run they also defeated Monaco 2-0 away but crashed out of the Champions League due to the away goals rule.

Two trophies for Arsenal though marked a terrifically typical Arsenal season, Wenger walks away with the FA Cup and the Community Shield which must come as a huge relief to Arsenal fans.

Arsenal after their 4-0 win  over Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final.

Arsenal after their 4-0 win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final.

The revelation of last year was the Chilean midfielder Sanchez who arrived from Barcelona promising much and he delivered netting 25 goals in all competitions 16 of which came in the Premier League. He will be key to Arsenal if they are to mount a title challenge this season.

Alexis Sanchez celebrating one of his 25 goals last season.

Alexis Sanchez celebrating one of his 25 goals last season.

Arsenal have not had a busy summer having only recruited one senior player for next year. They’ve recruited the experienced Cech from rivals Chelsea. The Czech keeper spent 11 seasons at Stamford Bridge racking up 333 appearances for Chelsea and winning numerous trophies in that time. He may well fill a shirt that Ospina and Szczesny just couldn’t nail down last season.

New Signing Petr Cech posing in Arsenal kit.

New Signing Petr Cech posing in Arsenal kit.

The Gunners have seen two faces leave the Emirates Stadium, in the form of French defender Diaby and striker Podolski. The former France international spent nine seasons at Arsenal making 125 appearances for the club scoring 14 goals in the process. He failed to impress enough to make himself a regular under Wenger. Podolski arrived in 2012 but spent a large part of last year on loan at Inter Milan having failed to make the lone striker’s shirt his own. The capture of Danny Welbeck last summer sealed the German’s fate.

IN: Petr Cech (Chelsea, Undisclosed)

OUT: Abou Diaby (Free Agent, Free)
Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray, Undisclosed)

If Arsenal can replicate their form at the tail end of last season there is no reason they can’t finish 2nd and mount a serious title challenge. One thing is for sure it will be an interesting season for Arsenal.

My Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): 33 P.Cech; 2 M.Debuchy 6 L.Koscielny (C) 5 Gabriel 3 K.Gibbs; 34 F.Coquelin 19 S.Cazorla; 17 A.Sanchez 10 J.Wilshere 11 M.Özil; 12 O.Giroud

Bench: 1 W.Szczesny 24 H.Bellerin 21 C.Chambers 8 M.Arteta 15 A.Oxlade-Chamberlain 14 T.Walcott 23 D.Welbeck

Last Season: 3rd
Prediction: 2nd

The Serena Slam

On Thursday the two behemoths of women’s tennis went head to head at Wimbledon in one of the semi-finals, American Serena Williams took on Russian Sharapova in what was a simply wonderful game of tennis.

Serena Williams celebrating the win of a game in last year's Wimbledon.

Serena Williams celebrating the win of a game in last year’s Wimbledon.

Williams was powerful, quick and destructive against the greatest returner in the women’s game this didn’t stop Serena smashing 13 aces past her opponent compared to Sharapova’s 2. Serena Williams in the end won in straight sets 6-2 6-4 we shouldn’t be surprised since Sharapova last beat Williams in 2005 as a 17 year old player. They have played each other 16 times since that occasion and Williams has won every single game.

Serena Williams has already won the three other so-called Grand Slams and if she wins this she will have claimed what journalists have dubbed the ‘Serena Slam.’ This would be a huge achievement for any tennis player and that better person to take it but in my opinion the greatest woman athlete of all time. Williams is not just a wonderful athlete but also a great advert for women advancing in sport.

Serena Williams after winning the US Open.

Serena Williams after winning the US Open.

Serena Williams faces Muguruza the Spanish woman who is ushering in the new generation of women’s tennis player to replace the giants like Sharapova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams all of whom will not be around forever and have themselves made great strides for the women’s game which is now on a par with the men’s.

Serena's opponent in the final Muguruza.

Serena’s opponent in the final Muguruza.

In all likelihood Saturday will bring us the completion of what has been an absolutely mind-blowing year for Serena Williams and the ‘Serena Slam’ will be complete she will be the ultimate champion of women’s tennis bathed in the glory of 4 Grand Slam titles from every corner of the world.

No matter what happens on Saturday this will have been a massive year for the American tennis player.