Barclays Premier League Previews (M)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Manchester City

Manager: Pep Guardiola

Stadium: Etihad Stadium (Capacity: 55,097)

Captain: Vincent Kompany

Top Scorer: Sergio Agüero (24)

Biggest Signing: Ilkay Gundogan (£21 million)

Last Season: 4th

Prediction: Champions League

Manchester City have one of the most exciting sets of players in the league, they have players that can do things most players can only dream of.

The big spending club under performed last season unable to covert the many chances created by the likes of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne two players who were key to Manuel Pellegrini’s reign.

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Guardiola is well respected all over Europe.

Guardiola comes in having had successful spells at Bayern Munich and Barcelona and the Spanish coach has already made a good impression bringing in some high profile signings on low fees which has made him popular among the fans.

Compared to their neighbours the fees they are paying for their newest stars are pennies.

Pep Guardiola is also hugely good at bringing through youth something that sets him apart from Jose Mourinho and he is blessed at Manchester City with player such as Kelechi Iheanacho and Jason Denayer developing at a ridiculous rate.

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Denayer is a promising prospect for Manchester City.

Guardiola has strengthened the depth in certain areas and only recruited the very best. He has recruited from Spain and Germany in an effort to make Manchester City a formidable outfit.

IN

Ilkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund, £21 million)

Nolito (Celta Vigo, £13.8 million)

Alexander Zinchenko (FC Ufa, Undisclosed)

Aaron Mooy (Unattached, Free)

OUT

Richard Wright (Released)

Martin Demichelis (Released)

Manchester City are from done with business, Leroy Sane remains a priority target having told Schalke he wants to leave. Deals are also expected to be done for two of South America’s hottest property in Manolas Moreno and Gabriel Jesus. City are also still interested in John Stones of Everton or failing that Roma defender Kostas Manolas.

My Manchester City XI (4-2-3-1): 1 J.Hart; 5 P.Zabaleta, 28 J.Denayer, 20 E.Mangala, 11 A.Kolarov; 25 Fernandinho, 16 I.Gundogan; 15 J.Navas, 21 D.Silva, 17 K.De Bruyne; 16 S.Agüero (Captain)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Manchester United

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Stadium: Old Trafford (Capacity: 75.653)

Captain: Wayne Rooney

Top Scorer: Anthony Martial (11)

Biggest Signing: Eric Bailly (£30 million)

Last Season: 5th

Prediction: Champions League

Manchester United, a failed transition from Sir Alex Ferguson has seen them depart from two managers in three years. David Moyes failed and as for Louis van Gaal the saviour of Manchester United, there will be no Champions League at Old Trafford this year.

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Mkhitaryan celebrates scoring for Dortmund.

In comes a proven Premier League manager, Mourinho, arguably the best short term manager in the world, he will paper over the cracks left by Louis van Gaal.

Mourinho knows how to win this league and he has signed players accordingly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrives with a reputation as does Mkhitaryan. Players with international and European pedigree.

They have the quality, players like Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Chris Smalling coupled with the exuberant youth of Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingered and Marcus Rashford. The squad is packed with stars.

Old Trafford will be tough trip for many this year and the Champions League must be the bare minimum for this new look Red Devils.

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Ibrahimovic is undoubtedly a star.

Three new faces with more to come no doubt Mourinho was handed more money than he knew what to with and he has not wasted time in spending it.

IN

Eric Bailly (Villareal, £30 million)

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Borussia Dortmund, Undisclosed)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Unattached, Free)

OUT

Joe Rothwell (Oxford United, Undisclosed)

Nick Powell (Released)

Victor Valdes (Middlesborough, Released)

One of the most highly anticipated transfers is soon to be down with Paul Pogba all set to arrive in Manchester. Kostas Manolas also remains a target but a deal looks unlikely.

My Manchester United XI (4-1-3-2): 1 D.De Gea; 5 M.Rojo, 3 E.Bailly, 12 C.Smalling, 23 L.Shaw; 28 M.Schneiderlin; 8 J.Mata, 10 W.Rooney (Captain), 14 J.Lingard; 11 A.Martial, 19 M.Rashford

Barclays Premier League Preview: Middlesbrough FC

Manager: Aitor Karanka

Stadium: Riverside Stadium (Capacity: 33,746)

Captain: Grant Leadbitter

Top Scorer: David Nugent (8)

Biggest Signing: Viktor Fischer (£3.8 million)

Last Season: Promoted

Prediction: Safety

Middlesbrough are a team that can go places, they have an ambitious manager in Aitor Karanka.

The off season has already seen a lot of activity at the Riverside developing a squad that is capable of playing in the Premier League and also giving the club an identity and personality to set it apart from Sunderland and Newcastle their neighbours.

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Karanka has made Middlesbrough a tough team to beat.

Middlesbrough’s long exile from the Premier League may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as they have bolstered the squad with talented players and found that they can be team that are very hard to beat.

One thing that strikes when you look through how Middlesbrough have scored their goals there is an endless list of scorers, unlike Spurs where you have Kane or Leicester where there is Kane, they have four or five players who are netting five, six, seven goals a season with Nugent of course leading the way.

Being able to bring in Valdes for free and also sign up a few other talented players for such small fees has made the already talented squad stronger and with this strength in depth comes competition for places.

IN

Viktor Fischer (Ajax, £3.8 million)

Antonio Barragan (Valencia CF, £3 million)

Marten De Roon (Atalanta, Undisclosed)

Victor Valdes (Unattached, Free)

Gaston Ramirez (Unattached, Free)

Bernardo Espinosa (Spoting Gijon, Free)

Alvaro Negredo (Valencia CF, Loan)

OUT

Paul Weldon (Darlington, Free)

Already some high quality names coming in. Add into the mix Harry Maguire who is set to be under a £4 million offer, Aston Villa keeper Guzan which is believed to be a done deal and an offer for Tottenham’s Nail Bentaleb expected soon they are not short of quality.

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Boro stalwart, Downing.

My Middlesbrough XI (4-4-2): 23 V.Valdes; NA A.Barragan, 4 D.Ayala, NA B.Espinosa, 2 G.Friend; 8 A.Clayton, 7 G.Leadbitter (Captain), 21 G.Ramirez, 19 S.Downing; 35 D.Nugent, NA V.Fischer

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The Premier League: What’s Left to Sort Out?

So following Spurs draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the incredible Foxes were crowned champions of England for the first time in their 132 year history.

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Leicester City have finally won the Premier League title.

Ranieri is no longer the nearly man, and he has done it on what can be described as a tight budget with two games to spare an astonishing achievement for a club that signed their star striker for just £1 million, compared to Manchester City’s Agüero who cost them a cool £38 million as the second most expensive transfer in Premier League history.

Champions crowned now all eyes are on two important races, the race for the top four and the race to avoid the drop.

In the race for the top four it seems there are you could argue four teams but Arsenal should be safe. Manchester City, Manchester United and West Ham now have to fight it out to see who can make it into the Champions League.

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Agüero cost City an eye watering £38 million.

4th Manchester City

Played 36 Points 64 Goal Difference 30

The club built on Mansour’s millions, shaped around a plethora of international stars. Pellegrini heads for the exit at the end of a disappointing season where a team that should be topping the league every season is fighting to retain  Champions League status without having to win the trophy itself.

They have scored more goals than any other Premier League side with 68 but a leaky defence has conceded 38 goals, a problem that is hard to fix and with Manchester United and West Ham only four and five points away respectively with a game in hand the pressure is on.

Should they fail to keep hold of fourth the Champions League tie tomorrow becomes all the more significant.

Remaining Fixtures: Arsenal (H), Swansea (A)

Prediction: 4th

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Martial has been one of van Gaal’s few successes in the transfer market.

5th Manchester United

Played 35 Points 60 Goal Difference 12

Money spent on players that don’t perform. A disastrous season for the Red Devils, not enough goals, not good enough performances. Louis van Gaal has failed to restore the one great club to the top of the league.

An FA Cup final awaits against the struggling Crystal Palace what little consolation that will prove to be should Manchester United miss out on a Champions League place.With Martial looking to be the only signing that has actually made any progress the future does look bleak for United fans.

It looks as though another summer of signings is on the horizon and possibly the arrival of old rival Mourinho although it may take more than the ‘Special One’ to help this club’s fortunes.

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Mark Noble has been key for West Ham this season.

Remaining Fixtures: Norwich (A), West Ham (A), Bournemouth (H)

Prediction: 6th

6th West Ham United

Played 35 Points 59 Goal Difference 17

Unlike the other two the Londoners will be happy with their current position, they have been wonderful but due to Leicester’s title run their big performances have gone unnoticed under the radar.

Mark Noble has been at the heart of this team’s fight and desire along with left back Aaron Cresswell. West Ham are looking like this could be their year to finally be in the Champions League by taking that coveted 4th spot.

The Hammers have a crucial showdown with Manchester United on 10th May which could well decide the race. And with the other two sides having the Champions League and FA Cup to focus on West Ham could have the edge.

Remaning Fixtures: Swansea (H), Manchester United (H), Stoke (A)

Prediction: 5th

Now for the relegation fight and the race to avoid the drop.

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Newcastle are having a tough year.

17th Newcastle United

Played 36 Points 33 Goal Difference -25

The historic club have had a horrific season by all accounts, a number of false dawns under McLaren were crushed after suffering some scarring defeats. And it took Benitez a few games to get the ball rolling but now the club are unbeaten in their last four matches.

Two massive games left and with points likely to be tight the game against Aston Villa is vital. It is also notable that Spurs no longer have anything to play for the Champions League is secured.

Going down would signal a backwards step especially considering some of the players in the squad but they are the form side.

Remaining Fixtures: Aston Villa (A) Tottenham Hostpur (H)

Prediction: 17th

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Sunderland could be facing the drop.

18th Sunderland

Played 35 Points 32 Goal Difference -18

Defoe is the reason Sunderland are still fighting for survival, and how crucial might his equaliser against Stoke prove to be?

The relegation fight sees all eyes now on the northeast, Newcastle or Sunderland some have already written off Norwich. Sunderland do have a tough run in but a game in hand over their bitter rivals.

With one great English club destined for the Championship it would be a shame to see another go.

Remaining Fixtures: Chelsea (H), Everton (H), Watford (A)

Prediction: 18th

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Norwich have not had much to cheer about this year.

19th Norwich City

Played 35 Points 31 Goal Difference -26

It looked at one point that the Canaries might have pulled away and survived but an upturn in the fortunes of Sunderland and Newcastle quashed that dream.

Watford and Bournemouth both kicked on this season from the Championship, Norwich sadly have struggled to find consistent form. They also have a game over currently safe Newcastle but again have a tricky run-in.

Norwich look down already but a good run could see them pull off a couple of vital wins. Only time will tell.

Remaining Fixtures: Manchester United (H), Watford (H), Everton (A)

Prediction: 19th

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What a year it’s been for Jamie Vardy.

So Leicester are champions but plenty to keep you interested for the rest of the season.

Tottenham Hotspur Preview

Manager: Mauricio Pocchetino
Stadium: White Hart Lane
Captain: Hugo Lloris
Top Scorer: Harry Kane (31)

Tottenham a team that have really challenged the top 4 in recent seasons and now a regular team in European competitions last year however was a difficult one for the north London club.

Although Tottenham threaten the top 4 clubs in league positioning wins are rare they suffered heavy defeats to Manchester City as they were humiliated 4-1 and Chelsea who blew them away 3-0. Liverpool also put them to the sword as that match ended 4-1. These big losses before Christmas did not look good for Spurs. They were having patchy runs of form here and there but nothing to suggest they were good enough. None of their stars were really stepping up bar Kane and Eriksen at regular and long intervals. Tottenham found themsleves in 10th in mid December before they went on a run of 3 wins over the festive period including a win over Swansea away from home which many teams found tough with Swansea really improving every season. Spurs rose 3 places to 7th before they faced Manchester United a game that looked rather bleak if you looked at Spurs track record against England’s most successful club, they could only manage a 0-0 draw.

Tottenham players celebrate victory over Crystal Palace.

Tottenham players celebrate victory over Crystal Palace.

The 1st day of 2015 was the day that brought Tottenham’s best result and a match that made a hero out of England striker Harry Kane. Chelsea were beaten 5-3 in a phenomenal match, it was unheard of to put 5 past Courtois. Kane was sensational and suddenly a fanfare arose from the British press and the cries to get the striker playing for England rose into a crescendo. This second half of the season would prove to be much more fruitful than their slow start. A 2-1 win over Arsenal at White Hart Lane on 7th February was sensational and the Spurs stars were beginning to perform and bring some life and electricity to White Hart Lane. A trip to Manchester United was tough viewing as they were downed 3-0 at Old Trafford. This left the club reeling. Their run-in was fairly kind and a 4-3 win over Leicester showed how dangerous the club can be on the attack. They were building something special. This assault on the upper reaches of the table that started on New Years Day. They ended the season with a 1-0 victory against Everton a result that showed they are able to play some attractive football and will be looking to build on that sort of form in the coming seasons.

Tottenham very much assured as one of England’s could be clubs, they are missing 1 or 2 pieces of that puzzle a strand of that DNA that makes the Chelseas and Manchester Citys stand out. They found parts they didn’t know they had last season such as a world class striker and keeper in Kane and Lloris both of whim have been the interest of Manchester United although it seems their interest in Lloris has cooled now they have 5 goalkeepers in their 1st team. There are a few positions they lack in and at times their defence was exposed last season even in their 5-3 victory over eventual champions Chelsea is not a healthy record. Their goal difference was only a +5 at the end of the season compare that to 7th placed Southampton who finished with +21 but 2 places lower in the league table. Tottenham’s average season will need to be built on if they wish to play Champions League football anytime soon.

Tottenham’s key player was undoubtedly Harry Kane. The young finisher was outstanding following Christmas. He scored 31 goals in all competitions this season that is an alarming amount of goals. That is just 1 less goal that Agüero managed last season. Kane’s form earned him and England call-up. He scored on his debut and sent the country into delirium. The English striker saved Tottenham on many occasions and after becoming a cult icon after single handedly dismantling Chelsea he also scored the winner in the derby win over Arsenal. His finishing ability see him stand out as one of the league’s best forwards. He is going to be key to both his club and country’s fortunes for years to come.

Harry Kane got rewarded for club form by an England call-up.

Harry Kane got rewarded for club form by an England call-up.

Tottenham have been rather busy offloading players over the summer but have brought in a few fresh faces so they can continue to push for a top 4 place. They have brought in 3 new players the most notable being the acquisition of centre back Toby Alderweireld from the Spanish capital. He is a wonderful defender and could be a huge difference for a defence that at times leaked goals possibly the reason they have also brought in Wimmer. Kieran Trippier is another very canny signing a player that can be of service as back-up or in irritation system with Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. Tripper is quick and provides a counter attacker that can pose problems for slow midfielders if he is given room on the outside.

Alternierend in action for Ajax.

Alternierend in action for Ajax.

A total of 7 first team departures. Brad Friedel finally retires from football at the age of 44, a wonderful servant to the game and the Premier League the former USA goalkeeper will be missed. Kaboul also leaves having had a good career in north London a player that was a real asset to the Spurs team and understood what the club meant to the fans. Lewis Holtby leaves the club, the promising midfielder showed some real potential last season but Tottenham have so much depth in midfield Holtby was always going to struggle. Paulinho has also had enough of north London, he has a great couple of seasons. Some high profile departures could harm Tottenham although their recruitment seems very smart.

IN: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid, £11.5 million)
Kieran Trippier (Burnley, £3.5 million)
Kevin Wimmer (FC Köln, £4.3 million)

OUT: Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande, £9.9 million)
Brad Friedel (Retired)
Lewis Holtby (Hamburg, £4.6 million)
Younés Kaboul (Sunderland, £3 million)
Étienne Capoue (Watford, £6.3 million)
Benjamin Stambouli (Paris Saint-Germain, £6 million)
Vlad Chiriches (Napoli, £4.5 million)

Tottenham should have an interesting season and should their stars be in a good vein of form I see no reason they can retain 5th.

My Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-2-3-1): 1 H.Lloris; 2 K.Walker 4 T.Alderweireld 15 E.Dier 3 D.Rose; 19 M.Dembélé 8 R.Mason; 22 N.Chadli 23 C.Eriksen 17 A.Townsend; 10 H.Kane

Bench: 13 M.Vorm 16 K.Trippier 5 J.Vertonghen 27 K.Wimmer 6 N.Bentaleb 11 É.Lamela 9 R.Soldado

Last Season: 5th
Prediction: 6th

Manchester City Preview

Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Stadium: Etihad Stadium
Captain: Vincent Kompany
Top Scorer: Segio Agüero (32)

Ultimately Manchester City will view last year as a failure losing the title to Londoners Chelsea with barely a whimper as the trophy went to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea finished a clear 8 ahead of Manchester City in what was a very easy title race.

Manchester City’s record at home is wonderful having lost just twice at home in the league with 14 wins that is a record that most teams in Europe would die for including the Spanish giants of Real Madrid and Barcelona or the likes of German heavyweight Bayern Munich. Their attack was something to behold over the course of the season they scored 83 goals which is an outstanding total for any club. With strikers like Agüero, Bony and Jovetic in the team are simply terrific at doing a forwards job with their pace and shooting accuracy. Their 83 goals is 10 more than the nearest team which is Chelsea who only managed 73 goals over the course of the campaign.

Agüero celebrates a goal against Arsenal.

Agüero celebrates a goal against Arsenal.

Manchester City’s clinical ability was clear to see with their impressive 5-0 demolition of Newcastle on 21st February and an incredible 6-0 annihilation of QPR in early May they were no stranger to banging home goals that at times they had no right to score. The quality in the squad is scary to have that much money sat on the bench which included names like England midfielder Lampard, Bony and Navas. The Sky Blues have endured some tough times over the years but now they are a top team the fans will not settle for anything but the very best from their star studded, expensive squad. The squad that saw them rack up a 12 game unbeaten streak from 2nd November until the 18th January when Arsenal beat Manchester City 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

Silva, Toure and Navas are the undeniably superb creative players full of flair and energy with their attacking brilliance. The midfield at the Etihad Stadium is a blend of attacking geniuses and defensive organisers they are a well oiled machine that keep the blistering attackers connected to the able defence with players like Vincent Kompany and Kolarov who have been hugely important for their club. Manchester City had a wonderful few results last season but their humbling at the hands of Middlesborough in the FA Cup and Newcastle in the League Cup ensured that Pellegrini’s team would not be winning a trophy this season.

David Silva celebrating at the Emirates Stadium.

David Silva celebrating at the Emirates Stadium.

The key man for Manchester City was undoubtedly the goalkeeper Joe Hart who for a number of seasons has been key to the team’s success. Hart has a very good record in goal and the England goalkeeper made 36 of the 38 Premier League appearances last season an amazing feat in itself. To have the world’s best attackers Suarez, Messi and Neymar only put 3 goals past you in all seriousness is not bad. Yes Manchester City did concede the most goals out of the top 4 in the league but once again the goalkeeper has been huge if the defence was slightly shaper it is undoubtedly the weakest part of Pellegrini’s arsenal.

The transfer market a familiar place for Manchester City however they have only brought in 2 first team players. 2 very goof players of course with England internationals Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph joining Manchester City. Sterling wants to win trophies and play in the Champions League that he will get at Manchester City but can he become a star at Manchester City I for one do not think so, he could of course end up as another starlet on the scrapheap like Scott Sinclair. Fabian Delph joins amidst him pledging his loyalty to former club Aston Villa. There are calls that Manchester City are just trying to boost their English quota. This is no surprise looking at their academy compared to the other big team Chelsea who have a wonderful academy. The only player to graduate from the Manchester City academy in recent years is of course Micah Richards who has left for Aston Villa as Delph heads north.

New signing Sterling on the ball for England.

New signing Sterling on the ball for England.mil

Manchester City have lost 9 players over the summer high profile names like Negredo who has been lacklustre in the Premier League but is nonetheless a very good finisher. Lampard finally ends up across the pond in New York. The aforementioned Sinclair heads to Aston Villa along with Richards to try and resurrect his career which stalled in the north west. Milner also leaves the Etihad to join Premier League rivals Liverpool in a deal that could be huge for the Anfield club.

IN: Raheem Sterling (Liverpool, £44 million)
Fabian Delph (Aston Villa, £8 million)

OUT: Micah Richards (Aston Villa, Free)
Scott Sinclair (Aston Villa, £3 million)
John Guidetti (Celta Vigo, Free)
Álvaro Negredo (Valencia, £22 million)
Frank Lampard (New York City, Free)
James Milner (Liverpool, Free)
Majita Natasic (Schalke 04, £8.3 million)
Dedryck Boyata (Celtic, £1.7 million)
Karim Rekik (Marseille, £3.9 million)

An already great and expensive team has been bolstered with impressive yet expensive acquisitions with their 2 English assets. They are by no means bargains but if their 2 new recruits can continue their development and Manchester City can continue to play good football then they can win the league but their competitors Arsenal and Chelsea look too strong.

My Manchester City XI (4-2-3-1): 1 J.Hart 5 P.Zabaleta 4 V.Kompany (C) 20 E.Mangala 11 A.Kolarov; 18 F.Delph 25 Fernandinho; 7 R.Sterling 42 Y.Touré 21 D.Silva; 16 S.Agüero

Bench: 13 W.Caballero 22 G.Clichy 26 M.Demichelis 6 Fernando 14 W.Bony 15 J.Navas 8 S.Nasri

Last Season: 2nd
Prediction: 3rd