Barclays Premier League Previews (C-E)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Chelsea

Manager: Antonio Conté

Stadium: Stamford Bridge (Capacity: 41,798)

Captain: John Terry

Top Scorer: Diego Costa (12)

Biggest Signing: Michy Batshuayi (£33.2 million)

Last Season: 10th

Prediction: Champions League

After a slow start under José Mourinho the Blues managed to secure a top half finish despite the stars that won the title never really performing.

Hazard, Costa, Fabregas were all shadows of their former selves as the title challengers pushed on Chelsea fell behind.

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Eden Hazard endured a tough season.

This squad has too much quality to not be among contenders for the title, the squad they have coupled with some shrewd business from Conté could well see them fighting for the trophy this season.

Chelsea will see last season as a learning curve and proof that even the toughest teams can crack under pressure. The fact Mournho has joined Manchester United is a kick in the teeth for fans of Chelsea but a little bit of extra spice for the clash between the two sides.

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Batshuayi bring a goalscoring threat.

Done deals for Batshuayi and N’Golo Kanté will strengthen the core of Chelsea’s team and with possible deal still to be done, the squad for this coming season will be strong.

IN

N’Golo Kanté (Leicester City, £30 million)

Michy Batshuayi (Olympique Marseille, £33.2 million)

OUT

John Swift (Reading, Undisclosed)

Marco Amelia (Released)

Chelsea could still bring in Alvaro Morata and Riyad Mahrez to bolster their attacking options and it looks as though defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic and striker Diego Costa could be on their way to Juventus and Atletico Madrid respectively.

My Chelsea XI (4-3-3): 1 A.Begovic; 2 B.Ivanovic, 26 J.Terry (Captain), 24 G.Cahill, 28 C.Azpilicueta; 4 C.Fabregas 7 N.Kanté 8 Oscar; 10 E.Hazard 23 M.Batshuayi 11 Pedro

Barclays Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace

Manager: Alan Pardew

Stadium: Selhurst Park (Capacity (25,073)

Captain: Mile Jedinak

Top Scorer: Yohan Cabaye, Scott Dann, Yannick Bolasie, Connor Wickham (5)

Biggest Signing: Andros Townsend (£13 million)

Last Season: 15th

Prediction: Mid-Table

Crystal Palace will look to consolidate and possibly improve upon last year, some impressive signings and managing to keep hold of most of their stars will keep Pardew smiling.

There is bags of experience in the squad Scott Dann, Frazier Campbell and James McArthur have been around long enough to know just how tough it can be to keep climbing the Premier League table.

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Cabaye has been key for Crystal Palace.

Having said that look at Leicester last season, they have shown clubs like Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Stoke City that it is possible to defeat the big clubs. Admittedly the fact that Arsenal did what they do best (choke), Chelsea started slowly, Manchester United were lacklustre and Manchester City were inconsistent did of course help Leicester.

One thing Crystal Palace could improve on is goals with their joint top scorers in the league last season all scoring just five there is plenty of room for improvement there. They have made signings accordingly.

IN

Andros Townsend (Newcastle United, £13 million)

James Tomkins (West Ham United, £10 million)

Steve Mandanda (Olympique Marseille, Undisclosed)

OUT

Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United, Undisclosed)

Brede Hangeland (Released)

Marouane Chamakh (Released)

Emmanuel Adebayor (Released)

Adrian Marriappa (Released)

Crystal Palace could still have some business to be done with both Saido Berahino and Christian Benteké on their radar. Alex McCarthy could be off with Hull looking at the goalkeeper.

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Townsend could be the difference.

My Crystal Palace XI (4-2-3-1): NA S.Mandanda; NA J.Tomkins, 27 D.Delaney 6 S.Dann, 2 J.Ward; 7 Y.Cabaye, 15 M.Jedinak (Captain); 11 W.Zaha 10 Y.Bolasie NA A.Townsend; 21 C.Wickham

 

 

Barclays Premier League Preview: Everton

Manager: Ronald Koeman

Stadium: Goodison Park (Capacity 39.571)

Captain: Phil Jagielka

Top Scorer: Romelu Lukaku (18)

Biggest Signing: Maarten Stekelenburg (Undisclosed)

Last Season: 11th

Prediction: Mid-Table

Everton had a tough season last time out under Roberto Martinez and with the quality in their squad fans should be rightly angry that their side is not fighting for a Europa League spot.

The Liverpool based club have a team that can produce sublime football on a regular basis and with a goalscoring talent like Lukaku in the team putting goals past opponents should not be a problem.

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Barkley is one of many youngsters at Goodison Park.

Koeman has worked wonders at Southampton and if he can bring some of that Dutch innovation to Everton we could start to see this sleeping giant begin to wake.

In terms of recruitment other than the new head coach a few areas have been strengthened, no big names or major departures but Koeman is all about building a squad not just a starting XI.

Mid-table seems achievable for the squad this year but expect them to be pushing for a Europa League spot before too long.

IN

Maarten Stekelenburg (Fulham, Undisclosed)

Chris Renshaw (Oldham Atheltic, Undisclosed)

Bassala Sambou (Coventry City, Undisclosed)

OUT

Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids, Free)

Leon Osman (Released)

Tony Hibbert (Released)

Everton could bring in Axel Witsel which would be a huge coup for the club and Koeman is still at risk of losing two players in the shape of England defender John Stones and Belgian  striker Romelu Lukaku.

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Stekelenburg is an impressive goalkeeper.

My Everton XI (4-3-1-2): NA M.Stekelenburg; 23 S.Coleman 6 P.Jagielka (Captain), 5 J.Stones, 3 L.Baines; 7 A.McGeady. 18 G.Barry, 23 T.Cleverley; 20 R.Barkley; 18 G.Deulofeu 10 R.Lukaku

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Southampton Preview

Manager: Ronald Koeman
Stadium: St Mary’s Stadium
Captain: José Fonte
Top Scorer: Graziano Pellé (16)

Southampton were expected to be in a relegation scrap last season following a mass exodus of players to the north west but Southampton refused to lie down and performed admirably to find themselves in European contention.

Southampton were a tough side to beat last season and started the season very strongly with home form serving the side well. They recorded an impressive 4-0 win over Newcastle and a 3-1 win away against West Ham in a run that saw them in 2nd place at the end of September having only lost 1 game to Liverpool on the opening day of the season. October saw Southampton’s biggest win of the season as they annihilated Sunderland 8-0, it showed just how dangerous Southampton could be and players such as Schneiderlin and Pellé demonstrating just what they could do given the ball and freedom to play.

during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on December 26, 2014 in London, England.

A run of 4 defeats through November and December saw Southampton slip out of the top 4 the tough defeats to Manchester United and and Manchester City at St Mary’s were disheartening for fans and it looked as though the dream of European football could be about to turn. Southampton did turn things back in their favour though with notable victories over Arsenal and Manchester United as well as a well fought 1-1 draw with champions Chelsea. Southampton’s March and April form was patchy but Southampton kept just enough wins going their way as they secured European football partly thanks to a 6-1 obliteration of Aston Villa on the penultimate weekend finishing the season in 7th place.

After last season the club have blocks to build with, a squad full of talent and a strong academy set up with the under 21’s defeating Blackburn to win the under 21’s Premiership Cup after an amazing strike from forward Sam Gallagher. This season is a chance for Southampton to prove they can consistently be a top 6/7 team and regularly secure European football if they can achieve that then that in itself will be considered a victory and a satisfactory outcome to what looks to be a difficult season ahead.

Tadic had a wonderful season on the south coast his attacking ability coupled with pace made him a danger on a number of levels. The attacking midfielder gave defenders headaches with his ability on the ball and he provided an awful lot of chances throughout the course of the season if he continue in that sort of form Southampton will fancy their chances against even the best teams.

Tadic on the ball for Southampton against Millwall.

Tadic on the ball for Southampton against Millwall.

Southampton have brought in a few new faces, most notably perhaps is Cédric Soares from Sporting, the 23 year old is a very talented right back able to attack and defend. The Portuguese international will look to bolster options for Koeman at the back which had a settled look about it towards the table end of last season. Another big signing for the club is Juanmi the 22 year old from Spain has been a huge player for former club Malaga last season making 38 appearances and scoring 8 goals in the process for the La Liga side.

New signing Cédric Soares posing at St Mary's.

New signing Cédric Soares posing at St Mary’s.

A few well known faces have left for the north west once again poaching the south coast stars. England right back Nathaniel Clyne leaves for Anfield after Johnson left Liverpool following a couple of disappointing seasons for the former England number 1. Clyne will be a huge loss after a wonderful display of talent throughout the season he and Bertrand very strong for the club making a huge difference. Another huge loss is that of French midfielder Scehneiderlin who will join former teammate Luke Shaw at Old Trafford, Schneiderlin who has been a key part of that Saints midfield for the last few years leaves a huge hole in the heart of Southampton. He is a big loss to a team that is finding it increasingly hard to keep hold of their top stars as the team continue to improve. Boruc is also another big miss but with a lot of competition for the goalkeepers starting berth at St Mary’s with players like Forster, Davis and Gazzaniga all competing along with securing Stekelenburg on loan.

IN: Cédric Soares (Sporting CP, £4.7 million)
Juanmi (Malaga, Undisclosed)
Cuco Martina (FC Twente, Undisclosed)
Jordy Clasie (Feyernoord, Undisclosed)

OUT: Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool, £12.5 million)
Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United, Undisclosed)
Artur Boruc (Bournemouth, Free)
Cody Cropper (MK Dons, Free)
Jos Hooiveld (AIK, Free)
Dani Osvaldo (FC Porto, Free)
Jake Sinclair (Free Agents, Free)
Omar Rowe (Free Agents, Free)

Southampton have made some good additions to the squad but it looks as though the departures may have a much bigger impact on the squad. Europe could be a stretch too far but I still expect them to finish in the top half (just).

My Southampton XI (4-3-2-1): 44 F.Forster; 2 C.Soares 6 J.Fonte (C) 26 S.Caulker 21 R.Bertrand; 16 J.Ward-Prowse 12 V.Wanyama 11 D.Tadic; 10 S.Mané 9 J.Rodriguez; 19 G.Pellé

Bench: 1 K.Davis 33 M.Targett 15 C.Martina 8 S.Davis 4 J.Clasie 7 S.Long 20 Juanmi

Last Season: 7th
Prediction: 10th

Manchester United Preview

Manager: Louis van Gaal
Stadium: Old Trafford
Captain: Wayne Rooney
Top Scorer: Wayne Rooney (14)

Manchester United have kept van Gaal in charge after a satisfactory season bringing the Red Devils that 4th place and a return to Europe which is what they wanted at the end of last season.

Manchester United seemed to have recruited well spending a lot of money on players like former Real Madrid Di Maria being the record signing for the Barclays Premier League he arrived with Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo all of whom played a part albeit some bigger than others over the course of the season. Di Maria went from being the saviour of souls at Old Trafford to the pantomime villain. From 22nd November van Gaal’s team didn’t fall lower than 4th a very consistent performance from the most successful English team of all time.

After Manchester United’s assault on the leaders of the league in March including impressive victories over their 2 biggest rivals Manchester City and Liverpool came unstuck in April as they suffered 3 straight defeats to Chelsea, Everton and West Bromwich Albion which saw Manchester United concede 5 goals and fail to score. These 3 games saw Manchester United fall to 4th behind London club Arsenal a deficit they would fail to recover. Rooney’s leadership over the course of the season has been sensational not just in his leadership but he has also scored a number of sensational goals. The England striker did seem to go off the boil in front of goal towards the end of the season but he still led his club to 4th and the fans have their faith restored in the world class squad.

Di Maria celebrates scoring a goal with captain Wayne Rooney.

Di Maria celebrates scoring a goal with captain Wayne Rooney.

Despite the money spent of Luke Shaw and Angel Di Maria they couldn’t be consistently brilliant, pre-Christmas Di Maria was the hero after Christmas the devil. Shaw the young English fullback was not given nearly enough game time to build on last season where he had a wonderful season for Southampton who suddenly burst into life last season despite the raids on the young riches available on the south coast. The question was would van Gaal spend the money more wisely come this summer and be able to build on the 4th placed finish they achieved last time out.

Manchester United needed a player to step up last season, there was a lot of fanfare for David de Gea who did a wonderful job despite the poor excuse of a defence that he plays behind. Only God knows why van Gaal insists on buying midfielders rather than a solid centre half. My player of the season for Manchester United though has to be Fellaini, the midfielder became a monstrous presence for United in the midfield, directing play aerially or otherwise. A long ball style was adapted by Manchester United mid-season and that really helped the Belgian achieve what he set out to when he was signed by former boss David Moyes. Fellaini is now rightly regarded as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, his excellent displays of power and aerial ability did seem to fall a little limp as fatigue set in but we are sure to see these displays come to the fore once again most probably over the winter months.

Marouane Fellaini on the ball for Manchester United.

Marouane Fellaini on the ball for Manchester United.

Recruitment of expensive players a theme of van Gaal’s tenure at the helm so far bringing in players like Di Maria and Shaw for inflated prices and the Dutch manager has brought in a fair few players again. Bastain Schweinsteiger, Germany World Cup Winner and former Bayern Munich captain is amont the new names on the United roster. The midfielder brings both experience and a wealth of class, his passing game and organisation are outstanding, his success could breed a new generation of success and achievement at the club. Another midfielder is French maestro Schneiderlin who has been outstanding at Southampton over the past few seasons, key to the success at St Mary’s. The French midfielder made 230 appearances for the Saints and became a club hero, he will hope to repeat that feat in the north west. Dutch youngster Memphis Depay also arrived over the summer, the talented forward is likely to be deployed alongside former England whizzkid Rooney in what is shaping up to be a very deadly attacking force that could rival Manchester City and Chelsea. Matteo Darmian finally a player United actually need came in the defender will provide a solid choice to play in defence to help out the mediocre centre backs at Old Trafford. All their signings at profile as they also add Argentina international Romero to the ranks and after his World Cup in Brazil you can understand why, the shot stopper had been brought in because they feared the departure of De Gea but he’s staying so now van Gaal has 3 international keepers to choose from.

Schweinsteiger lifting the World Cup for Germany.

Schweinsteiger lifting the World Cup for Germany.

The saga of De Gea staying or going took a long time to sort itself out which depended on the future of defender Ramos at Real Madrid. Di Maria is on his way out it would seem as every day he edges towards a move to the French capital to link up with stars like Ibrahimovic and Silva. This is yet to be confirmed but I doubt the Argentine player will be staying in England. Colombian striker Falcao has gone on another loan this time to Chelsea another high profile flop for Manchester United. Van Persie heads abroad after failing to make an impact this season and with the signing of Depay the writing was on the wall for the Dutch international. He heads to Fenerbahçe along with Nani who never really won over the crowd in Manchester. Tom Cleverley has also left heading for Everton in another move for a United flop.

IN: Memphis Depay (PSV Eindhoven, £24.6 million)
Bastain Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich, Undisclosed)
Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton, Undisclosed)
Matteo Darmian (Torino, Undisclosed)
Sergio Romero (Unattached, Free)

OUT: Robin van Persie (Fenerbahçe, Undisclosed)
Nani (Fenerbahçe, £4.25 million)
Tom Cleverley (Everton, Free)
Angelo Henríquez (Dinamo Zagreb, Undisclosed)
Reece James (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed)
Saidy Janko (Celtic, Free)
Ben Amos (Free Agents, Free)
Callum Evans (Free Agents, Free)
Tom Thorpe (Free Agents, Free)
Ryan McConnell (Free Agents, Free)

So Manchester United have recruited well and add to a fairly strong squad already. If van Gaal can get United on the right path building on last season is possible however with the way Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea are looking I strongly suspect Manchester United fans will be left disappointed.

My Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): 1 D.de Gea; NA M.Darmian 12 C.Smalling 5 M.Rojo 3 L.Shaw; 31 M.Fellaini NA B.Schweinsteiger; NA M.Depay 8 J.Mata 11 A.Januzaj; 10 W.Rooney (C)

Bench: NA S.Romero 2 Rafael 42 T.Blackett 17 D.Blind 18 A.Young NA M.Schneiderlin 14 J.Hernández

Last Season: 4th
Prediction: 4th