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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West Bromwich Albion Preview

Manager: Tony Pulis
Stadium: The Hawthorns
Captain: Darren Fletcher
Top Scorer: Saido Berahino (20)

West Bromwich Albion have for a long time now not achieved much but the club now have a chance to go for Europe with a good manager and some excellent individuals this team have the quality ti make the top 8 it remains to be seen if they can execute that.

West Bromwich Albion had a horrible start to the season stuttering and unable to really make any sort of mark bar a 4-0 win over newcomers Burnley at home. They looked like a team void of direction, void of ideas with only striker Berahino showing any real signs of life as he scorched the turf with his pace and whipped balls past numerous flailing keepers as if creating a piece of art. With no real spark or creative intuition behind him the chances were few and far between. The club have a really solid defensive unit when the defenders are playing at their best. Lescott and Dawson are past their best yet still accomplished defenders but games like the 3-2 loss to QPR and the 3-1 loss to Manchester City proved that this team was not firing and that meant that the Baggies could only notch 4 wins before the new year which led to the inevitable sacking of Alan Irvine on the 29th December after a 2-0 loss to Stoke the day before which left them in 16th place. Pulls was appointed his successor as early as 1st January.

Tony Pulis was happy to be appointed manager after Irvine failed to get results.

Tony Pulis was happy to be appointed manager after Irvine failed to get results.

The second half of the season was much improved as they would only lose 6 games before the end of the season some of these were tough games as well. Such as Manchester City and Tottenham. Saido Berhaino’s rate slowed but the team added to his haul with success and the team looked alive again. They recored huge wins over Chelsea 3-0 in what was 1 of the most incredible displays I have seen Berahino the chief architect as well as Fabregas having been sent off. They also beat Manchester United 1-0 in a game which always looked like it was going the underdogs way. This run of games and goals saw them climb as high as 13th which is where the club would finish. Respectable considering they were being touted to go down pre-Christmas.

West Bromwich Albion are currently under construction and will be for the nest 3 or 4 months as Pulis builds his squad and tries to identify his midfield anchor whether it be the Scotch captain Fletcher or someone different like vice-captain Brunt or new recruit McLean. This seemed a key part of his plan at Stoke which saw them flying high under Pulis. His long ball game was also a large part of his tenure at the Brittannia Stadium. Berahino will also be key as long as he can keep hold of the prolific frontman.

The key player for the Baggies last season has to be Berahino, he was majestic for West Brom, always could be relied upon to change a game or turn the tide a game changer. He will always be a threat for the Birmingham based club. His raw pace make him a handful enough add to that his venomous right boot and you have a striker that even the best clubs would be jealous of and clubs have been chasing his signature but as yet the hefty price tag has seen potential suitors look elsewhere for affordable alternatives. I have no doubt if he can continue his form the clubs will come knocking again every team could do with a prolific finisher.

Saido Berahino celebrates 1 of his 20 goals last season.

Saido Berahino celebrates 1 of his 20 goals last season.

Transfer business has been very low profile at the Hawthorns despite some interesting captures. Lambert arrives fresh from his ill fated time at Liverpool, his goal scoring nous could come in handy even if it just is from the bench. Lambert also suits Pulis’ long ball style that served his past club Stoke so well. James Chester is a huge signing for Pulis, he could sure up a weakness at the back and if he can will certainly be worth the rather hefty price tag Hull commanded for their defender. Chester is a good buy though and will be an asset for West Bromwich Albion. Rondón is also a huge signing, they paid a premium for the forward the south American forward could be a hugely important signature and could well add some thrust to the strike force already in place at the Hawthorns as they look for a top half finish.

Rickie Lambert celebrates scoring for England.

Rickie Lambert celebrates scoring for England.

Some long time players leave the club. Graham Dorrans departs for the new boys Norwich, he was an exciting player and a servant to the club he may well be missed by the club. Mulumbu is also off to pastures new, he had been a rock at times for the Premier League side and many will be sad to see him leave. Baird another player who has been at the club for a relatively long time leaves as Pulis has a clear out trying to build his vision.

IN: Rickie Lambert (Liverpool, £3 million)
James Chester (Hull City, £8 milllion)
James McLean (Wigan Athletic, £1.5 million)
José Salomón Rondón (Zenit, £12 million)

OUT: Graham Dorrans (Norwich City, £3 million)
Youssuf Mulumbu (Norwich City, Free)
Chris Baird (Derby County, Free)
Wes Atkinson (Notts County, Free)
Bradley Garmston (Gillingham, Free)
Donervon Daniels (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed)
Georgios Samaras (Free Agents, Free)

West Brom look in good health and may well surprise a few this season however the whole field is getting stronger, there still a way off the top half.

My West Bromwich Albion XI (4-3-2-1): 1 B.Foster; 25 C.Dawson 6 J.Lescott 4 J.Chester 3 J.Olsson; 19 C,McManaman 24 D.Fletcher (C) 11 C.Brunt; 29 S.Sességnon 33 S.Rondón; 18 S.Berahino

Bench: 13 B.Myhill 20 L.O’Neill 23 G,McAuley 31 S.Gnabry 14 J.McLean 10 V.Anichebe 17 R.Lambert

Last Season: 13th
Prediction: 15th

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