Barclays Premier League Previews (H-L)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Hull City

Manager: Not Applicable

Stadium: KC Stadium (Capacity: 25.450)

Captain: Michael Dawson

Top Scorer: Abel Hernandez (20)

Biggest Signing: Jonathan Edwards (Free)

Last Season: Promoted (Championship)

Prediction: Relegated

Hull City have recently been rocked by the departure of Steve Bruce but will still fancy themselves to threaten some of the more well established teams in the division.

They have Premier League pedigree and with business still to be done they could yet strengthen an already talented squad.

EDWARDS.jpg

Edwards in action for Peterborough.

Abel Hernandez was lethal last season ending the season with 20 goals in the Championship and a further two in other competitions. In the midfield they also have experienced operators in Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore.

There is plenty of time for Hull to lure Welsh striker Hal Robson-Kanu to the KC Stadium before the end of August.

Due to bouncing straight back up the players that were relegated are much the same and will know just how tough and unforgiving the Premier League can be.

IN

Jonathan Edwards (Peterborough United, Free)

OUT

Sone Aluko (Fulham, Free)

Ryan Taylor (Released)

Hull are still looking for a goalkeeper keeping tabs on both Crystal Palace’s McCarthy and Cardiff’s Marshall. They are also leading the race for Robson-Kanu. They could also see another departure as fellow promoted club Middlesborough are interested in Harry Maguire.

ROBSON-KANU.jpg

Hal Robson-Kanu

My Hull City XI (4-5-1): 1 A.McGregor; 12 H.Maguire, 6 C.Davies, 21 M.Dawson (Captain), 26 A.Robertson; 27 A.Elmohamady, 14 J.Livermore, 8 T.Huddlestone, 10 R.Snodgrass, 11 S.Clucas; 9 A.Hernandez

Barclays Premier League Preview: Leicester City

Manager: Claudio Ranieri

Stadium: King Power Stadium (Capacity: 32,312)

Captain: Wes Morgan

Top Scorer: Jamie Vardy (24)

Biggest Signing: Ahmed Musa (£15 million)

Last Season: Champions

Prediction: Europa League

Leicester City…what a season! What a team! What a manager!

What they did was incredible but now the hard work begins for Ranieri and his squad, the loss of Kanté is a blow but Leicester have a chance this season to become a big club.

It is highly unlikely they will win the league again, they could though realistically achieve a place in the top seven therefore securing some form of European football. it is critical they push on and stick to the gameplan that served them so well last season.

VARDY.jpg

Jamie Vardy is a key player for Leicester.

Leicester are a spirited side and Ranieri will have no problem bringing the team together to try and make Leicester a consistently strong side, this relies on two things, firstly keeping things simple and secondly not thinking about last season too much.

As well as key departures they have made some really big signings, Ahmed Musa is lethal and him partnered with England striker Jamie Vardy and the Foxes should not be short of goals.

IN

Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, £15 million)

Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96, £2.6 million)

Nampalys Mendy (OGC Nice, Undisclosed)

Luis Hernandez (Sporting Gijon, Free)

OUT

N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea, £30 million)

Jonny Maddison (Yeovil Town, Undisclosed)

Joseph Dodoo (Rangers, Undisclosed)

Jacob Blyth (Motherwell, Free)

Paul Konchesky (Gillingham, Released)

Mark Schwarzer (Released)

With Riyad Mahrez still a target for both Chelsea and Arsenal there could yet be dealings to be done in the east Midlands. Leonardo Ulloa is also reported to be seeking a move but Leicester’s squad does seem to be looking close to finalised.

MUSA

New signing Ahmed Musa.

My Leicester City XI (4-4-2): 1 K.Schmiechel; 17 D.Simpson, 5 W.Morgan (Captain), 6 R.Huth, 28 C.Fuchs; 26 R.Mahrez, 4 D.Drinkwater, NA N.Mendy, 11 M.Albrighton; NA A.Musa, 9 J.Vardy

Barclays Premier League Preview: Liverpool

Manager: Jurgen Klopp

Stadium: Anfield (Capacity: 44,742)

Captain: Jordan Henderson

Top Scorer: Roberto Firmino (10)

Biggest Signing: Sadio Mané (£34 million)

Last Season: 8th

Prediction: Europa League

Liverpool one of the most successful English clubs of all time blessed with great players and even greater managers.

Klopp is now the man in charge following the sacking of Brendan Rodgers and with a whole pre-season behind him and his own transfers in the mix can Klopp fix the club?

The squad is littered with internationals and young talent that can ignite the Premier League, this club clearly has ambitions to get back to where they once were as kings of Europe.

KLOPP.jpg

Klopp is having an effect.

Anfield is a wonderful venue and Liverpool need to match that venue with the quality of football and the German is building a squad to do that.

They have recruited well stealing another Southampton player in Mané and also bringing in some cheaper recruits.

IN

Sadio Mané (Southampton, £34 million)

Georginio Wijnaldum (Newcastle United, £25 million)

Loris Karius (FSV Mainz 05, £4.7 million)

Ragnar Klavan (FC Augsburg, Undisclosed)

Joel Matip (Schalke 04, Free)

Alex Manninger (FC Augsburg, Free)

OUT

Jordon Ibe (AFC Bournemouth, £15 million)

Sergi Canos (Norwich City, £2.5 million)

Jerome Sinclair (Watford, Undisclosed)

Martin Skrtel (Fenerbahche, Undisclosed)

Jordan Rossiter (Rangers, Free)

Kolo Toure (Celtic, Released)

Jose Enrique (Released)

A big spending summer sees two goalkeepers and two attacking midfielders arrive to bolster both attack and defence but they lose bright spark Ibe. Max Meyer is still a target for Klopp. Uncertainty still looms over the future of Mario Balotelli, Joe Allen, Brad Smith and Christian Benteke.

MANE.jpg

Mané looks like a key signing.

My Liverpool XI (4-2-3-1): 22 S.Mignolet; 2 N.Clyne, 17 R.Klavan, 32 J.Matip, 18 A.Moreno; 24 J.Allen, 7 J.Milner (Captain); 20 A.Lallana, 19 S.Mané, 10 P.Coutinho; 15 D.Sturridge

 

Advertisements

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.

HAZARD.jpg

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.

BATSHUAYI.jpg

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.

CABAYE.jpg

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.

TOWNSEND.jpg

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.

BARKLEY.jpg

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.

STEKELENBURG.jpg

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

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.

goooal

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.

aguero

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

martial.jpg

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.

marky boy

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.

newcaaaaastle

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

afcsund

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

ncf

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

uh oh.jpg

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.

Claudio’s Core

Leicester City continue to defy the odds and top the Premier League ahead of all the giants despite having considerably less money than the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Their success is something that does not seem to make any sense to football fans, they have all jumped on the Leicester to win the league bandwagon but because this sort of winning streak and defying the odds the way Leicester have is staggering.

Especially in this day and age when the league table is more a rich list than anything else see the clubs languishing in the lower reaches are much poorer than the clubs leading the way this season.

cr

Leicester City manager, Claudio Ranieri.

Whilst in international football the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ has been bridged, in domestic football (not just in England but across Europe) the gap is becoming wider.

It is hard to say why Leicester are doing so well. But one factor has to be the fact Ranieri has established this spine of players that can keep the team going through the hard times.

This spine consists of five key positions, a goalkeeper, a centre half, a holding midfielder, a wide midfielder and of course a striker.

Look at the great Premier League teams of the past Arsenal had Henry, Vieira, Adams, Seaman and Pires. Manchester United had van Nistelrooy, Scholes, Ferdinand, van der Sar and Giggs.

This is surely the formula to winning, this is the reason Ranieiri’s Leicester are leading the charge and Arsenal have struggled for domestic titles over the years.

Leicester City are built around the stars they have in Robert Huth, N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez, Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy are the spine that make this team the successful side it is.

Jamie Vardy Leicester City

Vardy celebrates scoring a goal for Leicester City.

Unfortunately it looks as though at least one of those sought after players will be leaving the King Power Stadium come the summer transfer window. The loss of these players could be their undoing but whilst it lasts it is to be admired and adored.

It is not often we see teams like Ranieri’s make an impression at the very highest reaches if English football.

Predicted Top 6

1 Leicester City
2 Tottenham Hotspur
3 Manchester City
4 Arsenal
5 Southampton
6 West Ham United

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