Aviva Premiership Preview: Newcastle Falcons

Director of Rugby/ Head Coach: Dean Richards and Peter Russell

Captain: Will Welch

Stadium: Kingston Park (Capacity: 10,200)

Last Season: 11th

Prediction: 11th

Newcastle survived comfortably last season due to London Irish imploding throughout the season.

Newcastle have some impressive individuals such as winger Sinoti Sinoti. They have a squad that has achieved and is capable of achieving success especially at the hostile Kingston Park.

sinoti

Sinoti Sinoti dives over for a try.

One of Newcastle’s biggest assets is their home ground, the weather conditions and long trip to the north east corner of England in itself is sapping, couple that with Newcastle playing on an artificial pitch makes Kingston Park a notorious place to visit.

Newcastle also have a dangerous back three that will be lethal on the counter, pace aplenty among the backs that thrive on the artificial surface up at Newcastle.

THREE TO WATCH

Vereniki Goneva

Position: Wing  Nationality: Fijian  Age: 32  Height: 1.78m  Weight: 102kg

Your typical Fijian, powerful and fast in equal measure. The former Leicester wing was one of the stars at Welford Road and at first the move seems strange. It is a coup for Dean Richards though and he should be able to get the best out of Goneva.

He scores tries naturally by either powering through the defenders or burning them for pace on the outside.

Sinoti Sinoti

Position: Wing  Nationality: Samoan  Age: 30  Height: 1.75m  Weight: 100kg

Another Pacific Islander in the Newcastle backs, electric feet and devastating pace are two weapons the opposition have to deal with.

Undoubtedly individually sublime if he can link up with his team he can be used to huge effect due to his natural talent.

Will Welch

Position: Flanker  Nationality: English  Age: 26  Height: 1.93m  Weight: 110kg

Welch is a natural leader and has been at Newcastle Falcons for a while now, he is an asset at the lineout and breakdown.

welch

Captain, Will Welch.

He is a big ball carrier and us happy to take the ball on to get Newcastle moving forwards working to break the gainline.

TRANSFERS

IN (14)

Joshua Chisanga (Kenya Sevens, KEN)

Nick Civetta (RC Medecei, ITA)

Kyle Cooper (Natal Sharks, SAF)

Andrew Davidson (Glasgow Hawks, SCO)

Sam Egerton (England Sevens, ENG)

Opeti Fonua (Leicester Tigers, ENG)

Vereniki Goneva (Leicester Tigers, ENG)

Joel Hodgson (Yorkshire Carnegie, ENG)

Tyrone Holmes (Glasgow Warriors, SCO)

Sam Lockwood (Jersey Reds, ENG)

Evan Olmstead (London Scottish, ENG)

Harrison Orr (Ealing Trailfinders, ENG)

Ben Sowrey (Worcester Warriors, ENG)

David Tameilau (San Francisco Rush, USA)

OUT (17)

Jamie Booth (Manawatu, NZL)

Todd Clever (Released, REL)

Michael Cusack (Yorkshire Carnegie, ENG)

Joshua Furno (Zebre, ITA)

Eric Fry (Sacaramento Express, USA)

Andy Goode (Retired, RET)

Kensuke Hatakeyama (Suntory Sungoliath, JAP)

Rob Hawkins (Retired, RET)

Scott MacLeod (Retired, RET)

Richard Mayhew (Yorkshire Carnegie, ENG)

George McGuigan (Leicester Tigers, ENG)

Kane Thompson (Manawatu, NZL)

Gonzalo Tiesi (Retired, RET)

Ruki Tipuna (Bay of Plenty, NZL)

Alesana Tuilagi (Released, REL)

Anitelea Tuilagi (Released, REL)

Giovanbattista Venditti (Zebre, ITA)

The addition of Goenva is a real coup for Falcons, Holmes could also be an important player for Newcastle.

goneva

Goneva following his summer move to Newcastle.

McGuigan is a loss and Andy Goode will be hugely missed he was key last season.

My Newcastle Falcons 23

15 Alex Tait 14 Vereniki Goneva 13 Dominic Waldouck 12 Juan Pablo Socino 11 Sinoti Sinoti 10 Mike Delany 9 Sonatane Takulua

1 Rob Vickers 2 George McGuigan 3 Scott Wilson 4 Andrew Davidson 5 Mouritz Botha 6 Nili Latu 7 Will Welch (Captain) 8 Opeti Fonua

A struggle this season for the Falcons but survival is likely.

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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.

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

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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.

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.

The Relegation Battle

As we hurtle towards the end of what has been a thrilling season for fans, least of all the fact that Leicester still are sitting pretty atop the Premier League table.

If we look at the other end though, it is still all to play for in the fight for survival, currently there are only 12 points separating 14th placed Watford and 19th placed Newcastle United, however Watford and Swansea are looking safe.

That leaves Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Sunderland, Newcastle and Aston Villa all still trying to avoid relegation.

If we take Aston Villa out of the equation, they lie bottom of the league 12 points from safety, they are odds on favourites to go down.

villa

Aston Villa haven’t had much to celebrate this season.

However Newcastle are on 25 points and Sunderland 26, they are just two points away from the currently safe Norwich, however both the teams have a game in hand over the Canaries who have 28 points. It looks as though Crystal Palace who are on 33 with a game in hand over Swansea look safe and with Swansea on 36 they should be able to get to the magic 40 in their 7 remaining games.

All eyes go to the east now as Sunderland, Newcastle and Norwich fight to keep their Premier League status, all three sides have strong squads.

ncf

Norwich City celebrate a much needed goal.

Norwich City

Current Position: 17th

Points: 28

Games Played: 31

Goals Scored: 32

Goals Conceded: 54

Remaining Games: Newcastle United (H), Crystal Palace (A), Sunderland (H), Arsenal (A), Manchester United (H), Watford (H), Everton (A)

afcsund.jpg

Sunderland

Current Position: 18th

Points: 26

Games Played: 30

Goals Scored: 36

Goals Conceded: 55

Remaining Games: West Bromwich Albion (H), Leicester City (H), Norwich City (A), Arsenal (H), Stoke City (A), Chelsea (H), Everton (H), Watford (A)

newcaaaaastle

Newcastle are having a tough year.

Current Position: 19th

Points: 25

Games Played: 30

Goals Scored: 29

Goals Conceded: 55

Remaining Games: Norwich City (A), Southampton (A), Swansea City (H), Manchester City (H), Liverpool (A), Crystal Palace (H), Aston Villa (A), Tottenham Hotspur (A)

There are some big games ahead some defining games, the matches that stand out are:

Norwich City v Newcastle United, 2nd April

Norwich City v Sunderland, 16th April

Aston Villa v Newcastle United, 7th May

And of course Survival Sunday the 15th May.

The season has been a long one for all three sides and the final few weeks aren’t going to be much easier, the pressure is on and it’s clear only one side will stay up.

The likelihood we will have some sort of clear picture by the final day of the season and with two teams facing two of the top four each and each team playing at least one game against another one of the bottom four it is all to play for heading into the final weeks.

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

Newcastle United Preview

Manager: Steve McLaren
Stadium: St James’ Park
Captain: Fabricio Coloccini
Top Scorer: Papiss Cisse (11)

Newcastle’s season was a number of things, all bad none good. The club made some very interesting signings in the likes of Cabella and Riviére both of whom failed to impress. Newcastle finished in 15th disappointing for such a large club.

Newcastle’s demise could be pointed out to the latter part of the season when John Carver was in charge but you can’t forget that Newcastle started the season with a run of 7 games without a win these included a humiliating 4-0 loss to Southampton where the Saints ran riot. They seemed to have a lot of luck facing the north east. This run however was followed by Pardew inspiring his side to a run of 5 wins including defeats of Liverpool and Tottenham that saw Newcastle climb and Pardew’s stock rise, this signalled that Newcastle meant business and the impressive displays from players like Jack Colback and Daryl Janmaat as well as the scoring from Perez made Newcastle a tough side to beat.

Ayoze Perez on the ball for Newcastle against Manchester City.

Ayoze Perez on the ball for Newcastle against Manchester City.

On 6th December Newcastle became the first team to beat Chelsea that season in an emphatic 2-1 win at St James’ Park, this was a heroic display from Newcastle and showed other teams that Chelsea were not as invincible as they had seemed early in the season. This was followed though by 3 straight defeats including a loss to local rivals Sunderland and that was that as Pardew left the north east of his own accord to join up with London club, Crystal Palace. This signalled a change in Newcastle’s league standing as into the breach stepped John Carver and Steve Stone who would oversee the remainder of the season as caretaker managers and would see a horrific run of games leading to Newcastle being embroiled in a relegation battle that went down to the final game against West Ham at St James’ Park.

John Carver oversaw Newcastle’s biggest defeat of the season when they faced Manchester United and crashed to a 5-0 defeat. This was followed up by a solitary win before the run of games that would see Newcastle slip from mid-table obscurity into the relegation dogfight. They suffered 10 games only picking up 1 point a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion. They lost Sunderland who once again did the double over the Tyneside club and they suffered a defeat at the hands of already relegated club QPR on the penultimate weekend of the season. Their Premier League status was threatened but after Jonas Gutierrez inspired his team to 2 goals scoring 1 himself over West Ham and Newcastle could sleep easy that had retained their Premier League status, John Carver would not recover and was sacked as Mike Ashley brought in Steve McLaren.

The key player undoubtedly was former Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback, Colback joined the club with high hopes of outdoing his former club and local rivals Sunderland only to find himself being 1 of only a few bright sparks donning the famous white and black shirt. The midfielder was industrious and made 35 appearances over the course of the season. He was the rock at the heart of Newcastle and his dictating of pace from the centre of the park was class. He reads the game well and has given Newcastle cause for hope as we hurtle towards next season. Newcastle fans will be hoping their local lad can give Newcastle more of what he was capable of producing last season.

Jack Colback celebrates scoring against Everton.

Jack Colback celebrates scoring against Everton.

Newcastle have made 3 important signings as well as seeing Darlow and Lascelles come after their year long loan at Nottingham Forest. The pick of the bunch is midfielder Wijnaldum who has been nothing short of outstanding throughout the Magpies pre-season. He has scored goals and created them, he is sure to be a worthy addition at St James’ Park. Mitrovic also arrived and his scoring prowess is quite something, the forward managed 28 goals in 51 appearances for Anderlecht last season and at 20 years old is still improving as a player and is not short of confidence he and Ayoze Perez could be formidable for Newcastle for seasons to come. Chancel Mbemba has also finally arrived after questions about his age were answered and he could be a very important addition as Newcastle’s defensive woes last season were something that McLaren is keen to address.

Geoginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring a goal for Holland at the World Cup.

Geoginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring a goal for Holland at the World Cup.

Newcastle see a number of departures, they sickeningly got rid of Argentina international Gutierrez who’s treatment from the club has been disgusting. They also lose Ryan Taylor and their first choice left back Santon who was key to Newcastle’s defence. The core of Newcastle has been ripped out and a gaping hole will be left by the departure of long time servants Taylor and Gutierrez who were at the club during the season in the Championship and helped them regain Premiership status it is a dark time on Tyneside.

IN: Chancel Mbemba (Anderlecht, £8.5 million)
Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven, £14.5 million)
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Anderlecht, £13 million)

OUT: Ryan Taylor (Hull City, Free)
Davide Santon (Inter Milan, £3.25 million)
Jonas Gutierrez (Free Agents, Free)
Remie Streete (Port Vale, Free)
Adam Campbell (Notts County, Free)

Newcastle will be hoping for a better season and if they can produce some good football a top half finish. McLaren will be hoping to find a regular finisher in his side as well that have struggled for an out and out goalscorer since the departure of Demba Ba.

My Newcastle United XI (4-1-2-1-2): 1 T.Krul; 22 D.Janmaat 2 F.Coloccini (C) 15 J.Lascelles 18 C,Mbemba; 4 J.Colback; 7 M.Sissoko 16 R.Aarons; 5 G.Wijnaldum; 45 A.Mitrovic 17 A.Perez

Bench: 26 K.Darlow 19 M.Haïdara 3 P.Dummett 24 C.Tioté 20 R.Cabella 10 S.de Jong 9 P.Cisse

Last Season: 15th
Prediction: 11th

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

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

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

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