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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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

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

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Leicester City have finally won the Premier League title.

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

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

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

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Agüero cost City an eye watering £38 million.

4th Manchester City

Played 36 Points 64 Goal Difference 30

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 4th

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

5th Manchester United

Played 35 Points 60 Goal Difference 12

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

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

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

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Mark Noble has been key for West Ham this season.

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

Prediction: 6th

6th West Ham United

Played 35 Points 59 Goal Difference 17

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 5th

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

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Newcastle are having a tough year.

17th Newcastle United

Played 36 Points 33 Goal Difference -25

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 17th

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Sunderland could be facing the drop.

18th Sunderland

Played 35 Points 32 Goal Difference -18

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 18th

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Norwich have not had much to cheer about this year.

19th Norwich City

Played 35 Points 31 Goal Difference -26

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

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

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

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

Prediction: 19th

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What a year it’s been for Jamie Vardy.

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

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.

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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

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