Barclays Premier League Previews (C-E)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Chelsea

Manager: Antonio Conté

Stadium: Stamford Bridge (Capacity: 41,798)

Captain: John Terry

Top Scorer: Diego Costa (12)

Biggest Signing: Michy Batshuayi (£33.2 million)

Last Season: 10th

Prediction: Champions League

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

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

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Eden Hazard endured a tough season.

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

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

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Batshuayi bring a goalscoring threat.

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

IN

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

Michy Batshuayi (Olympique Marseille, £33.2 million)

OUT

John Swift (Reading, Undisclosed)

Marco Amelia (Released)

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

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

Barclays Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace

Manager: Alan Pardew

Stadium: Selhurst Park (Capacity (25,073)

Captain: Mile Jedinak

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

Biggest Signing: Andros Townsend (£13 million)

Last Season: 15th

Prediction: Mid-Table

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

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

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Cabaye has been key for Crystal Palace.

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

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

IN

Andros Townsend (Newcastle United, £13 million)

James Tomkins (West Ham United, £10 million)

Steve Mandanda (Olympique Marseille, Undisclosed)

OUT

Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United, Undisclosed)

Brede Hangeland (Released)

Marouane Chamakh (Released)

Emmanuel Adebayor (Released)

Adrian Marriappa (Released)

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

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Townsend could be the difference.

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

 

 

Barclays Premier League Preview: Everton

Manager: Ronald Koeman

Stadium: Goodison Park (Capacity 39.571)

Captain: Phil Jagielka

Top Scorer: Romelu Lukaku (18)

Biggest Signing: Maarten Stekelenburg (Undisclosed)

Last Season: 11th

Prediction: Mid-Table

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

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

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Barkley is one of many youngsters at Goodison Park.

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

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

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

IN

Maarten Stekelenburg (Fulham, Undisclosed)

Chris Renshaw (Oldham Atheltic, Undisclosed)

Bassala Sambou (Coventry City, Undisclosed)

OUT

Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids, Free)

Leon Osman (Released)

Tony Hibbert (Released)

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

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Stekelenburg is an impressive goalkeeper.

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

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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.

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

Chelsea Preview

Manger: José Mourinho
Stadium: Stamford Bridge
Captain: John Terry
Top Scorer: Diego Costa (21)

Chelsea had a wonderful season last term with the return of the ‘Special One’ to steer Chelsea to a wonderful League Cup and Premier League double. He signed some deadly players last season snapping up the duo of Luis and Costa from the Spanish capital as well as Cuadrado developing this team into one of the most dangerous and coveted in Europe.

Chelsea after winning the Barclays Premier League.

Chelsea after winning the Barclays Premier League.

Chelsea only lost 4 games all season, 3 coming in the Premier League and the final 1 in the FA Cup 4th round. That is an astonishing achievement they went a whole Champions League campaign without losing still to get knocked out by French giant PSG who went through due to the frankly ridiculous away goals rule. Chelsea also only lost away from home with trips to St James’ Park, White Hart Lane and The Hawthorns proving too tricky for the champions. It took them until 6th December to lose their first match as Newcastle beat them 2-1. Chelsea were to beat them just over a month later in the return leg for sweet revenge but not before an excellent solo Harry Kane performance handed Chelsea defeat number 2.

Following the loss to Tottenham they went 16 matches unbeaten including a 5-0 thrashing of Swansea away from home and 1-0 win over Manchester United in impressive fashion. Chelsea were strong in attack and defence ending the season 8 points clear of 2nd placed Manchester City. Having conceded just 32 goals Mourinho could rest assured his team was not just the brilliant Costa, Fabregas combination that seemed unstoppable for the first half of the season leading to Costa’s 21 goals over the course of the season.

Chelsea’s Champions League run was also impressive only conceding 3 goals over the course of the group stage but racked up 17 including a 6-0 hammering of Maribor and a 5-0 thrashing of Schalke which was hugely impressive. Chelsea have just been outstanding in every facet of the game, nobody can quite get close to Chelsea in terms of class and strength in depth as well as the world class names like Hazard, Costa and Cahill they have the youngsters such as Loftus-Cheek and Solanke coming through to join the side that cannot stop winning trophies.

Costa was impressive last season, so was Fabregas, Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill the list goes on but the best player for Chelsea was Eden Hazard. An innovative, magic attacking player. his turn of pace and touch make him one of the most desirable midfielders in the world, he’s young as well at only 24 the Belgian has plenty more time to develop into one of the best players in world football. I’m surprised the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG and Bayern Munich haven’t come knocking for Hazard, if he continue this form into next season nobody will have a chance.

Eden Hazard celebrates a goal against Hull.

Eden Hazard celebrates a goal against Hull.

Chelsea’s title winning season meant they didn’t need to bring in a huge amount of players especially with the youth coming through the ranks at Stamford Bridge. They have signed 4 players with Begovic being the most significant bringing in back up for the fabulous Courtois who has been the standout goalkeeper in the league ahead of De Gea, Hart and anybody else in England. That signing could prove to be hugely important ahead of the new season where depth could be important for Chelsea.

New signing Begovic in action for Stoke.

New signing Begovic in action for Stoke.

Chelsea have lost two veterans in Ivorian striker Drogba and Czech keeper Cech and they were sent off in style by the stylish London club. Czech was sold to rivals Arsenal which probably led to the capture of Begovic from Premier League rivals Stoke. They have also sold young midfielder McEachran to Brentford for a surprisingly low fee for such a talented player who has been crying out to be played more which shouldn’t be a problem at Brentford.

IN: Asmir Begovic (Stoke City, £8 million)
Kenedy (Fluminese, £6.3 million)
Nathan (Atletico Paranaense, £4.5 million)
Danilo Pantic (Partizan, 1.25 million)

OUT: Petr Cech (Arsenal, £10.9 million)
Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach, £5.85 million)
Gael Kakuta (Sevilla, £2.5 million)
Josh McEachran (Brentford, £750,000)
Didier Drogba (Free Agent, Free)
George Brady (Sunderland, Free)

Chelsea have made some worthwhile additions to an already strong squad. Chelsea are dangerous and they are well on course to bag the trophy again for Mourinho and Stamford Bridge. A back to back Premier League winning season would be something special but you’d have to be crazy to bet against it.

My Chelsea XI (4-2-3-1): 13 T.Courtois; 2 B.Ivanovic 24 G.Cahill 26 J.Terry (C) 28 C.Azpilicueta; 21 N.Matic 4 C.Fabregas; 10 E.Hazard 8 Oscar 11 J.Cuadrado; 19 D.Costa

Bench: 1 A.Begovic 3 F.Luis 5 K.Zouma 12 J. Obi Mikel 7 Ramires 36 R.Loftus-Cheek 9 R.Falcao

Last Season: Champions
Prediction: Champions