Barclays Premier League Previews (M)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Manchester City

Manager: Pep Guardiola

Stadium: Etihad Stadium (Capacity: 55,097)

Captain: Vincent Kompany

Top Scorer: Sergio Agüero (24)

Biggest Signing: Ilkay Gundogan (£21 million)

Last Season: 4th

Prediction: Champions League

Manchester City have one of the most exciting sets of players in the league, they have players that can do things most players can only dream of.

The big spending club under performed last season unable to covert the many chances created by the likes of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne two players who were key to Manuel Pellegrini’s reign.

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Guardiola is well respected all over Europe.

Guardiola comes in having had successful spells at Bayern Munich and Barcelona and the Spanish coach has already made a good impression bringing in some high profile signings on low fees which has made him popular among the fans.

Compared to their neighbours the fees they are paying for their newest stars are pennies.

Pep Guardiola is also hugely good at bringing through youth something that sets him apart from Jose Mourinho and he is blessed at Manchester City with player such as Kelechi Iheanacho and Jason Denayer developing at a ridiculous rate.

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Denayer is a promising prospect for Manchester City.

Guardiola has strengthened the depth in certain areas and only recruited the very best. He has recruited from Spain and Germany in an effort to make Manchester City a formidable outfit.

IN

Ilkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund, £21 million)

Nolito (Celta Vigo, £13.8 million)

Alexander Zinchenko (FC Ufa, Undisclosed)

Aaron Mooy (Unattached, Free)

OUT

Richard Wright (Released)

Martin Demichelis (Released)

Manchester City are from done with business, Leroy Sane remains a priority target having told Schalke he wants to leave. Deals are also expected to be done for two of South America’s hottest property in Manolas Moreno and Gabriel Jesus. City are also still interested in John Stones of Everton or failing that Roma defender Kostas Manolas.

My Manchester City XI (4-2-3-1): 1 J.Hart; 5 P.Zabaleta, 28 J.Denayer, 20 E.Mangala, 11 A.Kolarov; 25 Fernandinho, 16 I.Gundogan; 15 J.Navas, 21 D.Silva, 17 K.De Bruyne; 16 S.Agüero (Captain)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Manchester United

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Stadium: Old Trafford (Capacity: 75.653)

Captain: Wayne Rooney

Top Scorer: Anthony Martial (11)

Biggest Signing: Eric Bailly (£30 million)

Last Season: 5th

Prediction: Champions League

Manchester United, a failed transition from Sir Alex Ferguson has seen them depart from two managers in three years. David Moyes failed and as for Louis van Gaal the saviour of Manchester United, there will be no Champions League at Old Trafford this year.

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Mkhitaryan celebrates scoring for Dortmund.

In comes a proven Premier League manager, Mourinho, arguably the best short term manager in the world, he will paper over the cracks left by Louis van Gaal.

Mourinho knows how to win this league and he has signed players accordingly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrives with a reputation as does Mkhitaryan. Players with international and European pedigree.

They have the quality, players like Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Chris Smalling coupled with the exuberant youth of Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingered and Marcus Rashford. The squad is packed with stars.

Old Trafford will be tough trip for many this year and the Champions League must be the bare minimum for this new look Red Devils.

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Ibrahimovic is undoubtedly a star.

Three new faces with more to come no doubt Mourinho was handed more money than he knew what to with and he has not wasted time in spending it.

IN

Eric Bailly (Villareal, £30 million)

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Borussia Dortmund, Undisclosed)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Unattached, Free)

OUT

Joe Rothwell (Oxford United, Undisclosed)

Nick Powell (Released)

Victor Valdes (Middlesborough, Released)

One of the most highly anticipated transfers is soon to be down with Paul Pogba all set to arrive in Manchester. Kostas Manolas also remains a target but a deal looks unlikely.

My Manchester United XI (4-1-3-2): 1 D.De Gea; 5 M.Rojo, 3 E.Bailly, 12 C.Smalling, 23 L.Shaw; 28 M.Schneiderlin; 8 J.Mata, 10 W.Rooney (Captain), 14 J.Lingard; 11 A.Martial, 19 M.Rashford

Barclays Premier League Preview: Middlesbrough FC

Manager: Aitor Karanka

Stadium: Riverside Stadium (Capacity: 33,746)

Captain: Grant Leadbitter

Top Scorer: David Nugent (8)

Biggest Signing: Viktor Fischer (£3.8 million)

Last Season: Promoted

Prediction: Safety

Middlesbrough are a team that can go places, they have an ambitious manager in Aitor Karanka.

The off season has already seen a lot of activity at the Riverside developing a squad that is capable of playing in the Premier League and also giving the club an identity and personality to set it apart from Sunderland and Newcastle their neighbours.

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Karanka has made Middlesbrough a tough team to beat.

Middlesbrough’s long exile from the Premier League may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as they have bolstered the squad with talented players and found that they can be team that are very hard to beat.

One thing that strikes when you look through how Middlesbrough have scored their goals there is an endless list of scorers, unlike Spurs where you have Kane or Leicester where there is Kane, they have four or five players who are netting five, six, seven goals a season with Nugent of course leading the way.

Being able to bring in Valdes for free and also sign up a few other talented players for such small fees has made the already talented squad stronger and with this strength in depth comes competition for places.

IN

Viktor Fischer (Ajax, £3.8 million)

Antonio Barragan (Valencia CF, £3 million)

Marten De Roon (Atalanta, Undisclosed)

Victor Valdes (Unattached, Free)

Gaston Ramirez (Unattached, Free)

Bernardo Espinosa (Spoting Gijon, Free)

Alvaro Negredo (Valencia CF, Loan)

OUT

Paul Weldon (Darlington, Free)

Already some high quality names coming in. Add into the mix Harry Maguire who is set to be under a £4 million offer, Aston Villa keeper Guzan which is believed to be a done deal and an offer for Tottenham’s Nail Bentaleb expected soon they are not short of quality.

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Boro stalwart, Downing.

My Middlesbrough XI (4-4-2): 23 V.Valdes; NA A.Barragan, 4 D.Ayala, NA B.Espinosa, 2 G.Friend; 8 A.Clayton, 7 G.Leadbitter (Captain), 21 G.Ramirez, 19 S.Downing; 35 D.Nugent, NA V.Fischer

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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.

The Fall of Vanchester

Louis van Gaal, hailed as the man to return Manchester United to the glory days following a lacklustre tenure for David Moyes who succeeded the special and unique Sir Alex Ferguson after an unprecedented 27 years as the top man at Old Trafford.

The Dutchman has gone from the messiah to the damned after a tough season so far. Following another summer full of spending including the high profile arrivals of youngster Memphis Depay and World Cup winner Schweinsteiger.

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Memphis Depay has been a flop since arriving at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils were the only English side to crash out of the Champions League after just the group stage. Manchester United’s supposed saviour has lost his way with a team full of superstars from all over Europe.

The pressure on Van Gaal is huge and with the results failing to materialise and with Premier League already having seen the sacking of Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers that has rocked the whole division.

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José Mourinho was sacked earlier this season for a poor start to the season with Chelsea.

With Manchester United having not won a Premier League game since the 21st November, that is not good enough for the most successful club in English football of all time. Since which time they have slipped from 2nd to 6th which frankly is not good enough.

The losses to Norwich and Bournemouth will hurt and the admissions of Louis Van Gaal that Manchester United are no longer the team they once were and that the club are in crisis will not have warmed the fans to the Dutch general at the helm.

Manchester United are nine points off Arsenal who lead the charge they are also nine goals off the impressive goal difference of the table toppers. Only eight wins halfway through the season is unacceptable for the majority of Premier League teams.

The fact that Depay is failing to live up to the lofty expectations that demanded £25 million for the 21 year old. Since arriving at Old Trafford the Dutch forward has only netted two goals which values each goal at £12.5 million not even some of the wonderful goals that Wayne Rooney has scored before are worth such a hefty amount of cash.

The loss of Van Persie and Hernandez seems to have hurt Manchester United with only seven teams scoring less goals than the 13 times champions. With only Martial and Rooney their only real goalscorers in the side.

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Robin Van Persie was deemed surplus to requirements over a summer that saw a number of high profile players leave Old Trafford.

The remark from Alex Ferguson that he will step in to the breach to help Ryan Giggs who is already being given the go ahead as if Van Gaal has already been sacked.

 

It looks as though time may finally be up for the former Holland hero.

 

Louis Van Gaal in Numbers

Money Spent: £230 million
Players Bought: 12
Players Sold: 25

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