OUR crack team of journalists talk you through every Premier League club’s
chances as the new season gets underway.
ASTON VILLA: by Graeme Bryce
PAUL LAMBERT’S sheer willpower and ability to inspire should see his new club
match the magnificent 12th place he achieved with Norwich last season.
That would restore some credibility, stability and avoid another nerve-racking
relegation battle for Aston Villa’s suffering supporters. After a grim year
they can expect to be entertained as Lambert’s style isn’t to sit back.
Strap yourself in for a season of spills and thrills Villans!
CHELSEA: by Shaun Custis
STRANGE but true, Roberto Di Matteo will take charge of his first competitive
game as official Chelsea boss at Wigan tomorrow.
This is the man who saved the Blues last season and put a fractured squad back
together with superb results.
He made them into FA Cup winners and European champions on an unforgettable
night in Munich.
But, even when Di Matteo delivered, he was left sweating on whether he would
get the job full time. And there is no boss under more pressure.
Owner Roman Abramovich has spent £64m on new players, the Brazilian playmaker
Oscar (£25m), Belgian ace Eden Hazard (£32m) and German midfielder Marko
Marin (£7m) and Di Matteo must deliver.
EVERTON: by Phil Thomas
IF they awarded trophies purely on the second half of the season, Everton
would be celebrating silverware.
It has become an unwanted tradition to get off to a poor start. But this time
there is belief that they can fly out of the blocks thanks to a kind fixture
FULHAM: by Antony Kastrinakis
MARTIN JOL has kept a steady ship and more than lived up to expectations.
The probable departure of Clint Dempsey to Liverpool before the transfer
window shuts will be a massive blow for Fulham, who have already lost
veterans Danny Murphy and Andy Johnson.
Their squad is certainly good enough and mid-table safety is the minimum for
the Cottagers, who have not really been in danger of a relegation dogfight
at any time in the last four seasons.
LIVERPOOL: by Phil Thomas
ANOTHER new season, another wave of optimism on the red half of Merseyside.
Yet this time there is also a hefty dose of realism in there as well. New boss
Brendan Rodgers has been handed a job some were beginning to describe as a
But fresh faces have arrived, adding a natural burst of enthusiasm and vigour
to the place.
Fabio Borini, the £10million Italian striker signed from Roma, and Joe Allen
has come in from Swansea.
Luis Suarez ended doubts about his future with a four-year deal while Lucas’
return to fitness gives them the holding midfielder they lacked last term.
While a serious assault on the title is way beyond them, Liverpool will
certainly be more competitive this time around. And it could be an enjoyable
MAN CITY: by Martin Blackburn
JUST when you thought it had been a quiet summer over at the Etihad…
The champions have taken everybody’s breath away in the last three close
seasons with their spending sprees.
Now, all of a sudden, here they were making headlines for keeping their wallet
And, what’s more, boss Roberto Mancini was decidedly unhappy about it —
pointing the finger squarely at football administrator Brian Marwood.
Yet if there were any worries among City fans about the season ahead they were
surely blown away on Sunday.
They reminded everyone how strong they are as they flexed their muscles by
outplaying Champions League winners Chelsea in the Community Shield on the
way to a 3-2 win.
Not only that, they did it without a host of key stars like David Silva, Mario
Balotelli and Joe Hart.
And, later that night, the cheque book was dusted off as they agreed to pay
£15million for Everton’s England midfielder Jack Rodwell.
NEWCASTLE: by Steve Brenner
ALAN PARDEW could do no wrong after Newcastle’s brilliant season and goes into
the new campaign full of confidence.
Their brilliant push into fifth place and the Europa Cup defied even the
wildest expectations of the Toon Army. Owner Mike Ashley’s ploy to tie up
all his big stars on long-term deals is more than paying off.
The Magpies go into the season in a good place and it will tests Pards’ skills
to make sure they stay there.
NORWICH: by Charlie Wyett
CHRIS HUGHTON leads Norwich into a new era today knowing he has a tough act to
His predecessor Paul Lambert guided them to successive promotions and an
impressive 12th place last term.
Most bookies reckon the Canaries will be relegated this time. But boss Hughton
could be a decent, solid appointment.
He is highly rated by his fellow managers and will try to tighten a defence
that leaked too many goals.
Full-back Steven Whittaker has been brought in from Rangers and has been
joined by centre-back Michael Turner from Sunderland.
QPR: by Paul Jiggins
MARK HUGHES is banking on his Thirtysomethings to finish in the
The QPR boss wants to avoid a repeat of last season’s flirtation with disaster.
So the Welshman turned to top-flight experience to get to 40 points earlier —
and stop his greying barnet from falling out.
England keeper Robert Green, 32, moved from West Ham.
The defence is boosted by the arrival of ex-Blackburn centre-back Ryan Nelsen,
Hughes spent £5million on Ji-Sung Park, 31, from Manchester United. And Andrew
Johnson, 31, joined on a free from Fulham.
Rangers will undoubtedly miss Joey Barton on the pitch during his 12-match ban
for the red card and red mist at City. But they will not miss him off it.
The squad can think football rather than worry what he tweeted last night.
Or if he was arrested.
READING: by Charlie Wyett
READING hope to repeat what QPR, Swansea and Norwich did last season — stay up.
Boss Brian McDermott said he does not use the word “survive” in his SunSport
And backed by an owner who has plenty of money, he will have a chance of
keeping the Royals up.
Russian tycoon Anton Zingarevic, educated at a private school near Reading,
has completed a £40million takeover.
And Zingarevic’s money could be a crucial factor if the club need a push in
the January window.
They’ve signed seven players this summer.
McDermott had bagged a couple of decent defenders in Adrian Mariappa from
Watford for £2.5million and Chris Gunter from Nottingham Forest for the same
He also signed Forest player-of-the-season Gareth McCleary and Pierce Sweeney
from Irish club Bray Wanderers. Also ex-Royals favourite Nicky Shorey is
back and Danny Guthrie was a good grab from Newcastle.
But the key man is Russia striker Pavel Pogrebnyak from Stuttgart.
SOUTHAMPTON: by Tony Little
FORMER physio Nigel Adkins will need all his healing powers just to keep
Saints in the Premier League.
Boss Adkins may have worked miracles by leading them to back-to-back
promotions — but it may not be enough to satisfy chairman Nicola Cortese.
Saints have been handed trips to Manchester City and Arsenal, as well as a
home game with Manchester United among their first four fixtures.
With Wigan’s visit to St Mary’s a week today offering the only ray of hope in
a daunting start they could be bottom of the pile after the opening month.
Focus will then switch to hard-to-please Cortese, the Swiss-born businessman
not renowned for patience as Adkins’ sacked predecessor Alan Pardew will
Not that Adkins can complain he has not been given boardroom backing.
He shelled out a club record £12million for midfielder Gaston Ramirez and £7m
for Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez. He has also signed full-back Nathaniel
Clyne from Crystal Palace.
STOKE: by Graeme Bryce
IT’S shaping up to be a season of transition for Stoke.
The challenge, as ever, for Tony Pulis is to make sure the Potters don’t spend
next summer in transit… between the Premier League and the Championship!
The Potters’ fifth season in the Premier League could turn out to be their
most critical ever.
With a bumper new £3billion TV deal due to kick in next season there couldn’t
be a worse time to miss out on a massive increase in revenue.
Some reports have suggested receiving a bigger slice of the TV money could
boost Stoke’s income by as much as 25 per cent next season.
That kind of windfall can put serious distance between the Potters and the
best of the rest outside of the Premier League for years to come.
The problem Pulis has is trimming down a bloated squad and replacing fringe
players with a few more first-pick players — Michael Owen is a target.
Much will depend on which rabbit Pulis pulls out of the hat before the end of
SUNDERLAND: by Steve Brenner
IT has not been much fun being a Sunderland fan this summer.
Pre-season results have been patchy at best. But, as Martin O’Neill would
rightly insist, warm-up games do not count for too much.
Yet what is really worrying the Mackems right now is the lack of new faces.
Carlos Cuellar has bolstered a defence, which has lost Michael Turner to
But it’s up front where the problems really lie.
OK, so Louis Saha has signed on a one-year deal and joins Fraizer Campbell as
the club’s senior strikers.
On their day, both are Premier League quality. Unfortunately, both are injury
More top-flight experience is needed — badly.
It pains Wearside that more than 18 months on, Darren Bent still has not been
SWANSEA: by Gareth Morgan
SWANSEA hope life after Brendan Rodgers will still be as rewarding.
Rodgers guided Swans to 11th in the Prem last season.
The burning question now is whether Michael Laudrup can build on that.
Their secret weapon was their passing style and the surprise factor. Laudrup
will need to activate Plan B. They may be direct.
They have lost Joe Allen and Gylfi Sigurdsson but signed Michu and Jonathan De
TOTTENHAM: by Paul Jiggins
KEEPING Spurs in the top four might not be as easy as 1-2-3 for AVB.
New Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas will be out to prove his critics wrong
after his ill-fated 256-day spell in charge of Chelsea last season.
AVB has already won over his new squad with his meticulous planning and
intense high-tempo training sessions.
But he currently has only TWO frontmen in Jermain Defoe and Harry Kane, who
has yet to play in the top flight.
Villas-Boas has said he is willing to welcome Real Madrid target Luka Modric
back into the fold.
And he may need the Croatian playmaker to unlock defences if he fails to go
out and strengthen his weak strike force.
WEST BROM: by Graeme Bryce
THE Baggies are big on stability. When Roy Hodgson answered his country’s call
it barely caused a ripple.
Hodgson’s safe pair of hands led Albion to a hugely impressive 10th finish
Few expect Steve Clarke in his first stab at management to repeat the feat. I
disagree. Albion’s summer signings have been bold and imaginative.
The Scot pulled off a coup in landing Chelsea’s £20million Belgian striker
Romelu Lukaku on loan. Nabbing Sweden international Markus Rosenberg from
Werder Bremen on a free was another smart move.
James Morrison and Chris Brunt are creative in midfield and Clarke has added
some Argentine beef in the shape of rugged midfielder Claudio Yacob.
Albion could be this season’s Newcastle.
WEST HAM: By STEVE BRENNER
IT didn’t come off but their pursuit of Liverpool’s £35million misfit Andy
Carroll showed how determined West Ham co-owners David Sullivan and David
Gold are to re-establish their club in the Prem.
It was obvious why boss Sam Allardyce wanted him — to get on the end of high
balls into the box. The writing on the wall is already clear — the football
is unlikely to be pretty and if it doesn’t result in a decent start there
will soon be trouble.
WIGAN: by Martin Blackburn
WE’VE been asking the same question since Wigan were promoted to the Premier
League in 2005.
How long can Latics keep defying the odds by staying up?
Plenty will write them off this time as well. But boss Roberto Martinez and
Wigan will not care one jot.