The last three months have been painful. Yes, of course we have had World Cup qualifiers and the Confederations Cup to mull over through the European summer but it isn’t the same is it? Every year we have to persevere with that 3 month stop gap without our main love in life to help us by. This weekend, the wait is over and the footy is back in full swing! The productive German Bundesliga returned last weekend but this week sees the launch of the other major European competitions.
For a majority of Australian football lovers the focus will centre in on England over the coming days and the unfolding drama as the Premier League kicks off for season 2013/14. It’s a long haul over nine months with spade loads of drama, excitement, heartbreak, pleasure and agony.
With more managerial changes than job cuts under a conservative government, Luis Suarez throwing his toys out of the pram at every opportunity and Arsenal once more set to go a season with about as much silverware as a homeless transvestite my blood is racing at the events which shall unfold in the season ahead.
Now, for those of you who are not quite up to speed with where things stand, too cheap to buy a season guide from the newsstand or not capable of finding an online preview you are in luck! Read on boys and girls because you are going to get part one of my ultimate footy guide!
Once regular title contenders Arsene Wenger’s side face another trophyless season, their ninth on the bounce which will surely place further question marks over the managers future. The Gunners simply need to start spending money in the transfer windows and stop relying on a youth policy that no longer holds merit. Provided Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere remain fit and fire on all cylinders then expect the north London club to challenge for a Champions League position but not much else. Close down the Arsenal passing game and you are well on the way to securing all three points. A poor start to the season must surely be the beginning of the end for Wegner and a clear indication the club needs to spend big to play big.
PREDICTED FINISH: 6th
With Christian Benteke securing his short term future at Villa Park following speculation he was set to leave in the summer I’m expecting big things from Aston Villa this season. Despite possessing one of the youngest squads in the league there is little doubt Paul Lambert will have his team continuing their solid form that elevated them up the table in the second half of the last campaign. The hardest challenge will come early on with matches against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea to open the new season. Many smart pundits can see Villa carving out a surprise push for a Europa League place as the season. I am joining that list.
PREDICTED FINISH: 7th
The first of our new batch to join the top flight this season is the once blue, now red Cardiff City. After securing promotion from the Championship by mid April the Dragons play with abrupt flair. It’s an exciting brand of football to enjoy. The challenge and rigours of top flight competition will, at times bring them undone however they should be safe with journeyman Craig Bellamy leading the way.
PREDICTED FINISH: 15th
The “Special One” is now the self anointed “Happy One” and football in England is better for it. Shame about the club he’s at but that is another story. Welcome back Jose Mourinho! With 15 goals last term Frank Lampard, along with Fernando Torres are the two players I expect to return Chelsea to the summit of the English game come May. These rent boys have a formidable cup record over recent seasons so expect a run in at least one of the domestic cups and the Champions League to match the rent boys certain title charge.
PREDICTED FINISH: CHAMPIONS
Australian football fans will be taking Crystal Palace under their wings this season thanks to captain and Socceroo star Mile Jedinak, one of the main reasons the London club cracked the big time once more. After finishing 15th in the Championship two season ago Palace stunned everyone and returned to top flight football thanks to a dramatic play off run back in May. Losing key players over the summer shant help their cause and it may very well end up a long and tiring season for those associated with the club with no big money signings coming on board.
PREDICTED FINISH: 20th
Only this lot could say goodbye to a grafting and solid manager in David Moyes then bring in a relegation expert for all the wrong reasons. Upon taking over at Wigan a few years ago, Roberto Martinez left the club on the brink of relegation before condemning them to the Championship last year, days after beating Manchester City in the FA Cup! It’s going to be an interesting transition for the “peoples club” on Merseyside. On the plus side they hold an advantage in the air within the opposition box though they will need to improve on their 55 goals from last term to hunt down that elusive Europa League place.
PREDICTED FINISH: 14th
Despite playing at one of the most picturesque grounds in the country expect relegation for the Cottagers. With only one with from their last eight to round out the season last year and new owners in to shape things up (and get rid of that pointless Michael Jackson statue) Fulham are stuck with an aging squad that will rely heavily on Dimitar Berbatov. They also lack credibility at the back. When the footballs turn yellow cum November the pressure will build with every loss and come late April I expect them to be all but finished and on their way to lower league footy next season.
PREDICTED FINISH: 19th
“Steve Bruce has got a big fat head…….” is a sing song everyone loves to enjoy. So with Hull returning to the top flight we can all break out footballs most enjoyable ditty around the nation. Young Robbie Brady is a player you all need to throw into your fantasy teams because his goal assists will be a major reason why Hull can and should enjoy a solid season ahead. Last season Hull went on two extraordinary runs of 16 games without a draw! Expect an exciting brand of football at times and a few upsets along the way.
PREDICTED FINISH: 9th
If pre-season is anything to go by it looks as though Liverpool will be on the up this year. As good as the results were with seven wins and just the one loss they were still only friendlies against weak opposition. The real challenge will arrive at home to clubs like Stoke on day one, matches the reds have struggled with in recent memory. Consistency will decide if Liverpool are able to mount and sustain a challenge for a Champions League birth. Quality signings have arrived in the summer to back up wantaway striker Luis Suarez and key January additions in Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho.
PREDICTED FINISH: 5th
Carlos Tevez has been shipped out along with Mario Balotelli. Life at Manchester City may be boring however Sergio Aguero will be hell bent on making up for a poor outing last term where he spent too much time injured. The key to City’s success hangs on how well new manager Manuel Pellegrini will adapt to life in England. The 59 year old took unfancied Villarreal to the semi finals of the Champions League and then managed to springboard Malaga to the quarter finals of the same competition. City will focus on performing in Europe as they make a fist of things in England. Expect them to be fighting all the way with Chelsea.
PREDICTED FINISH: 2nd