So the Olympics have deserted us and now the attention turns to football. After a magical two weeks, the onus is on the Beautiful game to silence the cynics and live up to expectations. Even more so when you consider the barnstorming campaign of 2011-12.
Premier League champions – Manchester City. 3 months on from Aguero`s defining winner, City look to show they can dominate the domestic game. They way they dismantled Chelsea yesterday sent out an ominous message. So far only Jack Rodwell has arrived but with the squad they have now allied to a winning mentality it will take something special to sink the Blue Moon.
Runner’s up – Manchester United. They threw the title away in the finishing straight and now must endure a whole season of City being introduced as champions. The return of Vidic is timely but no longer can United rely on City handing them favors. If Van Persie does arrive it will level the playing field.
Final Champion League Spaces – Chelsea and Liverpool. Oscar, Marin, Hazard- fantasy football has arrived in West London. After a fairytale C.L triumph the pensioners seek to challenge for the title. The new boys will take some bedding in and this season will come too soon for a strong title challenge but anything lower than third will be a disappointment. Liverpool now seek to address a new mentality under Rodgers, the signing of Allen will hardly set pulses racing, but providing no major departures, Liverpool can challenge for fourth, as long as they remember your supposed to win at Anfield.
5th place/Europa League – Arsenal. Yet another summer of transfer speculation plagues the Gunners. They exceeded expectations last year thanks to Robin but will he stick around for much longer? Apart from that, the same old problems persist, but then again I said the same last season.
Relegation – Reading, Southampton, Swansea. This writer should really concentrate more on the championship, so this prediction is really a stab in the dark. What I do know is the folly of predicting the demise of Wigan, no matter the circumstance.
F.A Cup – Liverpool. It seems Liverpool are destined for another season of causing a stir in cup competition whilst frustrating in the league. Runners up last season they can go one better this year.
Carling Cup – Manchester City. With the strength of squad they have City will look to add the Carling Cup to their rapidly expanding trophy cabinet.
Premier league top scorer – Sergio Aguero. The Argentine showed his clinical nature throughout 2011-12 but we have yet to the see the full spectrum of his spectacular talent. As good a chance as anyone to win the golden boot.
Player of the season – David Silva. The little maestro fatigued as the season went on, but for much of it was the leagues standout player. After a summer of triumph expect him to dazzle again with Toure not far behind.
Signing of the season – Oscar. The `new Kaka` was generally outstanding in the Olympics and he has the attributes to shine at the Bridge.
Surprise Package of the season – David Luiz is fast putting his calamitous nature behind him; he could just emerge as a contender for the finest central defender in the country.
Flop of the season – Jack Rodwell. They boy is talented but to go the strongest squad in the league with a powerhouse midfield is dangerous. He only has to look at the limited time given to the even more gifted Adam Johnson to understand the challenge facing him; if he starts more than five Prem games it will be a shock.
Champions League – Real Madrid look best equipped this year but that is only assuming Barca may have teething problems under Vilanova. Outside the Spanish duo, Bayern will be broken men after May so maybe a team like City will make more of an impact.
Champions League dark horses – Juventus. The Old Lady came back with a vengeance and any team who goes through Serie A unbeaten will be pose a threat, Europe is grateful to have an iconic club back.
Europa League – Some Spanish side who finishes a million points away from Barca and Madrid but still outclasses any English pretender.
N.B – After the bonkers finale to last season, I must end on a pessimistic note. This season will almost certainly fail to match the drama of last year, but we live in eternal hope.
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