19 August, 2006

Football: Premier League Preview

As promised, Donutball has got out it's crystal ball, put it's citizen journalist credentials on the line and bottled it. A quick run through each of the Premier League clubs on the opening day of the 2006-7 season.

Questions: a third title in a row for the "Chosen One"? Relegation for Pompey? Carrick the new Roy Keane? Red cards for Robbie Savage? Twenty goals for Berbatov? dodgy penalty decisions for Liverpool?

Answers: we haven't got a clue.

All you need to know about al-Arsenal's new Emirates Stadium - 900 toilets and 370 metres of urinals. Top four. Flush.

Aston Villa are buoyant with the arrival of Martin O'Neill, the man who should have been England manager, and new sugar daddy, Randy Lerner. Challenging for UEFA Cup place.

Mark Hughes has turned Blackburn Rovers into a tough nut to crack and surprised in 6th place last year, without Craig Bellamy they'll do well to match that performance. Lots of cards, not too many goals, mid-table.

A lot of print about Bolton's Sam Allardyce disappointment at not getting the England job. Wanderers - like Lancashire neighbours Blackburn - will be difficult to beat, but could be a let down. Up, down, up again, mid-table.

Charlton's Darren Bent was the top English premier League marksman in 2005-6, but failed to crack the World Cup squad. New boss Ian Dowie has a tough act to follow, but the 'Addicks are becoming a top table fixture. Lower half, but taking the odd scalp.

Ballack ,Salomon Kalou, John Obi Mikel, Shevchenko, "Khalid the Cannibal" Boulahrouz and, possibly Ashley Cole: quite a transfer window haul for Chelsea. Yet, Mourinho says "we're not ready". Champions (possibly of Europe too).

Sticky times for the Toffees. Everton in the post-Ferguson era. Andy Johnson is a great signing, but this squad's too thin. Struggling, but will survive.

Fulham have been rocked by the sulkiness of Steed Malbranque. Manager Chris Coleman has to work more magic, but this might be their last top flight season for awhile. Bottom four.

If any club looks like breaking Chelsea's grip on the title, it's Liverpool. Ignore opening day. Ignore the Community Shield. Liverpool's defence is rock solid; Sissoko, Gerrard and Bellamy hum in midfield; late signing Dirk Kuyt, much sought after by Premier League clubs, adds much needed pop up front. Runners-up.

With Stuart Pearce as manager, you can expect lots of effort from Manchester City. Last season's disastrous run-in showed how thin a squad Pierce has. A lot of transfer activity over the summer, but another struggling year. Lower half.

The start of the season, I think, is crucial for Manchester United. I expect the usual strong run after Christmas, so if they begin in good form Man U might make a race of it. Big surprise not to see a striker signed over the summer. Top four.

Ex-England man Gareth Southgate takes over at Middlesbrough with Steve McLaren off to Soho Square. Looks to be a baptism of fire. Will ship goals, but probably score a lot too. Lower table.

Owen injured. Shearer retired. Damian Duff, the only summer signing. Newcastle look like one of many fighting for scraps. Top half, possible run at UEFA Cup place.

It wouldn't be a proper season without a relegation battle for Portsmouth. Wheeler-dealer Harry Redknapp has brought in a lot of experience with Glen Johnson, David Thompson, Sol Campbell, David James and Kanu. Lower table.

Steve Coppell returns to the Premier League with Reading. The Madejski Stadium will be full, but it could be a short stay at the top. Fighting relegation.

A sleeping giant (tm), Sheffield United, finally return to the Premier League. They were founder members, y'know. Little top flight experience, but manager Neil Warnock is a magician. Watch the Blades disappear.

Despair at the end, but 2005-6 was Tottenham's best season in the Premier League - fifth (should have been fourth). Michael Carrick loss means more to Spurs than his addition means to Man U (huh?). How good is Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov? Zokora: Patrick Viera or Danny Murphy? Top six: short UEFA Cup run.

I know about zero about Watford's squad. Marlon King scored 22 goals last year. They threaten to be fit and will probably want to stop others playing. Struggle from post-to-post.

West Ham have quietly put together a decent Premier League squad. They have depth to overcome to Dean Ashton injury. Card shark Teddy Sheringham's still trotting along. Challenging for a European place.

Interesting signings for Wigan: Emile Heskey, Chris Kirkland and Denny Landzaat. They surprised most last season, but are no longer an unknown quantity. Mid-table (I'm sure they'll take that.)


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