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Friday August 15, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday August 15, 2014 MYT 11:51:05 AM
by jason dasey
Target man: Costa will be expected to bang in the goals for Chelsea.
Something’s gotta give. All of the top seven English Premier League clubs have apparently strengthened their squads. Two of them have new, brighter managers.
Everyone is talking a good game and most of the big boys have secured impressive victories in the pre-season.
Yet, only four of them will earn themselves Champions League football. And just one will be crowned king of the castle.
I’m going out on a limb here by predicting that it will be Chelsea who will claim their third title under Jose Mourinho — their first since the Portuguese returned to London last year.
What the Special One lacked last season was firepower upfront, despite the best midfield in the country. But with the arrival of Diego Costa and the homecoming of long-time favourite Didier Drogba, the Blues will now have no problem banging in the goals.
They have strengthened in other areas too with Cesc Fabregas providing another option behind the strikers and the excellent Filipe Luis joining his former Atletico Madrid teammate Costa at Stamford Bridge.
And it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise that the flamboyant yet erratic Brazilian defender David Luiz has been sold off for £50 million pounds to Paris St Germain.
During the last week of the World Cup, my partner in the Astro SuperSport studio was former Chelsea midfielder Brian Laudrup who had a brief spell with the West London club in 1998, winning the UEFA Super Cup. He agreed that his former side would be difficult to beat this season.
Working with Laudrup was an absolute pleasure. And for a man who looks like a male model and has won the UEFA Champions League, Serie A, and the European Championship among so many other trophies, he was remarkably grounded and humble. Making up the top four this season will be Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal.
City’s Community Shield defeat last weekend indicates that Manuel Pellegrini’s men will suffer a World Cup hangover with a slow start to the season.
Eventually they will get things right, but Chelsea will edge them to the title.
United will be far sharper because the dynamic style of Louis Van Gaal is a much better fit than the outdated ways of David Moyes. The squad looks a lot stronger and they are blessed by a benign set of fixtures to start the season.
But the jump from seventh to champions in a single season will be too great, although they could go neck-and-neck with their city rivals for second.
Even with marquee signing Alexis Sanchez on-board, Arsenal’s season might be similar to their last campaign: a strong start followed by a post-Christmas fade. Once again, I’m concerned about how the FA Cup champions will hold up defensively against the big clubs away from home.
But I expect them to win another Cup and to enjoy a strong season in Europe.
Sorry Liverpool fans: your best chance to win the title was last season. I see the Reds dropping from second to fifth after the unfortunate departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona. It will be difficult for Brendan Rodgers to replicate what he achieved last season, despite so many quality signings.
The simple fact is that Suarez was the kind of special player who could win games on his own, a little like Gareth Bale at Spurs before he left for Real Madrid.
Sixth will be Everton. They can expect another enterprising year under Roberto Martinez but they will fall short of the top four.
Tottenham Hotspur will finish seventh as ex-Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino comes to terms with life at a much bigger and more demanding club.
As for the main relegation candidates, it is hard to go past recently promoted Burnley and last season’s strugglers, West Bromwich Albion.
The third team, I’m afraid to say, could be Malaysian-owned Queens Park Rangers, although as a long-time fan of the Shepherds Bush club, I’m hoping that they will stay up. The new season is all about comings and goings — and not just for players and coaches.
After five years as executive producer and senior host at Astro, I have now joined ESPNFC (formerly Soccernet) as senior editor as we get ready to roll out a South-East Asian edition.
So I am wearing the colours of a different club, as well. Let the games begin!
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