With a brand new Premier League campaign merely days away, the hysteria and elation is continuing to rise with every passing day.
And with plenty of speculation, conjecture and rumours still making waves across the media on a daily basis, it’s time for SportsNewsIreland to take a look at the five most intriguing teams to watch this season.
It’s impossible to talk about a new league campaign without mentioning Manchester United. However, it’s more difficult to imagine a Red Devils title challenge without their long-time prolific mentor and manager Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm. Nonetheless, that is exactly the task they must undertake.
So far, the reigning champions have been unconvincing in their pre-season efforts and have done little to bolster their squad, although they will still be one to watch with the likes of Robin Van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and young upstart Wilfried Zaha ready to impress the new manager.
Also, the managerial credentials of David Moyes are sure to be scrutinised immensely by all quarters of the football world over the coming few months as he gets his feet wet.
Andre Villa-Boas has done what’s necessary this season by spending big on a number of key areas. Most striking was his purchase of Sevilla front-man Roberto Soldado. The Spain striker, who netted an impressive 23 goals last season, was bought for a record transfer fee and he’s already found the net for his new club in pre-season.
Along with this, Villa-Boas and Daniel Levy managed to bring through Brazil international Paulinho. The former Corinthians midfielder who impressed at the 2013 Confederations Cup on home soil is sure to bring some added flare and youthful exuberance to a Tottenham side brimming with potential.
And it’s the likes of these signing that could tip the scales in their favour when it comes to challenging for the title, particularly if they manage to hold on to Welsh sensation Gareth Bale for another season. Provided he stays, they could wreak havoc this season, but only time will tell on that front.
Of all the sides who had the closest brush with relegation last season, Sunderland have been the most proactive in the transfer market. And it’s easy to see why. Following a string of dismal performances which saw them slide down the table to finish 17th, it was clear they were a side in need of rejigging.
Thankfully from the Black Cats fans’ point of view, the boardroom have spent quite a lot in the transfer window. More encouragingly though, is the fact that they’ve spent wisely.
The capture of Italy international, Emanuele Giaccherini was perhaps their shrewdest buy of all though. In him, they’ve brought on board a very versatile, hard-working and energetic performer who can play as a winger, attacking midfielder or even as a wing-back. So, expect to see him helping the Wearside club to a much better position in the table this season. Alongside Jozy Altidore and others, it wouldn’t be such a shock to see them punching above their weight challenging for a Europa League spot.
If only for the creation of a brand new football rivalry in the upper echelon of the English game, Cardiff will surely be one to watch this season. In truth, derbies are one of the main elements that make football fans sit up and take notice and the Cardiff-Swansea derby will be no different.
Of course, Swansea will be the favourites to gain the bragging rights in the league having crafted a nice little nice for themselves over the past two seasons, however, they will still need to be wary of the threat posed by their country rivals.
Malky Mackay can boast the likes of Craig Bellamy and Frazier Campbell up front, while they’ve also recently strengthened their squad with the purchase of Chilean midfielder Gary Medel from Spanish side Sevilla.
The flagship signing will be keen to guide his new club to safety this summer and it will incredibly interesting to see if the Championship winners have enough to complete the unenviable task of fighting for survival in one of the toughest leagues in the world
The arrival of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea several weeks ago continued the managerial changes that were in vogue in England’s top-tier over the summer and prompted many to label The Special One as the man capable enough to wrestle the title back from United’s grasp. And while it won’t be easy, it seems as though the Portuguese enigma has all the credentials to do it.
Of course, Chelsea greatly under-achieved domestically last season, although Rafael Benitez did superbly to guide them to European success. And with such a tremendously talented squad at his disposal it’s clear to see why the Blues are the favourites to win the league. However, the Europa League holder won’t have it all their own way as the rest of the big four will be desperate to claim their scalp early on.
This season the Londoners hold all the right cards, but winning the title has never been straightforward and it will be interesting to see how quickly Mourinho adapts to the British game once more, and, more importantly, how quickly he meets the demands of Roman Abramovich.
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