This weekend sees the start of 2012-2013 Premier League season and with the start of any new sporting season, debate tends to concentrate on those teams expected to do well and discussions are about which team will ultimately be crowned champions.
Breaking away from the norm, here's a look at five teams predicted to struggle—and with three teams ultimately relegated from the Premier League come May, the fight for survival is every bit as competitive as the race for the title.
Reading celebrated promotion to the EPL last season but face a challenge to stay there.
Despite winning the Championship last season, a performance that earned them a second tilt at the Premier League inside five years, the Royals have to be regarded as favorites to make a quick return.
Brian McDermott’s team surprised many last term with their run of success in the second half of the season but their overall stats for 2011-2012 of 11 defeats with just 69 goals scored from 46 matches suggests the Premier League is going to present a huge test.
In order to redress the goal scoring problem, McDermott has brought in Pavel Pogrebnyak from Stuttgart, who impressed many Premier League plaudits last season with his loan spell at Fulham where he netted six goals in 12 games. To assist him up front, McDermott has signed the experienced Jason Roberts on a full-time contract after his six goals in 17 games proved crucial in Reading’s promotion campaign last season.
There is a reasonable amount of Premier League experience in the Reading squad but they are likely to struggle over the course of 38 games.
Southampton will be relying on its fans to make home advantage count in its quest for Premier League survival
Two promotions in two seasons under Nigel Adkins has seen Saints fans expectations surpassed after eight years away from the top flight. However, Adkins is not one to change too much to a playing system that has given the team so much recent success.
Saints will be dependent on many of the players that saw them win promotion from the Championship but it remains to be seen whether they will be good enough to establish the team in the top flight.
New arrivals include Paulo Gazzaniga (Gillingham), Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace), Steven Davis (Rangers) and Jay Rodriguez (Burnley) but none are household names and none have broken the club’s meagre budget.
Adkins has also been trying a new 4-2-3-1 system suggesting that Saints talisman, Ricky Lambert, will be very busy this season playing as a lone striker. No doubt Adkins will continue with his policy of using the entire pitch in his bid to support him but he will depend equally on a team built on hard work and togetherness to keep his team in the top flight—but that may not be enough!
Swansea fans will be hoping that their team gives them plenty to shout about this season.
After winning promotion in 2011, Swansea are preparing for their second season in the Premier League after they won plenty of admirers for their fluent possession-style football last season.
Michael Laudrup has been appointed the surprise successor to Brendan Rodgers who left the Liberty Stadium to join Liverpool and there is no doubt the Dane will attempt to continue with the passing game that served the Welsh club so well.
One factor Laudrop must overcome this year however is there is no longer an element of surprise about the Swans.
It didn't take Laudrop long before he made his mark at the club; he has confirmed publicly his intentions to cut the squad to a maximum of 22 and has also made a number of new signings, the most exciting seemingly being the Spaniard, Chico, who arrived from Genoa. Two other Spanish signings, Michu from Rayo Vallecano and Johnathan de Guzman from Villarreal appear to confirm Laudrop’s liking for players adept to the Spanish game and style of play.
Swansea's schedule means they are fortunate enough to avoid top of the table opposition until October and this will allow them to make a reasonable start, but it will be hard to repeat the season they enjoyed last term and a relegation battle looks to be on the cards.
The pressure is on Steve Clarke to continue Roy Hodgson's good work at West Brom.
Roy Hodgson’s departure last season to take over as England boss is almost certain to have a huge affect on West Brom's Premier League future. After all, Hodgson led the club to a 10th place finish, a feat that successor, Steve Clarke, will find very hard to emulate in his first permanent managerial position.
Clarke has a great reputation as an assistant but this will be his first job as full time club manager which makes him totally unproven. There is no doubting his expertise in the coaching department but to manage factors such as tactics, motivation and transfers makes Albion vulnerable.
Happy with his squad, Clarke and the club have added only free transfers and loan signings during the preseason.
After winning promotion in 2010, the Baggies will certainly have their work cut out to survive to enjoy a fourth season.
Wigan fans will be hoping for more miracles from Roberto Martinez
Since winning promotion to the Premier League in 2005, Wigan continue to defy the odds and avoid relegation. However, the question is for how much longer can they ride their luck?
Manager, Roberto Martinez, has established himself as one of the divisions most sought after managers after working nothing short of miracles at the DW Stadium, whilst playing attractive football at the same time.
The squad has seen limited additions during preseason but Martinez has managed to keep together a squad that is well-versed in battling the drop and whilst they are sure to be towards the bottom once more this season, Wigan should be good enough to survive once again.