Bold Predictions for the 2012-13 English Premier League Season
The English Premier League returns on Saturday after an eventful summer. Clubs have spent a lot of money in an attempt to improve or solidify their standing from last season, which was one of the most exciting campaigns in recent memory.
Manchester City enters as the defending champion. The Citizens narrowly edged out rival Manchester United to claim their first title in more than four decades. However, as teams across the sports landscape will tell Joe Hart and company, repeating is often harder than winning the first one.
The Red Devils figure to challenge their neighbors atop the table once again. The late addition of Robin van Persie from Arsenal gives them the best attacking duo in the league, but living up to the hype will be a tough task for van Persie as he heads to the bright lights of Old Trafford.
Chelsea has a chance to make some noise in the title race as well. Roberto Di Matteo got the Blues to peak at the right time during Champions League play last season, and the team will attempt to carry that momentum over to the new campaign.
All told, it's setting up to become another terrific season in one of the world's best leagues. Let's take a look at some bold predictions about what fans around the globe will see over the next nine months.
Tottenham Will Finish Outside Top 7
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Tottenham has become a fixture near the top of the Premier League table. Spurs have finished in the top five in each of the past three campaigns, which includes last season, when they missed out on the top three by a single point.
Things aren't looking nearly as promising for 2012-13. While other contenders for European spots were busy making moves during the summer window, Tottenham stood pat for the most part, with the team's biggest addition being Jan Vertonghen.
The club's two main options up front are Jermain Defoe, who has struggled with consistency, and Giovani dos Santos, who has never been leaned on as a top guy. That will put a boatload of extra pressure on the team's midfield.
Ultimately, finishing eighth appears a lot more likely than battling for the top three again.
Southampton Will Easily Avoid Relegation
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Southampton was promoted to the Premier League after finishing second in the Championship last season. It's always a struggle for teams making the jump to stick because the talent gap tends to remain until a club can prove it will be staying at the top level for a while.
Of all the new teams, the Saints seem like the most prepared to at least remain competitive. Rickie Lambert has scored at least 20 goals in each of the past four seasons and should provide the steady veteran presence up top that the team needs.
Another thing that will work in their advantage is a tough early schedule. The Saints play the two Manchester powerhouses within the first three matches, which will not only get those first meetings out of the way quickly, but should provide tremendous experience for the squad.
That will help propel the underrated, balanced team to a mid-pack finish.
Nikica Jelavic Will Score 20 Goals
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For the majority of last season, Everton struggled mightily to put goals in the back of the net, leading to another slow start and a high level of frustration.
Therefore, Toffees fans everywhere were excited when Nikica Jelavic arrived in late January and proceeded to score nine goals in 13 games.
He was immediately thrust into a lead attacking role and quickly began to excel. After years of shaky production from a myriad of different strikers, it appears Everton has finally found the answer to its offensive woes.
Jelavic enters this season as the top target and should be the focus on the offense in every game that he starts. That gives him a great chance to crack the 20-goal barrier and help the Toffees avoid yet another lackluster start in the process.
The 26-year-old Croatian is certainly a name to keep an eye on throughout the campaign.
Champion Will Be Decided on Final Day Again
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It will be difficult for the Premier League to match the amazing intrigue of last season. Not only was Manchester City not crowned champion until the final day of the season, but it came all the way down to the final minutes of the match.
Although this year's final round of matches might not be able to duplicate that kind of excitement in the dying moments, don't be surprised if the title is still up for grabs as the last day of the season begins. There just isn't much difference between the top few clubs.
City and Manchester United figure to go back and forth all season, making it hard to imagine a scenario where one team is able to run away from the pack. Don't totally discount Chelsea from keeping it close if the Blues can regain their Champions League form, either.
Fans should circle May 19 on the calendar right now because it should be another meaningful final day.
Manchester United Will Win 20th League Title
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Even after Manchester United's acquisition of Robin van Persie, the oddsmakers have continued to prefer Manchester City's chances of repeating as champions. I expect the Red Devils to prevail in an extremely tight race.
The combination of van Persie and Wayne Rooney will put unimaginable pressure on opposing back lines throughout the season. Having two bona fide goal scorers like that is a great luxury to have going into big matches.
Add in a good mix of reliable veterans and promising young players in the midfield and on defense, and Sir Alex Ferguson should feel confident about his options. David de Gea should also improve after some first-year jitters.
When you put it all together, Manchester United has what it takes to win another championship and force its rivals back into second place.