EPL Preview: A Double Perspective

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EPL Preview: A Double Perspective

After 98 unexciting days without Premier League football, the EPL will finally resume this weekend. The new season has been met with lots of excitement and speculation, and Joe and I are here to give our own team by team predictions before the new season kicks off tomorrow.

Hull

Jeff: The Tiger’s could be in for a rough season and are early favorites for an immediate return to the Championship. Phil Brown’s side are lacking in firepower, especially after Manchester United refused to let Frazier Campbell return to the KC Stadium. (20th)

Joe: Hull City’s most well-known current players are George Boateng and 39-year-old Dean Windass. They’ll fall, but not threaten Derby’s record for futility. (19th)

Stoke City

Jeff: Manager Tony Pulis hasn’t strengthened his squad enough in order to survive the drop. Stoke’s first season in the top flight since 1985 will most likely be a short lived one. (19th)

Joe: Former Reading striker and current redhead Dave Kitson will not be enough to keep Stoke in the Premiership. They’ll prop up the entire table at the end of the season. (20th)

West Brom

Jeff: The Baggies, managed by Tony Mowbray played some of the most attractive football In the Championship last season, but will find it a lot more difficult to get the right results against the big boys. West Brom will be relying on their experience from the 2006-07 season in the Premiership to avoid relegation. (17th)

Joe: West Brom has just enough talent to stay up. Luke Moore and Craig Beattie will be key to their survival. (17th)

Fulham

Jeff: The Cottagers waited until the last day of the season last year to save themselves from the dreaded drop, but this time around they won’t have as much to worry about when the season draws to a close. Andy Johnson is a great buy for Roy Hodgson and if Fulham can improve their awful away form from last season they’ll be in good shape. (14th)

Joe: The Cottagers escaped relegation on the last day of the season in 2008, but have since lost some firepower with Brian McBride returning to America. Jimmy Bullard is still there, and he’ll have Andy Johnson to receive his passes. (15th)

Bolton

Jeff: Gary Megson is in store for another difficult season at the Reebok, and this time around he won’t be so lucky when it comes to avoiding the drop. It’s going to be a long season for Bolton supporters. (18th)

Joe: Bolton just barely escaped relegation last season, as they sorely missed Big Sam Allardyce on the sideline. They won’t be so lucky this time around. (18th)

Sunderland

Jeff: Roy Keane has done a fantastic job in strengthening his squad to avoid "second season syndrome." Pascal Chimbonda and El Hadji Diouf are just some of Sunderland’s most recent acquisitions and with the rest of the squad accustomed to playing in the Premier League, Roy Keane’s side shouldn’t have much to worry about when it comes to relegation. (15th)

Joe: After an absolutely abysmal run in the EPL three seasons ago, newly promoted Sunderland finished 15thin the table last season. Roy Keane has some serious competitive fire in him, and Sunderland will surprise some people. There are some seriously talented pieces in place on this squad. (11th)

Wigan

Jeff: Steve Bruce should expect an up-and-down season for his side, but when the season draws to a close he’ll most likely be able to look forward to another season in the Premiership. (16th)

Joe: Wigan is a scrappy little bunch who have managed to stay afloat in the EPL for a few seasons now. I expect more of the same out of this squad. They won’t wow anybody, but their style of play will disrupt some of the flashier teams enough for them to steal a point here and there. (14th)

Middlesbrough

Jeff: Gareth Southgate will be relying on Alfonso Alves to smash in the goals as his side push for a top ten place. A top ten finish is too much of an ask, but Middlesbrough will not be a club threatened by relegation this season. (13th)

Joe: Mido is always an enigma of a player. If anybody can get him motivated to stay fit and play hard, he’ll produce. A big "if" though. (16th)

Newcastle

Jeff: Toon supporters have endured a difficult past few seasons but I think this could finally be the year we see some joy down at St. James' Park. With a healthy squad, Kevin Keegan can take his Newcastle team to new heights this season. (8th)

Joe: How much mediocrity can one fan base deal with? Kevin Keegan aims to turn things around this season. They need Michael Owen to stay healthy, and the defense to be a lot better than they have been recently. (9th)

Tottenham

Jeff:  If ever there has been a year a team has looked capable of breaking into the Top Four, it’s this year. Juande Ramos has brought in Giovani Dos Santos, Luka Modric, David Bentley and Heurelho Gomes and I expect Tottenham to really make a push for a Champions League spot. The Big Four has only gotten stronger, however, and Spurs will fall just short of their goal. (5th)

Joe: Tottenham always seem to not quite meet expectations. Every year, they hope to break into the top four, and every year, they fall short. New coach Juande Ramos will bring more of the same this season, but perhaps more promise for the long term. (8th)

West Ham

Jeff: Alan Curbishley is the bookie’s favorite to be the first manager to be sacked this season. I doubt Curbishley’s job will ever be in that much danger, but I expect his team to struggle and be inconsistent all season long. (12th)

Joe: Dean Ashton looked very dangerous against a quality MLS All-Star team this summer. If he stays healthy, the Hammers might be competitive in the domestic cups. They are still a mid-table Premier League team, though. (10th)

Manchester City

Jeff: New manager Mark Hughes will find it difficult in his first season in charge of City and I wouldn’t be surprised if a spot in Europe evades his team at the end of the season. (10th)

Joe: Canning Sven was the dumbest move that Thaksin Shinawatra could have made. He made the club competitive in his first year in charge, but a ninth place finish coupled with a sweep of the Manchester Derby and a bright future was not enough for Thaksin. Look for a backwards slide in the standings this season. (13th)

Portsmouth

Jeff:  Harry Redknapp’s side seem to get better and better every year, and this year they’ll be bolstered by the signing of Peter Crouch. I don’t think it’ll be enough to make up for the loss of Sulley Muntari, whose departure to Inter Milan could prove detrimental. Portsmouth will all have one eye on the UEFA Cup this season and as a result I expect their league form to suffer. (9th)

Joe: Portsmouth was the feel-good story of the season early on last year, even topping the table for a brief time. Harry Redknapp has done wonders since he pulled off a miraculous relegation escape a couple of years ago. Portsmouth will just miss out on a European spot in the final table, but may qualify through cup competitions. (6th)

Blackburn

Jeff: The loss of David Bentley and Mark Hughes will prove costly for Blackburn and new manager Paul Ince will find it difficult to adjust to life in the Premier League. Don’t be surprised if Blackburn are full of shortcomings this season. (11th)

Joe: Roque Santa Cruz, Blackburn’s best player, is a player coveted by many different teams. If he goes, Blackburn will suffer. I think somebody is willing to make a large enough offer. (12th)

Aston Villa

Jeff: The expectations have grown over the last few seasons and it’s going to be a big season for Aston Villa. Martin O’Neill has brought in some good reinforcements over the summer, mainly in the defensive area. Aston Villa scored more goals than both Chelsea and Liverpool last season, but also gave up a ton. The addition of one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers in Brad Friedel will be a huge plus point. The acquisition of Luke Young, Nicky Shorey, Curtis Davies, and Steve Sidwell will all make a big difference as Aston Villa compete in the UEFA Cup and push for a spot in Europe next year. (6th)

Joe: Villa is set in the goalkeeping department after signing a former US International (Brad Friedel) and a current one (Brad Guzan). But how long will Gareth Barry be around? Will Stilliyan Petrov and Gabriel Agbonlahor be enough to lead them into Europe? Yes. (5th)

Everton

Jeff: At one point last season it looked like Everton might pip Liverpool for fourth spot last season, but once again they showed they need more squad depth. What have they done to improve this? Absolutely nothing.

David Moyes has lost Andy Johnson and Lee Carsley and has failed to bring in a single player this summer. Any hopes of a Champions League spot can go right out the window. Moyes is still one of the best managers in the league and he’ll be sure to get the most out of his thread-bare squad. (7th)

Joe: Everton may have surprised some people last year as they snagged a UEFA Cup place, and even challenged for a top four finish early on. They will probably regress a little bit as they have not done enough to strengthen themselves in the offseason. (7th)

Liverpool

Jeff: In Robbie Keane Rafael Benitez has finally brought in a top-class striker to pair up alongside Fernando Torres and with this combination the Reds could be a force to reckon with this season. But like most seasons I expect Liverpool to do well in Europe and fail to live up to expectations in the league. The wait for a first Premier League title will continue for another year, or two, or three… (3rd)

Joe: Despite great play from Fernando Torres, the Reds looked out of sorts last season. Rafa Benitez in on the hot seat, but Liverpool has not done as much to improve as some of the other clubs battling for European places. (4th)

Arsenal

Jeff: Arsene Wenger’s young Gunners have the makings of a great side and as always they’ll earn praise for their attractive and stylish football. But attractive football doesn’t win you trophies. The Carling Cup is Arsenal’s best chance for silverware and I wouldn’t be surprised if they win it. Success in the league will be nothing but a hopeless cause, however. (4th)

Joe: The Gunners started out quickly last season, only to fade down the stretch thanks to some untimely injuries. Nicklas Bendtner seems to be ready to carry a bigger load this season. Samir Nasri is the real deal; pairing him with Cesc Fabregas will give Arsenal one of the best midfield combos in the world.  (EPL Champions)

Chelsea

Jeff:  After a disappointing campaign last season, Chelsea will be desperate to collect some silverware this season. Luis Felipe Scolari will be under pressure to get the right results, and I expect the former Portugal boss to deliver. It will all depend where his priorities lie, however. Chelsea are eager to win the Champions League for the first time in their history, especially after coming so close last season. A league title will also be high up on the priority list, but it will be one task they won’t be able to complete. (2nd)

Joe: Chelsea grabbed what was perhaps the steal of the summer with Deco, but Manchester United ended their reign as EPL champions last season. Expect them to keep it close, but come up just short in the end with some injury problems. (3rd)

Manchester United

Jeff: After two consecutive Premiership crowns and a European triumph last season, Manchester United will be the team to beat. Sir Alex Ferguson has done little to reinforce his squad so far, but the English and European Champions still look in good shape. A repeat of their European triumph is somewhat unlikely, but a third consecutive league title will be much more realistic.

The reigning Champions are strong defensively and extremely effective going forward. They also have good squad depth and the experience of winning two titles, and in the climax of the Premier League season, that may be what makes the difference. (EPL Champions)

Joe: United was in great form for the entire season. They were the only team in a good position to challenge Arsenal after their hot start, and did so with authority. Look for a slower start as Cristiano Ronaldo comes back from an injury suffered at Euro 2008 this summer. (2nd)

 

Surprise Package

Jeff: Newcastle

Joe: Aston Villa

Biggest Disappointment

Jeff: Blackburn

Joe: Manchester City

Golden Boot

Jeff: Fernando Torres (Liverpool)

Joe: Fernando Torres (Liverpool)

Best Buy

Jeff: Luka Modric (Tottenham)

Joe: Samir Nasri (Arsenal)

Biggest Bargain

Jeff: Deco (Chelsea)

Joe: Giovani Dos Santos (Tottenham)

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