With the new season fast approaching we come to the time of year when fans and pundits alike are making their predictions for the upcoming season. Who will be crowned champions?, which players will come of age? and which three teams will face the dreaded drop?. Supporters of all clubs no matter what division are filled with optimism and dread as they hope and pray their side can succeed. With that in mind below you can see our best attempts at looking at what the 2014/15 season has in store.
Premier League champions: Chelsea. After their third place finish last term in which Mourinho called a “transitional” season the West London club will be eager to be top of the tree once again. The additions of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis mean anything other than winning the title may be considered a failure however, I fully believe Mourinho’s men to deliver. Also the return of the vastly experienced Didier Drogba will help with the departures of the old guard Lampard, Cole and Eto’o. With the likes of Hazard, Oscar and Willian only getting better it could be a defining season at the bridge.
Top 4 (in order): Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal
Relegated: Burnley, West Brom, Hull City
Champions League winners: Barcelona. Whilst Real Madrid will be hoping to break records by becoming the first team to successfully defend their Champions League, and Bayern Munich wanting Pep Guardiola to make up for their embarrassing semi-final defeat to the eventual winners, I can’t see past the Catalans. The simple reason being that Barcelona’s front three of Messi, Neymar and now Suarez is arguably the best on the planet and with all three wanting to firmly forget the disappointments of their respective World Cup campaigns winning the biggest prize in club football would be the perfect way to do it.
Fa Cup winners: Liverpool. Football can be so cruel. Just days apart that slip from the normally ever reliable Steven Gerrard before simply woeful defending, which Alan Hansen was lost for words at witnessing, at Selhurst Park for Liverpool to throw away a three goal lead that through away the title for Liverpool. However, it must not be forgotten that this was a record breaking season for Liverpool. Simply still being in with a shot of the title on the final day shows how far they have came since Rodgers became boss. Now the Rodgers revolution needs some silverware and I think the FA cup could start years of positive memories at Anfield.
League Cup Winners: Manchester United. Moyes, Giggs and now Van Gaal. Manchester United hadn’t needed to appoint a manager in 25 years but then in just a matter of months they appointed three. Moyes had the unenviable job of stepping in for a legend before getting the chop as United lingered in mid-table mediocrity. Vetrean Midfielder Ryan Giggs then steadied the ship for the last few games of the season but now Louis Van Gaal has the rebuilding job to do. Whilst I think getting back in the top four might be a bit of a stretch this term, a trophy and some good football could make the Old Trafford crowds smile again before making a real go of it in 12 months time.
Surprise team of the season: Stoke City. A side often labelled the “hoof and hope” team of the division, since the departure of Tony Pulis the side from the potteries have actually found out what it’s like to pass the ball under successor Mark Hughes rather than lump it forward to Peter Crouch. Hughes got his side playing some decent stuff last term and the Britannia is never a place teams enjoy to go. Stoke finished 9th the first time they had achieved a top half finish since they were promoted in 2008. Some shrewd signings like the recent acquisition of Bojan could see them competing for the Europa League spots.
Player of the season: Daniel Sturridge
Young Player of the season: Ross Barkley
Manager of the season: Jose Mourinho
First manager to be sacked: Sam Allardyce. It seems only a matter of time before the Hammers get rid of Big Sam. There have been grumblings in the crowd for the last year over the style of play not being the “West Ham way”, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Allardyce was relieved of his duties after a few dodgy results.
Three promoted teams: Wigan, Fulham, Brighton
Premier League champions: Chelsea. In his second season back in charge at Stamford Bridge, Jose Mourinho will be wanting to get back to winning ways. The purchases of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa as well as a return for Didier Drogba show a strong statement of intent and I believe they will clinch the title from City’s grasp late on in the season.
Top 4 (in order): Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool.
Relegated: Swansea City, Burnley, Aston Villa.
Champions League winners: Real Madrid. The romantic in me would say Liverpool with this being their first season back in the Champions League since Rafa Benitez was manager of the club. However instead, I am backing Carlo Ancelotti’s starstudded side to be the first team since the Champions League era began to retain the trophy.
Fa Cup winners: Liverpool. Following the oh so nearly shock title win of last season, Brendan Rodgers is still yet to win any silverware as Liverpool manager. A domestic cup and maintain their top-four status should be realistic targets for the Anfield club.
League Cup Winners: A trophyless season for a club of Manchester City’s ambitions would be disastrous. I don’t expect this to happen though and predict Manuel Pellegrini’s men will retain the League Cup.
Surprise team of the season: Crystal Palace. He may not play the most attractive football, but Tony Pulis certainly knows how to get points on the board. I think a top half finish is achievable and would cap off a fantastic season for the Eagles.
Player of the season: Robin van Persie. Under new manager Louis van Gaal, I can see RVP flourishing and returning to his very top form. With the support of Rooney and Mata, I would be surprised if he didn’t pass the twenty goal mark.
Young Player of the season: Raheem Sterling. The Liverpool youngster doesn’t even turn twenty until December, and we’ve all already seen the kind of havoc he can cause defences. I predict another big year for the new member of the SAS.
Manager of the season: Jose Mourinho. Lead Chelsea to the title once again, and you would think this accolade is his. If the Manchester United resurgence breaks back into the top four however, van Gaal could also be in with a shout.
First manager to be sacked: Paul Lambert. The Scotsman seems to have been lingering on the brink of the sack ever since he was appointed. Add this to the unstable climate caused by Randy Lerner’s wish to sell the club and you get the feeling Aston Villa are a ticking timebomb.
Three promoted teams: Derby County, Watford, Fulham.
Premier League champions: Chelsea. Finishing third last season would’ve hurt Mourinho even if he did call it the transition season, so this year the Blues will come back with a vengeance. Their summer signings have shown their ambitions this season through the signings of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis. Even losing the talented Lukaku, Diego Costa and the return of Didier Drogba should solve their problems up front. The mix of Fabregas, Oscar, Hazard, Willian and Ramires has to be one of, if not the strongest midfield in the league. While Filipe Luis will sure up their defence. If they don’t win the league, their season would be seen as a failure in many people’s eyes.
Top 4 (in order): Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United
Relegated: Southampton (18th) – QPR will stay up on the last day of the season, West Brom (19th), Burnley (20th)
Champions League winners: Real Madrid. To be honest once again it’s a toss up between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Both teams have once again strengthened significantly and if they do end up playing each other I’m sure it’ll be almost impossible to call. However, on this occasion i have chosen Ancelotti’s men. The additions of Kroos and Rodriguez will only propel them further forwards. The transformation of Gareth Bale has been astounding over the past season. Those three plus Ronaldo going forwards would be impossible for any team to handle.
Fa Cup winners: Unlike the two Liverpool fans above me, Manchester United will win the FA Cup. I can see Van Gaal winning a trophy in his first season and the FA Cup will be one of his biggest aims. United have been impressive in pre season and could beat anyone on their day.
League Cup Winners: I would love to say Leicester City, but i really doubt that will happen as their main focus will be staying in the Premier League. So i’ll have to say Everton. Martinez was a revelation for the Toffees last season and knows how to win cup competitions. Plus the permanent signing of Lukaku really puts them i good stead to win some silverware.
Surprise team of the season: Leicester City. Even after their impeccable Championship campaign last season they have been tipped by many as favourites for relegation. This is partly due to Pearson’s decision to keep trust with the squad that gained 102 points last season. However, they have a good spine running throughout the team from Schmeichel, Morgan, Drinkwater and Nugent. Ok, these players haven’t really been tested in the Premier League, but Pearson has built a squad full of determination to succeed in the Premier League. They will surprise a lot of teams this season and should secure a mid table finish.
Player of the season: This is a hard one to call but i’d say Aaron Ramsey. After an electric start to last season he was succumbed by the fairly lengthy injury. His started this season on a high again after scoring in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Manchester City in the Community Shield. If he can once again become and improved Arsenal teams best performer, the award will definitely be in his hands.
Young Player of the season: Luke Shaw. In Van Gaal’s new 3-5-2 system he will have a big influence on how United play this season. Following his successful year last season and appearances in the World Cup there should be a lot more to come from the young man, who could be challenging Barkley and Sterling to win the award.
Manager of the season: Looking away from the top five. Mark Hughes. If Stoke can push on this season to gain a Europa League position, it would be hard for anyone not to give him the award.
First manager to be sacked: Alan Pardew. The board seemed to be losing patients with him towards the end of last season, so if the Magpies don’t hit the ground running Pardew’s reign at Newcastle could come to an end.
Three promoted teams: Wigan, Nottingham Forest, Wolves
Premier League champions: Chelsea.
Having refused to admit that Chelsea were in contention last season, Jose Mourinho won’t be able to disregard his side this season having taken a year to get his feet firmly back under the table at Stamford Bridge and having also reinforced his squad with Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa. The missing piece to Chelsea’s jigsaw last season was a top class striker in his prime and the addition of Costa should solve this and make Chelsea a very difficult team to stop.
Top 4 (in order): Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United
Manchester City will be the closest challengers to Chelsea but Arsenal won’t be too far away either having gained the confidence of finally winning a trophy and making some exciting new additions to their squad. Fourth is about as high as Manchester United can realistically aim in Louis Van Gaal’s first season.
Relegated: Crystal Palace (18th), Hull City (19th), Burnley (20th)
Burnley will have their work cut out to finish anywhere other than rock bottom. Whilst many people (including myself) said the same about Crystal Palace last season, it really does look like an impossible task for the Lancashire club. Hull’s Europa League adventures will seriously hamper them in their bid to avoid the dreaded “second season syndrome” and Tony Pulis’ sudden and shock exit from Crystal Palace yesterday evening make The Eagles prime candidates to suffer the same fate. Had Pulis stayed on, I’d have had Aston Villa down for the drop due to their uninspiring signings and poor home record over recent seasons.
Champions League winners: Real Madrid
Having been made to wait for “La Decima” for 12 years, Real have a great chance of becoming the first team ever to defend the Champions League having added James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos to a squad which was already overflowing with Galacticos. Expect Bayern Munich and Barcelona to be in the hunt once again
FA Cup Winners: Liverpool
The reason why I predicted Liverpool to finish outside the top 4 is largely due to their summer spending, which has been all too similar to what Tottenham did last year when their own prized asset was sold. However, the added depth to the squad could put them in a good position to win either of the cups. Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers have also been a joy to watch for the most part, it would be nice to see them rewarded with a trophy.
League Cup Winners: Manchester United
United and Louis Van Gaal really need to win a trophy this season, in order to get the club moving back in the right direction if nothing else. I really doubt that Van Gaal, who is already ruling the squad with an iron fist, would deem any competition as being unimportant and I expect him to take the Capital One Cup very seriously. Because of this, United will probably have too much for the opposition who will mostly be fielding second string sides.
Surprise team of the season: Sunderland
It’s almost impossible to identify one team for this but if I had to pick one, it’d be Sunderland. Having completed the great escape, they suddenly seem well equipped to survive comfortably this time around. For once, the Black Cats aren’t in the spotlight as other teams in the league have had more off-pitch dramas unfolding over pre-season. Because of this, I’m tipping them to finish around 11th or 12th which would be a huge improvement on the previous two or three seasons. I also believe that West Ham have done very well in the transfer market but we’ll have to wait and see if I’m right. Newcastle’s season, as always, could go one of two or three different ways. The same can be said of the newly promoted Leicester and QPR but I’m expecting both to stay up, the latter being slightly more comfortable than the former. Stoke look like they’ll be solid once again, but therefore it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they made it into the top half and that’s to their credit.
Player of the season: Eden Hazard
The Belgian winger will be the star man in Chelsea’s title challenge and with Costa up front to provide the ammunition for, expect him to weigh in with the most assists of anyone in the league.
Young Player of the season: Raheem Sterling
Last season Brendan Rodgers claimed that Sterling was the best young player in the world and this season, I’m expecting him to live up to that. What a great player he could become if he manages to improve upon his outstanding campaign last season.
Manager of the season: Jose Mourinho
It’s very hard to look beyond “the happy one” for this award. Roberto Martinez and Louis Van Gaal will also be in with a shout if they can get their clubs into the top four and top three respectively.
First manager to be sacked: Alan Pardew
In the cut-throat and unpredictable world of the Premier League, anyone could face the axe at any moment but Alan Pardew is surely only one wrong move away from it.
Three promoted teams: Wigan (1st), Derby (2nd), Cardiff (Play-Offs)
I’m a Norwich fan but I’m yet to see any evidence of us being capable of reaching the top six, let alone promotion to be brutally honest. Wigan, on paper at least, look like they’ll have the strongest squad with plenty of quality and quantity. Derby were very unlucky to have not gone up last season and early indications are suggesting that they’ll be just as strong if not stronger this season. The play-off will be a close battle between Cardiff and Watford, with Cardiff edging it.