Thursday, August 15, 2013

Premier League 2014 - Battle of the Blues

Back from a good holiday break. Just in time for the new EPL season.

This new Premier League season is as intriguing as it's ever been. The best 3 teams in the country, Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea will start with new managers. That means that many of the assumptions regarding those teams in the past years can be thrown out of the window. The Mancunians will be the most heavily hit as they cannot rely on the massive Ferguson factor. After last year's debacle in Madrid, Mourinho will look for redemption at Chelsea and it remains to be seen if he can guide the Blues back to glory in conditions that look quite different to the ones he enjoyed in his first stint. Man City are still beefing up and they will look up to Pellegrini's management skills to bring success where ex-manager Mancini failed.

Although it might seem too early to have any certainty, I am very inclined to take a couple of positions. First, the winner will be out of these 3 teams mentioned above. I cannot see Arsenal, Tottenham or Liverpool or any other big club contending for the main prize. Arsenal will probably do better than last season, but as usual will find it unable to sustain any kind of serious challenge. They will falter at some point, as they've always been doing in the past few years. Tottenham does not have a big enough squad to go all the way through. Worse, they might lose the league's best player, in Gareth Bale. With or without the Welsh superstar, they cannot be considered a serious title contender. Liverpool also face losing their best player in Suarez. Even with him, I cannot see them in the first 4.

My second certainty is that Man Utd will not repeat as champions. I've talked about the loss of the Ferguson factor above and before. There are many other reasons. While he might be talented, new manager Moyes will need a period of adaptation. The pre-season friendlies have been hardly encouraging as they results have been far from convincing. The Red Devils have a tough schedule start. Games against Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool in the first weeks can destroy the chances of the team early, and can make it particularly tough for a new manager needing time to adapt. Then, there's the Rooney factor. Should Van Persie be missing from injury and Rooney not available, this Man Utd team will be reeling against tough opposition. Finally, their failure to secure a playmaker like Fabregas at this stage means that the team still needs improvement in midfield. Although things can change with new reinforcements, I think Man Utd fans will be right not to have too high hopes for this year. Don't get me wrong, Utd are still a force to reckon with as they have a strong squad and a certain Robin Van Persie, but there is more downside to them than the likes of Chelsea and Man City this year. Laying the Red Devils before the season starts because their tough start to the season means that they look set to drop points very early.

Yes, I think it will be a battle of the blue shirts for the title. It's a toss-up between Chelsea and Man City. On paper, City's squad is better balanced. They lost Tevez but the incomings of Fernandinho, Jovetic, Navas and Negredo will add to an already-explosive offence. But their best new asset might be new manager Pellegrini. A very successful manager in La Liga, if the Chilean can manage the egos of his star-studded squad and re-energize the old guard from the debacle of Mancini's days, Man City will have a great shout to the tile.

Chelsea will be counting on Mourinho to bring back success. If Man City were only a fictitious team, then there's no doubt that Chelsea would have been a shoo-in for the title. Under the Portuguese, they will do close to full points at Stamford Bridge. It remains to be seen how well they do on their travels. It might be worth comparing the quality of the current Chelsea squad to the one Mourinho had during this title winning years. There will be no more Drogba and the likes of Terry and Lampard will have aged for the worse. But Mata, Oscar and Hazard bring first-class offence to the team. I think if Man City were to fail for any reason, Chelsea will be ready to pick up the pieces.

So, that's my point of view; Man City and Chelsea will duke it out. It will be interesting to watch for any mental battles between Mourinho and Pellegrini. Mou already started the confrontation when he replaced the Chilean at Real Madrid. In his customary ways, he will certainly pepper things up when things are not going as planned. I cannot see Man Utd repeat as champions. Enjoy the season!

Win Title: Chelsea/Man City
Lay: Man Utd

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