English Premier League back for another season
Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta, centre, celebrates scoring against Queens Park Rangers with teammates Gareth Barry, right, and Sergio Aguero. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Last season we witnessed the most compelling sporting finish of all-time. Three minutes, two rivals, one city, priceless if you’re a City fan, devastating if you back Sir Alex.
All other football fans could only wait with anticipation until August 18th, and here it is.
Will this season produce the same final day excitement? Probably not, but I’m willing to swap that for around nine months of heart stopping action watching the best footballers in the world (apart from those two in Spain, you know who you are) play in front of packed house streaming into our living rooms on the other side of the world.
One will win, three will fall, but it is so much more than that; this is non-stop action from the first whistle.
On the Australian front we have lost golden boy Tim Cahill to the bright lights of New York, but Adam Federici and Brett Holman have joined Mark Schwarzer and Chris Herd to provide us with plenty of talking points when we are wiping the sleep from our eyes at the office Monday morning after an onslaught of action.
Predictably, I think Manchester City will win, and win comfortably. The squad seems far more settled than over previous years, but will sure to be looking over their shoulder for bitter cross-city rivals Manchester United.
European champions Chelsea cannot be ruled out either, especially if Spaniard Fernando Torres can once again find the back of the net. Arsenal will continue their run of trophy-less seasons, which could draw the curtain on Arsene Wenger’s managerial career at the Emirates.
Tottenham and Liverpool will keep the top four honest, but will need a surprise run of results if they are to claim a treasured champions league place.
At the risk of being unpopular, I am predicting an average year at St James Park. Newcastle fans will still be walking on cloud nine but the Europa League will prove more of a distraction than a benefit at the Toon.
Everton, Sunderland, Fulham and Stoke all fit into the ‘safe, but a good cup run would be nice’ category. I predict them all to finish near the top half of the table, but European qualification will only come from an exciting cup run.
Fulham could surprise this season, but for those new to the league I wouldn’t waste much time watching any Stoke matches; their usual dour defensive struggles will end up with you asleep just after half-time.
Aston Villa will hold the interest in most Australian households with the signing of Holman and constant improvement of young Chris Herd. Expect some improvement, but their main aim will be finishing above midland rivals West Bromwich Albion.
Queens Park Rangers fans will have barely recovered from their final day heroics of Jamie Mackie and brain fade of Joey Barton but with some funds injected should be somewhat safer this season.
Norwich, Wigan and Swansea will be mixing it with newcomers to fill the bottom three places on the table.
Wigan avoided the dreaded drop to the Championship but I’m afraid Roberto Martinez will run out of luck.
New Swansea manager Michael Laudrup will need to find the right mix of attractive and winning football to keep the Welsh team’s premier league status.
Of the new comers West Ham United should finish highest, but as a football fan it’s great to see the return of Southampton and Reading.
Southampton, from a pure football fairytale point of view, and Reading lifts the Australian representation.
I’m predicting bad news for Swansea, Wigan and Reading fans, with a late day scare for those at St Mary’s.
I’ll probably be wrong with my predictions, but can guarantee bone crunching tackles, cracking goals and some late season nerves for most football fans.