The 2009-2010 Premier League campaign shall start on Saturday. The Premier League is arguably the most popular league in the world and one can expect another scintillating campaign in the English top flight this season.
Here’s an overview of what to expect from the new season of the Premier League:
**TITLE RACE **
The title race again shall be contested by the Big Four. Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea are the runaway contenders for the championship and they should again make a feast of the race to finish in pole position at the end of the season.
Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea all shall be fighting for the league title. Arsenal, though, are many pundits’ ‘weak link’. They haven’t won anything major for four years now and with Manchester City’s supposed rise, the sell-out of a number of regular first team players and the uncertainty looming over others, there are doubts on the Gunners’ title credentials.
Yet you can and should never dis-count a team that has the likes of Manuel Almunia, Cesc Fabregas, Andriy Arshavin and Theo Walcott. Last season a number of players including Fabregas were injured at various points of the season and if all the players do stay fit and stay in form, then Arsene Wenger’s men would be a major contender for the championship.
Manchester United have lost their best player for the past two seasons - Cristiano Ronaldo- and are severely weakened. They do have signed Antonio Valencia from Wigan Athletic and Michael Owen on a free transfer but without Ronaldo United would not be as entertaining as they were in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Although they are still a force to be reckoned with but the 2009-2010 campaign could see them lose the Premier League crown for the first time in four years.
Chelsea are one of the few major clubs across Europe not to have lost key players in the summer. New coach Carlo Ancelotti is a proven European master tactician and although there are considerable doubts on whether the Italian can use his AC Milan Christmas formation to maximum effect in the Premier League there is no doubt that Chelsea are one of the top two contenders for the title.
Liverpool could have won the Premier League for the first time last season but injuries to key players Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard cost them the top spot at the end of the season. The Reds can only build upon that second place success this season but the departure of midfielder Xabi Alonso and defender Alvaro Arbeloa could haunt them later on in the season. Summer recruit Glen Johnson can replace Arbeloa at right-back but can Alberto Aquilani replace Alonso in central midfield?
**EUROPA LEAGUE SPOTS **
Many suggest that this would be the season when the Big Four is finally tapped into by a fifth club and that that club would be a certain Manchester City. Yet, although City have signed some brilliant and some decent players in the summer - Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor from Arsenal, Roque Santa Cruz from Blackburn Rover and Carlos Tevez from MSI- they are still not a side good enough to compete for the title or the top four. Mark Hughes’ side then would fight for a Europa League spot with the other regular contenders.
Aston Villa, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur all have Europa League credentials and the trio would go hammer and tongs at one another again this season for a place in Europe’s second tier club competition. Aston Villa have lost Gareth Barry and Martin Laursen has retired but Martin O’Neill’s side still remains strong.
Everton too have a strong side and are quite balanced and although they have long wanted to establish themselves as a Top Four club in the Premier League, manager David Moyes has been unable to install that X-factor into the squad.
Tottenham Hotspur should also be fighting for a place in the Europa League and so should improving Fulham and West Ham United.
**RELEGATION BATTLE **
One thing’s for sure: Burnley are going to be relegated to the Championship by the end of the season. Owen Coyle’s side had great success in shocking a number of Premier League clubs such as Arsenal and Chelsea last season in Cup competitions last season but Burnley are not at the Premier League level. Many predict that they shall be the first club to be relegated from the Premier League this season and there’s precious little to argue against that notion.
Birmingham City finished second in the Championship last season and gained promotion to the Premier League for this season’s campaign but the Blues would be expected to fight for survival again. Hull City, Portsmouth and Wolverhampton all would be fighting to survive in the English top flight for another season while Stoke City would be wrong to put themselves out of contention for a bottom three finish.