As many of us try to recover from the World Cup hangover there is no greater cure than the Premier League (EPL), which kicks off Saturday, August 16th. With the TV rights migrating to NBC Sports last year there is no reason to miss any of the action as every match is now broadcast on the NBC family of networks. Gone are the days of only seeing United or Arsenal on an early fall morning. You can now look up Leicester City on a map and become a Fox, or become a fan of the club no one knows is in London, Crystal Palace. I am of course a fan of the bandwagon express, Manchester United, due in large part to the fact that when I began watching the Champions League in the late 90’s they were the only team on ESPN. Enough defending my fandom, its time to move on to the season at hand. As you may or may not know, I hate prediction columns, even if I am better than average. There will be plenty of predictions columns out there so I will simply give you the top 4 and the bottom 3 (I’d recommend against selecting a team from the bottom 3)
1. Chelsea – They have made some smart buys (Fabergas, Costa, and Luis) and some head scratchers (Drogba on a free), but they have the best manager and weren’t far off last year. The re-signing of Matic should give them some grit in the midfield which is always the fulcrum for the Special One’s special teams.
2. Manchester City – The noisy neighbors lifted the trophy last year and have done nothing to hint at a dip in form. They also have Yaya and as long as he is making his marauding runs through the midfield I will be scared, very scared. I just think Chelsea have done a little more.
3. Arsenal – They have made the most noise in the offseason adding Chile star Alexis Sanchez and Debuchy to provide cover. If they can find a way to sign Sami Khedira, I believe they can challenge for the top 2. Wenger is still a great manager and he always finds a way to play beautiful football.
4. Manchester United – After the unmitigated disaster that was David Moyes 10 month tenure, the crazy Louis Van Gaal takes the helm. He is a nut and will give Mourinho’s ego a run for its money (this guy claimed he was responsible for Argentina’s Sergio Romero making the key penalty saves in the World Cup Semi’s since he coached him in the Netherlands 10 years earlier), but he is quality. Rooney is at the top of his game and they have added Luke Shaw and the one that got away last year in Ander Herrera. These signings along with a couple more that are surely to follow should give United enough to sneak back into the top 4.
Just Missing Out – Liverpool (No Suarez), Tottenham (they are Tottenham), Everton ($45m for Lukaku?)
While no one wants to be a part of the relegation fight, it often produces some of the year’s best matches. Generally, two of the promoted teams get sucked back down and one will survive to fight in the top flight one more year.
18. Southampton – This is the trickiest of the predictions as I am tipping QPR to stay up at the southern club’s expense. We still don’t know what they will do with the bags of cash they have received from their fire sale, but we know they will have to pay a premium for whatever they buy. It will take time for the team to gel and while the former Dutch star turned manager Ronald Koemen may be a star in the making, it may all be too late.
19. Leicester – Leicester have spent some money and after winning the Championship have the chops to win, but I am not sure it will be enough.
20. Burnley – It is going to be a long year for the Clarets
In order to enhance the experience and keep up with the action, I highly recommend you check out the Men in Blazers and their weekly pod on the Grantland Network as well as all the Guardian’s football coverage including Football Weekly.
The Premier League is a grind, but well worth the follow so pick a team and get the beers in.
Photo Credit: “Stretford End” by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:PeeJay2K3 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Stretford_End.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.