Premier League Preview 2 – The Title Contenders and the others…

Their arch-rivals Liverpool may be England’s most successful club (on paper) but it is Manchester United that has enjoyed the most recent of title wins lately under the tutelage of the ageless Sir Alex Ferguson who, it seems, has pulled off quite a transfer coup with the arrival of Javier Hernandez from Mexican club Chivas and such has been the instant impact of the petite player also known as Chicharito or Small Pea that he scored against the Red Devils in a pre-season match with Chivas as well as getting the second United goal in the 3-1 Community Shield defeat of Chelsea, even if the ball bumped off his face…any goal would do for Sir Alex.

With his addition to an already formidable team made of the very vast experience of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Edwin Van der Sar along with the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Park Ji-Sung and talisman Wayne Rooney; who, I guarantee, will hit the heights again after a World Cup low, it once again is the Red Devils that are favourites for the title.

Fergie’s lads are however known to ‘gift’ the title away with a series of very unexpected results at stages of the season and should that happen, Chelsea look the most likely to pounce and win the title.

Or so I thought until Ricardo Carvalho completed his move to Real Madrid; reacquainting himself with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, because the Blues defence had shown cracks of weakness last season with Carvalho there and now that he is gone, will the goals of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and the occasional from Nicholas Anelka spare the defence’s blushes as it did last term?

Time will tell for manager Carlo Ancelotti as he leads Chelsea in a campaign to defend the title from this Saturday (17:30 GMT) with what should be an easy opening fixture at home to newly promoted West Bromwich-Albion while Man. United begins its campaign with a classic encounter at Old Trafford against Newcastle United; back in the top flight after one season in the Championship, on Monday (20:00) just to allow for television arrangements.

The match of the opening weekend without doubt comes from Anfield where the title credentials of Liverpool and Arsenal will go through a litmus test in Sunday’s only match (16:00); television had a thing to do with that too.

The league season though kicks off with an equally interesting clash at White Hart Lane (12:30) where free spending Man. City are guests of Tottenham Hotspur in an early rematch of last season’s tussle for the final Champions League place that saw Spurs all but win the lucrative fourth spot from City.

Another match of interest will see Aston Villa begin the season at home to West Ham United (15:00) with an unlikely future lying ahead following the shock resignation of Martin O’Neill, an exit that could result in the Villans having to let go of prized assets James Milner and Ashley Young. The Hammers on their part will be out to start the season well with former Chelsea and Portsmouth manager Avram Grant leading the east London side into a new era after barely avoiding relegation last season.

Other games have Mark Hughes returning to Premier League management with last season’s surprise Europa League finalists Fulham in the tricky trip to Bolton Wanderers (15:00) that in my view are relegation candidates unless striker Johan Elmander comes to form this season. Everton travel to Blackburn Rovers (15:00) with playmaker Mikel Arteta signing a five-year contract extension, Sunderland host a promising Birmingham City (15:00) that I feel will do well in their second season under Alex McLeish and Blackpool may just be the surprise of this season like Hull City was two seasons ago, starting with a trip to Wigan Athletic (15:00) that are relegation candidates in my view along with Wolverhampton Wanderers that host Tony Pulis’ gritty Stoke City at Molineux (15:00).

…let the games begin!

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