There is no need to say that the English Premier League is the most important, prestigious and popular league of the World in this moment. The Premier League enjoys some of the richest clubs of the World and, as a consequence, the level of competitiveness is huge. If there is an unpredictable league at this point, it has to be the Premier League.
Manchester United defends the title. Sir Alex Ferguson extended his already huge collection of titles with another title last year. It was the last year of legendary players like Edwin Van der Sar, Phil Neville and, especially, Paul Scholes, being all of them part of the history of the Red Devils. Now they added important players like Phil Jones, David De Gea or Ashley Young to an already poweful team. Chelsea FC has been and will probably be the main rival of the Mancunians. The club of London starts a new project based on the signing of the young but prestigious Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas. The core of the team is practically the same of the veteran team that ended up being the runner-up in the previous season, along with young players like the star signings Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku, among other young additions that set the base of the future Chelsea. The rising power can only be Manchester City, who will definitely present a super-team to fight for every single title they are in. Another summer and Manchester City did not hesitate to keep spending their infinite budget and signed Kun Agüero in one of the most important transfers of the season. There are no excuses for the team of Roberto Mancini.
Aside the 3 main favorites on paper, it is impossible to forget Arsene Wenger's Arsenal. The departure of their leader and captain Cesc Fàbregas and the possible exit of Samir Nasri makes the challenge more difficult than ever. Aside the usual arrival of young players to reinforce the squad, Arsenal can still make their last movements before the end of August. The collection of important favorites is closed by Liverpool FC. The club of Anfield want to finish the transition from the Rafa Benítez era to become a power again. Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, José Enrique and Stewart Downing join Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll in this new project led by the legend Kenny Daglish.
In order to help us analyze the new season, we count on the help of several members of the prestigious xtratime.org forum who will give us their opinion:
What do you expect from your club for the Premier League season that started a few weeks ago?
Gabriel "Vidic15" (Manchester United FC) - Judging by the first 3 games I can expect youth, pace, one touch football of the highest order and some. The transition to the last Fergie team is in its final stages and it really is exciting to watch. He is a remarkable man. There will be tough times, no doubt. Especially for the new goalkeeper De Gea, impossible to expect a 20 year old lad who is still developing to fit in seamlessly into a club like United and English football. Doesn't even speak English yet but he should be ok long term. Think it was positive for him to make a mistake or two in games the team still ended up winning.
Think the 0-2 to 3-2 turnaround vs Man City will sum up our season. We've got great depth in every position other than central midfield and the best manager in the business. It says it all that these young players have already been part of a trophy success by coming back from a difficult position. A new generation of last minute winning games, winning games you don't deserve to win etc
It's extraordinary really, Ferguson is into his 25th year of doing this. Best manager ever.
CityBlue (Manchester City FC) - With the talent we have brought to our club, I expect us to win the title, there are no excuses.
Alec Cobas (Chelsea FC) - Enter the Champions League. Nothing more.
Zhuge Liang (Arsenal FC) - Actually I don’t really have high expectation of how far Arsenal can go this season. After the departure of our two most important players, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Wenger have two big tasks in front of him : First, to qualify for CL group stage, which is successful. Second, to reorganize and reinforce his team to add depth and quality that lost. The later one looks easy, but in reality Arsenal always keep their transfer expense low no matter what. Right now, the area that urgently needs strengthening is our defensive area, especially the left flank since both our main LB and his back-up are still young players and one is currently injured. So far we have filled Nasri’s usual role with Gervinho, who is natural wing attacker and it turns out good. For Cesc, I think for time being , it’ll be rotated between Ramsey and Rosicky, while Wilshere still plays his usual 'Iniesta' role in current formation.
So I think the best Arsenal can achieve for this new season is 4th position. It’s the most realistic target considering our team state and our injury records.If we lucky maybe we can try to get a shot at Carling Cup or FA Cup again, we got quite promising youngsters to play there.
Ryfa (Liverpool FC) - As a Liverpool fan, my minimum expectations for this season is finishing within the top 4. It will be difficult as we'll be challenging Arsenal and Spurs for that position but we've spent a decent amount of money in the transfer window, buying the likes of Enrique, Downing Henderson and Adam. Not world class players but they all fill a hole in the squad. Liverpool have needed a reliable leftback and decent winger for years and finally we've got them. I expect them all (except Henderson) to make a mark this season. With Dalglish as our manager, who has shown some excellent tactical nous, his great man management skills and the excellent Luis Suarez, Liverpool should have enough to consolidate 4th spot.
Would also like/expect Liverpool to win a domestic cup. It will be 6 years without a trophy for Liverpool if we don't and i believe that will be the longest we've gone without winning one for over 40 years. Liverpool have no European football which will be an advantage over the other top 5 clubs, and we also have pretty big squad to utilise so can't see why winning a trophy isn't possible.
Who do you consider is the main favorite to win the title?
Gabriel "Vidic15" (Manchester United FC) - United for the league. Flawless home record for many years now which has been the bedrock of all their title challenges, as proven by last season when we were horrific away from home but were saved by 18 wins at home out of 19. We surely won't be that bad again away and I expect us to keep up a similar home record so that is pushing the 90 point barrier which will be enough to win the league this season.
Chelsea and City to follow behind United, in no particular order. Have to admit Chelsea will go serioulsy close if they do land Modric, the best central midfielder in Europe outside of the Barca bunch. Fantastic talent.
Alec Cobas (Chelsea FC) -Manchester United
CityBlue (Manchester City FC) - The main favorites for the title I think are Man City and Chelsea (if they buy Modric, if not than Man Utd.).
Zhuge Liang (Arsenal FC) - Manchester United. It’s simply because they have the biggest mentality to win things. The morale is sky high and their players have very good link and understanding to each others which is important.
Ryfa (Liverpool FC) - Manchester City, are my outright favourites. Great squad with no obvious weaknesses and they've finally got a winning mentality which is the most important thing. Mancini is often accused of being negative but City have played some great attacking football in the two games played so far. Remains to be seen if this is just fluke.
Manchester United will also be up there who you can never right them off, especially with Ferguson as manager.
Among the favorites, who do you consider is going to struggle or fail?
Gabriel "Vidic15" (Manchester United FC) - Arsenal aren't really favourites anymore but my god what a mess they are. And it's all Wenger's fault.
He has known for months that both Cesc and Nasri were adamant they would leave, yet he kept ignoring the situation until the start of the season leaving Arsenal in serious disarray as they get more and more injuries.... If he had just sold the players when they made it clear they wanted to leave they would have had plenty of time to sign new players and no doubt be more prepared for this injury crisis they are suffering.
The Cesc and Nasri stubborness also led to them missing out on a cut price Mata who would have been a excellent Nasri replacement. He now will ply his trade just a short train ride away over in West London instead. Classic Wenger.
He should be sacked. Crazy that it's come to that, but that is how much he has regressed.
Alec Cobas (Chelsea FC) - Chelsea and Arsenal. I don't consider Liverpool as favorites.
CityBlue (Manchester City FC) - I think United is going to fail because they still haven't bought a proper playmaker, the luck from last year is going to run out.
Zhuge Liang (Arsenal FC) - I think all top clubs in Premiership try their best to improve themselves. For Arsenal, I don’t think we are title contender this season. We don’t have enough depth or quality to go all the way going through all the competitions. I think the title race will be between Man Utd and Chelsea again with Man City comes close.
Ryfa (Liverpool FC) - Chelsea over the past few years have been constant challengers for the title. Provided that their current squad remains as it is and Fernando Torres continues to struggle, i feel they willll struggle to match City and Utd's quality. Lampard is aging and if he's not chipping in with the goals from midfield, there is no one that can fill in for him. They are however linked to Modric and Mata and if they pull of those two transfers, it will be a three way battle for the title.
I'd normally mention Arsenal amongst the title favourites but i think currently they're in a hole so deep that even with a few new buys, they won't be capable of challenging for the title. Their lack of a winning mentality plus the need for the squad to gel in Cesc's departure means that they will need time to get back to the highest level.
About the European competitions, who is your favorite to win the UEFA Champions League?
Gabriel "Vidic15" (Manchester United FC) - Barcelona. Not much else to say really. Just to confirm further they are an era defining team by being the first team to retain the CL since that amazing AC Milan team of 20 odd years ago.
Alec Cobas (Chelsea FC) - Barcelona
CityBlue (Manchester City FC) - Barcelona will be big favorite for CL, but i can see City maybe challenging them?
Zhuge Liang (Arsenal FC) - Other than Barcelona, I see no other club has good chance winning it. It will be either Man Utd or Real Madrid as Barcelona’s opponent in this season CL final.
Ryfa (Liverpool FC) - Three favourites in my opinion, Barca, Real Madrid and City with Barca having the edge.
No team since the CL began has retained the CL so history doesn't favour Barca here but then again this is a legendary Barca team, and if any team can retain the CL it will be Barca.
Real Madrid with Mourinho at the helm will always be a massive threat. He's the man that can get under the skin of Barca (the ultimate favourites for the competition) and has done so in the past. He has a quality team under him, one that will have another year to gel, improve, become even more Mourinho-nised. Ultimately though, the only team capable of stopping Real Madrid is Barca. Somehow avoid Barca during the CL and they can win the CL.
Manchester City are the wildcard. They've never played in the CL, they've got Mancini as a manager who got sacked by Inter for not succeeding in the CL so really not much should be expected of them. But it also can't be ignored they've got a pretty brilliant squad. Quality GK, solid defence (not world class though), strong midfield and a harem of world class strikers. On paper, they're strong enough to challenge for the CL. In reality though, they have too much going against them.
And your favorites for La Liga and the Serie A?
Gabriel "Vidic15" (Manchester United FC) - Barcelona are clear favourites for the Primera, the best team in the world have added Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez, both are hard working, explosive youngsters who will add much quality to your first XI and squad. Madrid seriously missed out on Aguero and also failed to strengthen what I consider a seriously average defense (Pepe, Ramos).
Oh and Mourinho is a complete arsehole by the way.
Don't watch Serie A as much as I used to but Inter's decline since winning the CL is something I couldn't avoid. Eto'o gone, Sneijder likely to go, Maicon, Lucio and Samuel all declining/legs going.
All the top teams look poor there at the moment, says a lot when the serie a winners Ac Milan get beaten with such comfort by the 5th placed team in England Spurs in the cl last season.
Gonna tip Roma off purely for their new project with Luis Enrique. They've bought well this summer(Lamela, Osvaldo, Stekelenburg, Bojan etc) No reason why they can't win the scudetto, even for a casual watcher like me it's pretty clear there is no stand out team at the moment and the league is only now gonna really the pain of the Calciopoli. Though if other clubs get foreign investment like Roma, that'll change quickly.
Alec Cobas (Chelsea FC) - Barcelona and Milan
CityBlue (Manchester City FC) - In La Liga, Barça is going to be champions, and in Seria A, I would say AC Milan.
Zhuge Liang (Arsenal FC) - I think Barcelona still has too much quality to continue their domination in La Liga. However, Mourinho will try his best to fix his record in La Liga for sure. As much as I hate him, I have to admit Mourinho is borned a winner. He will try his best to find a way to defeat Barcelona. Real Madrid didn’t sign any well-known big star player this season. But I see he has made some positive adjustments like making Benzema his primary striker. The only concerns for Barcelona is their backline in case there’s injury. Mascherano seems to be more active as defensive back-up rather than his natural position.
For Serie A, I think Milan still has biggest chance to win the title followed closely by Inter.
Ryfa (Liverpool FC) - There are only ever two favourites for La Liga, Barca and Real Madrid.
Barca will naturally be favourites although it must be said Real Madrid are now closing the gap. I expect Real Madrid to actually put a challenge in and make the title race last until May. Barca will ultimately win though.
Malaga have spent a quite a bit this summer, but they're still a while off from challenging. Atletico, are Atletico. Valencia, no chance now they've sold Mata.
Serie A, I admit to not really watching much of or even keeping up with the latest news from that league. Milan won it last season, Inter for the last half a decade have been challenging and winning the league, so i'll just sit on the fence and say it will be between the two of them.
All these interviews were done during last week (before the games of this weekend). I would like to thank them for their contribution and I hope to see them here more times in the future.