Eagerly awaiting the return of the Premier League

English soccer remains on the brain throughout the summer in my mind. Despite having one of the shortest off seasons in sports, it seems like an eternity until the first ball is kicked off on August 15th.While the transfer window is still wide open and rumors are flying all over the place, English squads are beginning to take shape. I pondered over the idea over whether or not it is too soon to make my predictions for the upcoming season, but ultimately decided that no team was going to drastically reshape their roster at this point in the year. Nevertheless, the 2009/2010 Premier League season looks to be one of the most interesting in years. With so many big names on the move, and numerous questions surrounding every single team in the Premiership, fans may get used to their fair share of shocks by the season’s end. After much analysis and the help of boredom at work, here’s how I think things will play out this year…

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Champions: Liverpool

Champions League: Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal

Europa League: Everton,  Spurs, Man City

Relegation: Portsmouth, Hull City, Burnley

First Manager Sacked: Mark Hughes

Explanation: While Sir Alex Ferguson’s ability to achieve success after the loss of big players is unquestioned, I don’t think United is built to claim the title for a fourth straight year; lack of depth along the midfield being the main reason, the loss of Ronaldo and Tevez being the others. While Rafa Benitez may not be in the same class as Ferguson, he does have the squad to get the job done. Along with a deep group of young talented players, a healthy Torres and Gerrard seem very capable to propelling the Reds to their first title in 20 years. Chelsea will certainly jump out to a healthy start as usual, but I don’t see the Drogba-Anelka situation working all season. Arsenal’s talent is still slightly too young to help the Gunners contend for the title.

As for those taking the plunge, the current favorites, Burnley, seem to have too few Premier League level players, and remind me a lot of last year’s West Brom squad. I expect Wolves to score just enough goals to stay afloat and Birmingham’s stingy defense to keep them away from the drop zone. That leaves two spots for relegation. Portsmouth was dreadful at the end of last year. Throwing in the unknown ownership status, as well as the loss of players such as Glen Johnson and Jermain Defoe, the thin Pompey squad looks to be in serious trouble. Finally, there’s Hull City. They barely avoided relegation on the final day of the season last year, and should have gone down if not for their heroic performance in September and October last year.

That about does it; we now await the transfer window deadlines, the scrape to avoid the drop, and the managerial sackings (Hughes will barely beat out Phil Brown). Should be fun! unless you’re this guy…

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