Premier League Preview – Part II

That’s right, just 1 week until kickoff, the start of the Premier League season is so close we can smell it. Earlier in the week, Whitsport took a look at the teams that finished last season at the bottom of the table. When you look at the teams from #10 to #5, you’ll see a lot of similarities.

Let’s now examine the middle of the pack… Each of these teams are looking at qualifying for Europe this season, but which ones have a realistic shot?

High Hopes

Bruce will rely on John O'Shea to bring the winning mentality to the Stadium of Light

When Steve Bruce took over at Sunderland, you could tell he had high hopes. Everything he’s done over the last 3 seasons has emulated his managers and former colleagues of the past. Heck he’s even resorted to snatching up a slew of Sir Alex’s own players. But this year, the Sunderland team has a different feel to it. They’ve kept some key pieces like Gyan, Bramble, and Bardsley, and have added an interesting combo of youth, promise, and leadership. Don’t be surprised if they start sneaking up the table come mid-season.

Another team on the rise is definitely Liverpool. While some of the Kop faithful claim that they’ll challenge for the title, Chairman Tom Warner said it best when he set their first goal as “finishing in the top 4”. While the additions of Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson might take time to really play out, Stewart Downing looks to make an immediate impact. His crossing ability combined with the finishing prowess of Andy Carroll, creative playmaking of Suarez, and tenacity of Dirk Kuyt make them a contender for sure.

Middle Class

Pavly's also scratching his head as to why he doesn't get on the pitch

Tottenham Hotspur will likely been in good contention for a Europa League spot, but Uncle ‘Arry’s dreams of returning to the Champions League are slim in my book. Sure, Bale, VDV, and Friedel are in tow, but their strike force doesn’t doesn’t pass the smell test. Crouch seems less effective with each passing year, and Pavlyuchenko (who has been their most efficient striker) doesn’t see enough time on the pitch. Additionally, Michael Dawson cannot do it alone on defense, and Spurs nature to concede goals is still their biggest concern.

Another team that has a legitimate shot at the Europa League is Fulham. Martin Jol seems very comfortable with what was left to him by Hughes and Hodgson. If Dempsey can retain form, and others continue to chip in offensively, the Cottagers won’t even need to hedge their chances on Zamora’s and Andy Johnson’s respective healths. The retained Fulham back-line and addition of John Arne Riise should prove to be their strong point again this year.

Seeing the Drop?

Get used to seeing this scowl Villa fans

… from the top half, that is. Aston Villa fans may think this sounds crazy, but Charles N’Zogbia will NOT replace the losses of Downing and Young. Defensive minded manager Alex McLeish may help rejuvenate the back four at Villa Park, but scoring will be the likely issue. Villa has struggled to find scoring in recent years, and even though Darren Bent is good for a dozen or so tallies each season, their lack of talent at midfield is a real cause for concern.

Check back next week for a look at the top 4, and the launch of the Premier League Predictions page, just in time for the 2011-2012 season. Cheers!

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