EPL Season Preview


Transfers, Key Players And Predictions For The Season


Chelsea (18/10)
In: Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona, £30m), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid, £32m), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid, £20m), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray, free), Thibaut Courtois returns from loan spell at Atletico Madrid.
Out: Frank Lampard (New York City, free), Ashley Cole (Roma, free), David Luiz (Paris Saint-Germain, £50m), Samuel Eto’o (released), Demba Ba (Besiktas, £5m), Patrick van Aanholt (Sunderland, undiscl.), Romelu Lukaku (Everton, £28m).
Star Player: Eden Hazard
The Belgian winger had his best season in Chelsea colours last year, and has the ability to take his team to the next level. When he plays well, Chelsea play well. Hazard’s preparations for the new campaign haven’t been as perfect as he’d have hoped, featuring in all of Belgium’s World Cup games, but more as a peripheral figure instead of the main creative force. The Stamford Bridge faithful will be hoping Hazard can harness the form of last year, where he finished as the Blues’ top scorer. He’s been given the coveted number ten shirt, vacated by Juan Mata, and Hazard needs to live up to everything that comes with that status.
Prediction: 1st
Hollywoodbets.net have Chelsea as the team to beat in the English Premier League, and that is no surprise with the solid moves they have made so far in the offseason. Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa will improve the Blues on the attack, as the side look to forget about last season when they flamed out at the end of the campaign. Fabregas will shore up the Chelsea midfield, and the club hopes Costa has another solid season like he did playing for La Liga champions Atletico Madrid. Our money is on a tight finish, with Chelsea to pip Manchester City to the title.


Manchester City (24/10)
In: Willy Caballero (Malaga, Undisclosed), Fernando (FC Porto, Undisclosed), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal, Free), Frank Lampard (New York City, Loan).
Out: Mohammed Abu (Stromsgodset, Free), Gareth Barry (Everton, Free), Joleon Lescott (West Bromwich Albion, Free), Marcos Lopes (Lille, Loan), Costel Pantilimon (Sunderland, Free), Abdul Razak (Unassigned Players, Released), Jack Rodwell (Sunderland            , £10m)
Star Player: Yaya Toure
There were question marks over Yaya Toure's state of mind after his traumatic summer, but going off the small amount of time he's played on tour, fans have nothing to fear. He has trained well, looks fit and produced a few of his trademark driving runs. If he can settle back into the rhythm that brought him a stunning 20 goals from midfield in the Premier League last season, the Sky Blues have a great chance of silverware come the end of the season.
Prediction: 2nd
By City's standards, their close-season has been relatively low-key but manager Manuel Pellegrini has astutely added to an already world class squad. Defender Bacary Sagna and midfielder Fernando have arrived from Arsenal and Porto respectively and the acquisition of former Chelsea star Frank Lampard on loan from New York City is an intriguing move. City's success will depend on the form and fitness of captain Vincent Kompany, midfielder Yaya Toure and forward Sergio Aguero while talented Montenegro forward Stevan Jovetic will feel like a new signing after an injury-hit first campaign. Their imperious home record last season was the bedrock for their successful title assault but they will need to improve their fortunes away from the Etihad Stadium, particularly against the lesser teams.


Arsenal (6/1)
 In: Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona, £33.2m), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle, £13.2m), David Ospina (Nice, £3.5m), Calum Chambers (Southampton, £16m)
Out: Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona, £15m), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City, free) Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea, free), Johan Djourou (Hamburg, £2.46m), Thomas Eisfeld (Fulham, undisclosed), Wellington Silva (UD Almeria, loan) Nicklas Bendtner (released), Chu-Young Park (released), Daniel Boateng (released), Chuks Aneke (Zulte-Waregem, free), Zak Ansah (Charlton, free), Zac Fagan (released).
Star Player: Aaron Ramsey
There are many candidates for this mantle, including Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Özil and new signing Alexis Sanchez, but the player who Arsenal are most dependent on it is Aaron Ramsey. Many assumed that Jack Wilshere would be the one, at this stage, staking a claim for the Arsenal captaincy – but from the depths of being shunned by many of Arsenal’s own fans and being stripped of the Wales captaincy, Ramsey emerged as Arsenal’s stand out performer last season and his all round contribution to the team is what makes Arsenal tick. Arsenal had a win rate of 70.6% with Ramsey playing last season (as opposed to 55% without), with the Welshman clocking up sixteen goals and nine assists. Furthermore, at the time of his injury, Ramsey was in the top three for all of touches, assists, passes, tackles won and goals from midfield. One can only wonder where Arsenal might have been at the end of the season had Ramsey stayed fit – but he did make it back in time to win Arsenal the FA Cup in the 109th minute. There is no question, his ability to stay injury free will be a huge factor in any potential title threat Arsenal may pose.
Prediction: 3rd
Arsenal fans expect a title challenge, and rightly so. With the challenges of the stadium debt and the trophy drought well and truly conquered, it’s about time Arsenal progressed into this promised ‘new era’. Indeed, if they are able to keep all their key players fit and get the best out of Mesut Özil, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez – whilst keeping their usually solid defensive line together, they should go far. But with their injury record and (as yet) lack of real anchor in front of the defence, it’s difficult to see them eclipsing City and Chelsea over 38 games.


Liverpool (12/1)
 In: Rickie Lambert (Southampton, 4.5m), Adam Lallana (Southampton, £25m), Dejan Lovren (Southampton, £20m), Divock Origi (Lille, £10m), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, £20m) Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, £10m) Javi Manquillo (Atletico Madrid, loan).
Out: Luis Suarez (Barcelona, £75m), Iago Aspas (Sevilla, loan), Luis Alberto (Malaga, loan), Pepe Reina (Bayern Munich, £2m).
Star Player: Daniel Sturridge
With Suarez now at Barcelona, The Reds will primarily rely on Daniel Sturridge to take the role of competing as the league’s top scorer. The Englishman has every quality to be a world class striker, and will thrive on the moment of being The Reds’ main man this season. After all, he has waited his entire career for this opportunity: to be lead striker at a high-profile club, the chance to win an army of fans and elevate himself into the role of Liverpool - and England’s - saviour.
Prediction: 4th
With the loss of Luis Suarez and the extra games to be played, accompanied with the added expectation they will most likely face some rough patches. Overall though, Liverpool will be a certainty to make the top four next season and perhaps fight for an automatic place in the Champions League.


Manchester United (9/2)
In: Luke Shaw (Southampton, £30m), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £29m)
Out: Alexander Buttner (Dynamo Moscow, undisclosed), Patrice Evra (Juventus, £1.2m), Federico Macheda (Cardiff City, free), Nemanja Vidic (Inter Milan, free), Rio Ferdinand (Queens Park Rangers, free), Bebe (Benfica, £2.4m).
Star Player: Wayne Rooney
Hard to choose between Rooney and van Persie, but England’s bulldog led the Red Devils with 17 goals last season. RVP’s strike rate was slightly better, but Rooney makes more of a difference at both ends of the park (something that infuriates some fans). Rooney also requires the freedom to freelance, and that could become a problem with van Gaal if the wins aren’t coming and the freelancing has left gaps in the formation.
Prediction: 5th
New manager Louis van Gaal arrives at Old Trafford hoping to bring back the good times after leading Netherlands to the semi-finals of the World Cup. After a dismal season culminated in the sacking of Alex Ferguson's successor David Moyes and failure to qualify for the Champions League, Van Gaal faces a tough task to reinvigorate United. Manchester United have not made the necessary signings to finish in the top four. They are light in central midfield, and the defence is a big issue, even if strength in numbers of three at the back may give them greater solidity than last season. Van Gaal will surely improve the squad but it could take a full season of rebuild before we see United return to the Champions League.


Tottenham Hotspur (66/1)
In: Ben Davies (Swansea City), Michel Vorm (Swansea City), Eric Dier (Sporting)
Out: Heurelho Gomes (Watford, Free), Cameron Lancaster (Released), Jake Livermore (Hull City), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea City), Iago Falque (Genoa).
Star Player: Erik Lamela
Erik Lamela started his pre-season midway through the World Cup, and has bulked up in start for the new season, something that was needed as he didn’t look the athlete that is needed when competing in the Premier League. The arrival of Mauricio Pochettino will help Erik Lamela settle, and it looks like their relationship could pay dividends on the pitch as Erik Lamela has looked a totally different player that turned up to north London last summer, and looks comfortable in the first line of defence when pressing the opposition defence high up the pitch.
Prediction: 6th
Having lured manager Mauricio Pochettino from Southampton following Tim Sherwood's dismissal, Tottenham have signed Swansea fullback Ben Davies and goalkeeper Michel Vorm plus Sporting's young central defender Eric Dier. Argentine Pochettino will be tasked with getting the best out of the likes of forwards Roberto Soldado and the club's record signing Erik Lamela, who struggled to make an impact at White Hart Lane last season through poor form and injury. Pochettino has been given a five-year contract and while qualifying for the Champions League remains the club's target, chairman Daniel Levy will give the new manager time to build a side capable of challenging for major honours.


Everton
In: Gareth Barry (free agent), Muhamed Besic (Ferencvaros, undisclosed), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, £28m)
Out: Apostolos Vellios, Magaye Gueye, Mason Springthorpe (all released).
Star Player: Romelu Lukaku
Everton fans went into utter meltdown and it’s obvious why they did. Signing Romelu Lukaku was something very unexpected for Everton. £28mil is a lot of money for a player, so Roberto Martinez is expecting goals from the Belgian. He can go on to become one of the best strikers in world football. The Belgian scored an impressive 15 goals in the Premier League last season and will be hoping to add to his tally.
Prediction: 7th
Everton’s fluid, attractive football caught teams by surprise last season and the opposition will know what to expect this time around. European commitments may also take their toll on a small squad, and injuries to key players could derail progress completely. That said, in Martinez the fans trust and the manager has the nous and skill to get the best out of a talented squad. The deciding factor, however, in whether the club can match last season’s finish will be the quality of the additions that he makes in the coming weeks. Prediction: 7th.


Newcastle
In: Remy Cabella (Montpellier, Undisclosed), Jack Colback (Sunderland, Free), Facundo Ferreyra (Shakhtar Donetsk, Loan), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord, Undisclosed), Siem de Jong (Ajax, Undisclosed), Ayoze Perez (Tenerife, Undisclosed), Emmanuel Riviere (Monaco, Undisclosed).
Out: Romain Amalfitano (Dijon, Free), Shola Ameobi (Released), Mathieu Debuchy (Arsenal, £12m) Dan Gosling (Bournemouth, Free), Sylvain Marveaux (Guingamp, Loan).
Star Player: Cheick Tiote
Cheick Tiote will be key to the side this season as he can anchor the midfield, allowing the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Siem de Jong and Remy Cabella to get forward and create opportunities for the team. Although he gets a lot of criticism for his discipline, his yellow card rate has fallen a lot in recent seasons, while he has only ever been sent off once in the Premier League for Newcastle. The Ivorian is also excellent at retrieving the ball from the defence and relaying it to the other midfielders, he doesn’t often lose possession. He returned to his best form last season, with a pass success rate of 86.63% and a tackle success rate of 65.09%. He has been appointed one of the vice captains alongside Siem de Jong, which shows how key he is to the Newcastle side. If the midfielder has a good season, so will Newcastle.
Prediction: 8th
Despite guiding Newcastle to a top 10 finish, manager Alan Pardew came under increasing pressure from the St James' Park faithful after a run of six straight defeats towards the end of the season. Pardew has strengthened his squad with midfielders Remy Cabella, Siem de Jong and Jack Colback, while Dutch right back Daryl Janmaat comes in to replace Mathieu Debuchy who joined Arsenal. Newcastle relied heavily upon the goals of on-loan striker Loic Remy but with his return to parent club QPR, Pardew has signed strikers Facundo Ferreyra and Emmanuel Riviere in an attempt to fill the void left by the Frenchman. Newcastle’s attack will be as strong as it’s been in a long time and are backed to finish in 8th place.


Queens Park Rangers
In: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) Free, Steven Caulker (Cardiff City), Jordon Mutch (Cardiff City), Mauricio Isla (Juventus) Loan
Out: Aaron Hughes Released, Stephane Mbia Released, Andrew Johnson Released, Luke Young Released, Hogan Ephraim Released, Angelo Balanta Released, Tom Hitchcock Released, Yossi Benayoun (Maccabi Haifa), Esteban Granero (Real Sociedad).
Star Player: Loic Remy
Assuming he stays — which is a wild assumption considering a failed medical is what kept him from leaving for Liverpool — the French forward will provide QPR with a chance to finish any opportunity. The 26-year-old scored 14 goals for Newcastle last season despite missing part of the season, and the forward depth drops off behind him and Charlie Austin (who has zero Premier League experience but certainly has faced new challenges well).
Prediction: 9th
Thanks to Bobby Zamora's last-gasp winner against Derby County in the Championship playoff final, QPR return to the Premier League hoping to establish themselves in England's top flight. After suffering relegation in 2013, experienced manager Harry Redknapp looks to be building a solid foundation at Loftus Road with the signings of former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and Cardiff City's Steven Caulker. Charlie Austin was the top scorer last term and his form could prove vital when the west Londoners begin their assault on the Premier League. Prediction: 9th


Crystal Palace
In: Chris Kettings (Blackpool, Free), Fraizer Campbell (Cardiff City), Brede Hangeland (Fulham, Free)
Out: Neil Alexander (Released), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Cardiff City, Free), Daniel Gabbidon (Released), Dean Moxey (Released), Jonathan Parr (Ipswich Town, Free), Aaron Wilbraham (Released), Jose Campana (Sampdoria), Jack Hunt (Nottingham Forest, Loan).
Star Player: Yannick Bolasie
Yannick Bolasie could emerge as Crystal Palace’s key man this season. The 25 year old winger has bags of pace, lots of trickery and proved last season that he can destroy any team when he puts it all together (most notably in the 3-3 draw with Liverpool). Last season he completed an average of 2.6 dribbles per match, placing him in the league’s top-five dribblers. If he can add consistency to his game and produce consistent end-product to match his build up play, he could be one of the most of exciting in the league, never mind South London.
Prediction: 10th
For the first time in their history Crystal Palace are preparing for a second successive Premier League campaign after an extraordinary season. Tony Pulis took over with the club destined for relegation but the former Stoke manager turned Palace into an efficient, organised, dedicated team and led them to a mid-table finish. The Eagles have bolstered their attack with the arrival of Fraizer Campbell from Cardiff City while experienced Brede Hangeland adds competition to a defence that kept 11 clean sheets after Pulis' arrival. Their expectations again rest on their performances in front of their vociferous home support at Selhurst Park.


Stoke City
In: Phil Bardsley (Sunderland, Free), Steve Sidwell (Fulham, Free), Mame Biram Diouf (Hanover 96, Free), Dionatan Teixeira (Banska Bystrica), Bojan Krkic (Barcelona)
Out: Juan Agudelo (Released), Matthew Etherington (Released), Michael Kightly (Burnley)
Star Player: Marko Arnautovic
Hughes upon signing Arnautovic a year ago: “People will very quickly see what an outstanding talent he is. He has power and his pace, which is something I think we need in the squad.” Bang, right on the money. The 25-year-old Austrian winger was a complete unknown when Hughes brought him to the Britannia from Werder Bremen last September. For a paltry $4.7 million, Arnautovic brought pace, electricity, and class to link between the hard-hitting Stoke midfield and its statues up front. Where most players need some time to acclimate themselves to the Premier League style of play, Arnautovic needed none of the sort. He has the skill and pace to fly on the ball, and the strength to keep it in traffic and under challenge one-on-one. The Austrian pumped in four goals and 10 assists from the wing, and still managed to fly under the radar as no teams looked to swoop and cash in on his successful first year. With a more free role to roam about the attacking half of the pitch as the season rolled on, expect plenty of the bold Potters’ #10 as they look for another finish in the top half of the table.
Prediction: 11th
Mark Hughes enjoyed a sterling debut season at the Britannia Stadium and led the club to their first top-half finish in the Premier League. Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and defender Ryan Shawcross provide a strong spine to the team and Hughes has added the experienced Phil Bardsley and Steve Sidwell to his squad over the close season. Having adopted a passing and possession style of play, former Manchester City boss Hughes will hope talented midfielder Marko Arnautovic can supply new strikers Mame Biram Diouf and Bojan Krkic with the service they require. The Potters should have another successful season and secure a strong 11th place finish.


West Ham
In: Mauro Zarate (Velez Sarsfield), Cheikhou Kouyate (Anderlecht), Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich Town), Diego Poyet (Charlton Athletic), Enner Valencia (Pachuca), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, Loan)
Out: Joe Cole (Aston Villa, Free), Jack Collison (Released), Callum Driver (Released), George McCartney (Released), Jordan Spence (Released), Matt Taylor (Burnley, Free)
Star Player: Enner Valencia
One of the major additions to the Hammers’ squad to help move towards this more attacking style has been Enner Valencia of Ecuador. Valencia impressed one and all with his displays for Ecuador at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. As the leading goal scorer for his country with 3 goals, the 25 year old striker had a memorable tournament. Having signed him for a fee in the region of £12 million from Mexican club Pachuca, West Ham will be hoping that he is the answer to their lacklustre performance in front of goal last season.
Prediction: 12th
Booed by fans for his side's performances last term, boss Sam Allardyce will implement a new attacking style of play as he attempts to win-over the Upton Park crowd. Former England striker Teddy Sheringham has been appointed as an attacking coach and will work alongside new strikers Enner Valencia, who scored three goals for Ecuador at the World Cup, and Argentine Mauro Zarate. Allardyce has also bolstered his squad with the signings of Aaron Cresswell, Diego Poyet and Cheikhou Kouyate but he will be without striker Andy Carroll who picked up an ankle injury in pre-season. The Hammers secured a remarkable 13th place last season and will go one better and finish 12th.


Southhampton
In: Dusan Tadic (Twente Enschede), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, Loan), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan, Loan)
Out: Andy Robinson (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Tom Leggett (Aston Villa), Isaac Nehemie (Aston Villa), Danny Fox (Nottingham Forest, Free), Lee Barnard (Released), Guly do Prado (Released), Jonathan Forte (Released), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool, £7m), Luke Shaw (Manchester United, £30m), Adam Lallana (Liverpool, £25m), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool, £25m), Calum Chambers (Arsenal, £16m), Dani Osvaldo (Inter Milan, Loan)
Star Player: Dusan Tadic
Plenty will hinge on how Dusan Tadic adjusts to life in the Premier League. Still only 25, he will be considered the mid-term future for Southampton and could fill the void of Lallana as far as goals are concerned. The Serbian averaged almost a goal every two games at Twente and similar figures would considerably steady Southampton. Despite the mass exodus, Tadic will have some competition in the middle of the park but has also made his name as a rover. That kind of versatility will make him valuable to Koeman, who would have been following the 25-year-old closely, having spent the last five years coaching with AZ Alkmaar and Feyenoord.
Prediction: 13th
After finishing last season in eighth place with a record Premier League points tally, there has been major upheaval at St Mary's with the loss of manager Mauricio Pochettino and the departure of crucial players. Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren joined Liverpool, while Luke Shaw left for Manchester United and Calum Chambers signed for Arsenal, leaving new manager Ronald Koeman to pick up the pieces. The Saints won’t be as strong as they were last season but should find themselves in 13th place come end of the season.


Leicester City
In: Jack Barmby (Manchester United, Free), Matthew Upson (Brighton and Hove Albion, Free), Ben Hamer (Charlton Athletic, Free), Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa, Free), Leonardo Ulloa (Brighton & Hove Albion), Louis Rowley (Manchester United, Free)
Out: George Taft (Burton Albion, Free), Lloyd Dyer (Watford, Free), Marko Futacs (Released), Sean St Ledger (Released), Neil Danns (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Zak Whitbread (Derby County, Free).
Star Player: Danny Drinkwater
Relatively unknown to those who pay little attention to the Championship, Danny Drinkwater – a product of the Manchester United academy – won the Fans’ Player of the Season award after an impressive display in the centre of midfield. Drinkwater was a dominant figure for Leicester playing 45 matches last season and playing a major part in the way they played. Acting as the deeper playmaker for the Foxes, Drinkwater made 66.4 passes per match and an impressive total of 2989 passes over the course of the season. He was also a dangerous player around the 18 yard box with the midfielder liking long range shots, so it was not a surprise he managed to score some eye-catching goals. Finishing the season with 7 goals and 3 assists, Drinkwater will hope replicate this form in the Premier League.
Prediction: 14th
Leicester City reaped the awards of sticking with manager Nigel Pearson. With Kasper Schmeichel in goal and David Nugent up front, the spectre of a quick return to the Championship can be kept at bay.


Sunderland
In: Jordi Gomez (Wigan Athletic, Free), Billy Jones (West Bromwich Albion, Free), Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City, Free), Patrick van Aanholt (Chelsea), Jack Rodwell (Manchester City)
Out: Billy Knott (Bradford City, Free), Phil Bardsley (Stoke City, Free), Craig Gardner (West Bromwich Albion, Free), Carlos Cuellar (Released), Andrea Dossena (Released), John Egan (Released), Oscar Ustari (Released), David Vaughan (Released), Kieren Westwood (Released), Jack Colback (Newcastle United, Free), Ignacio Scocco (Newell's Old Boys).
Star Player: Steven Fletcher
Despite another injury-riddled season last year, Fletcher remains the Black Cats best weapon. Slick on the ball, quick on the turn and clinical in front of net, Fletcher is a player Sunderland need to be fit and healthy if success is in the cards for this year. Adam Johnson and Emanuele Giaccherrini are two other key players to the attacking fold, both of whom enjoyed strong seasons last year but will need to step up even more for the departed loan-man, Fabio Borini.
Prediction: 15th
Politics still appear to be playing a part in Sunderland’s bid to erase last season’s relegation terrors. Miracle-worker Gus Poyet remains on collision course with his player recruitment people and could walk if crisis point is reached. The capture of Jack Rodwell gives hope.


Swansea City
In: Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal, Free), Bafetimbi Gomis (Olympique Lyon, Free), Stephen Kingsley (Falkirk), Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Tottenham Hotspur), Jefferson Montero (Morelia)
Out: Leroy Lita Released, Jernade Meade (Released), David Ngog (Released), Darnel Situ (Released), Michu (Napoli, Loan), Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), Michel Vorm (Tottenham Hotspur), Alejandro Pozuelo(Rayo Vallecano).
Star Player: Wilfried Bony
Of the few positive things to come out of last season, Bony’s impact at the Liberty definitely topped the charts. With 16 goals in the Premier League (and 26 in all competitions), the Ivorian established himself as one of the league’s most dangerous and dependable strikers. Impossible to knock off the ball, Bony devastates opponents with his pace, power and clinical finishing. Arriving in South Wales last summer, Bony wasted no time picking up the slack for the injured Michu beasting opponents and turning the heads of many clubs in the summer transfer market. This year the weight once again fall on Bony’s shoulders to produce the majority of his side’s goals although the arrival of French international Bafetimbi Gomis from Lyon should help reduce the burden.
Prediction: 16th
Appointed as permanent manager during the close season following a temporary stint in charge, Garry Monk will try to steady the ship at the Liberty Stadium after Michael Laudrup's departure in February. Monk has been busy in the transfer market with the arrivals of goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, Ecuador's World Cup winger Jefferson Montero and Spurs midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis has also signed for the Welsh club, but goalkeeper Michel Vorm and defender Ben Davies have departed to join Tottenham. Keeping hold of last season's top scorer Wilfried Bony will be vital for the club. We’re predicting a 16th place finish.


Aston Villa
In: Tom Leggett (Southampton), Isaac Nehemie (Southampton), Philippe Senderos (Valencia, Free), Joe Cole (West Ham United, Free), Kieran Richardson (Fulham, Free).
Out: Marc Albrighton (Leicester City, Free), Nathan Delfouneso (Released), Nicklas Helenius (Aalborg, Loan), Yacouba Sylla (Kayseri Erciyesspor, Loan), Antonio Luna (Hellas Verona, Loan), Jed Steer (Doncaster Rovers, Loan).
Star Player: Christian Benteke
When Christian Benteke is on form, Villa win football matches. When the big man is injured, Villa struggle. Simple. Since his £7million move from Belgian club Genk in the summer of 2012, Christian Benteke has arguably kept Aston Villa in England’s top flight. The 6′ 3″ Belgian international suffered a serious injury in March last term and was ruled out for the remainder of the season as Villa limped over the safety line. In a weird way, that injury may have been good news for Villa fans in hindsight as it has deterred clubs from making offers for him ensuring he will be an Aston Villa player until January 2015 at least. He is set to miss the start of the season but if Villa can keep him fit, he may be a player to bag at least ten goals by January with the creativity that Charles N’Zogbia and new boy Joe Cole will be able to offer him.
Prediction: 17th
Another season of struggle is expected for Paul Lambert's youthful Villa squad. They will be without talismanic Belgian forward Christian Benteke until at least October as he continues his return from the Achilles injury he sustained last season. Lambert has former Manchester United captain Roy Keane as his new assistant but the pair face a difficult start with fixtures against Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City among their opening seven games. The experience of new signings Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson could be crucial as Villa look to improve. Lambert will survive a relegation battle by the skin of his teeth as Villa finish in a very uncomfortable 17th place.


West Brom (5/2) - To Be Relegated
In: Craig Gardner (Sunderland, Free), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City, Free), Chris Baird (Burnley, Free), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hanover 96), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool, Loan), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg Trondheim)
Out: Billy Jones (Sunderland, Free), Scott Allan (Released), Nicolas Anelka (Released), Cameron Gayle (Released), Zoltan Gera (Released), Diego Lugano (Released), Liam Ridgewell (Released), Steven Reid (Burnley, Free), George Thorne (Derby County).
Star Player: Stephane Sessegnon
Joint leading scorer in last year’s struggle of a season, Sessegnon is an above-average player on a below-average squad. That’s about all West Brom has at this point. They dumped full-season fixtures like Diego Lugano and Zoltan Gera in the offseason, and added squad players like Jolean Lescott, Chris Baird, and an expensive left-back. Sessegnon is the creative “force” up front, and that will have to do for the Baggies.
Prediction: 18th  
It is likely to be a tough season for the Midlands club. With rivals strengthening well and the possibility that last season’s poor form will play a detrimental role during the start to this season, the Baggies may well find themselves losing a relegation battle.


Hull City (7/2) - To Be Relegated
In: Jake Livermore (Tottenham Hotspur), Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City), Tom Ince (Blackpool, Free), Andrew Robertson (Dundee United), Harry Maguire (Sheffield United)
Out: Abdoulaye Faye (Released), Matty Fryatt Nottingham Forest (Free), Conor Henderson (Released), Robert Koren (Released).
Star Player: Tom Huddlestone
Tom Huddlestone; some love him and some loath him. I prefer to take the former approach. A midfielder who is comfortable off either foot, keeps Hull ticking over. Not blessed with pace or excessive amounts of mobility, it’s the ease at which he plays which always gets my attention. He can be accused of taking too much time on the ball but in a moment where pinpoint distribution is needed, he really is an exceptional passer. This ability could be more effective this year with new additions Snodgrass and Ince injecting some additional pace to the team.
Prediction: 19th
Hull supporters will have been delighted with their team’s performances last season as they fought off relegation to finish 16th, had a trip to the FA Cup final and qualified for Europe for the very first time. Their Europa League adventures may well interfere with their league form and they have not done anything spectacular in the transfer window.


Burnley (11/20) - To Be Relegated
In: Michael Kightly (Stoke City), Matt Gilks (Unattached, Free), Marvin Sordell (Bolton Wanderers), Matt Taylor (West Ham United, Free), Steven Reid (West Bromwich Albion, Free), Lukas Jutkiewicz (Middlesbrough).
Out: David Edgar (Released), Brian Stock (Released), Keith Treacy (Released), Nick Liversedge (Released), Junior Stanislas (Released), Chris Baird (West Bromwich Albion, Free).
Star Player: Kieran Trippier
Notable mentions should go to Danny Ings, Sam Vokes and Jason Shackell, but Kieran Trippier will perhaps be the team’s most important player. Last season, Trippier not only showed exceptional defensive ability (despite taking a few minutes to get settled into games) but also provided a genuine attacking threat on the right wing. Trippier’s cross delivery was arguably the best in the league last season, and goals will be as important as anything for Burnley next season. Burnley are, however, a cohesive unit and a team, rather than a group of individuals. Each player will fight for every other teammate and that attribute is far more important than the effect any one player will have on the season.
Prediction: 20th
Premier League survival will be a remarkable achievement for a low-budget team who surprised many by securing promotion from the Championship. Their hopes will rest on prolific forwards Danny Ings and Sam Vokes who scored 41 goals combined last year. Manager Sean Dyche has created a strong team spirit and work ethic at Turf Moor which will be crucial if his inexperienced squad are to become established in the top flight. However, the quality of their opponents should be too much for them to survive relegation this season.