Friday, August 14, 2009

English Premier League Set to Kick Off Another Season

You're not going to get a ton of thoughtful analysis at this point, because this is still a new concept. However, it stands to reason that the Barclays English Premier League will be gaining some serious exposure this season.

Not only has ESPN picked up broadcasts of matches for their international arms, but they've reportedly also added games for U.S. viewers.

The collapse of Setanta Sports has led to open bidding for a package of EPL games, and ESPN is getting the rights from Fox Soccer Channel to air Saturday morning (U.S. time) games in the States.

This package launches with Chelsea vs. Hull City Saturday morning at 6:45. No word on the official ESPN2 schedule of matches just yet.

A few thoughts on this coming season:

The Big Four will remain in power. Everton, Aston Villa, and Manchester City would like to think they can crack the top four, which is long established to be (alphabetically) Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United.

They're not.

City spent like drunken sailors this winter, hoping to close the gap. They're probably the favorite to finish fifth, or crack the top four in the unlikely event Arsenal were to falter.

The Gunners are a bit younger, and could provide City that opportunity. The other three appear strong enough to stay in those positions.

Chelsea has a driven Didier Drogba, one of the top players on the planet. United are formidable even without Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now with Real Madrid. Expect Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to keep Liverpool in top form.

Chelsea really looks like the favorite. Carlo Ancelotti leads the way now, and there appears to be a different focus with this group now. They're a bit old, which is a concern in a 38-game season, especially when you add in the UEFA competition, in which the Blues will be among the favorites.

Goodbye, Portsmouth. No chance. They lost a lot of players during the summer transfer period, and there just isn't much there. They won't be Derby County bad, but they'll be bad, and they're going down.

Most likely new guy to stay up: Birmingham City. They were one-and-done in 2007-2008. Expect City to stick a little longer this time.

Read more at ESPN Soccernet and EPL Talk.

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