Last year, we saw Chelsea romp to the title, using a controversial win at Manchester United late in the season to propel them to the crown. Now, the Red Devils are back, in search of their 19th Premiership crown. Chelsea, usual suspects Arsenal and Liverpool, and hopeful contenders Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur all want their way in the crown.
We correctly predicted Didier Drogba and Chelsea winning the title last year, and it seems just as likely that they won't repeat this year. The Blues lost a few key role players, including Joe Cole, who scored the only legitimate goal during their win at Man U (sorry, I'm still bitter), and Michael Ballack, a longtime star for Chelsea.
Manchester United returns with another loaded team. While they will be missing star defender Rio Ferdinand for some time, there's no reason to think they can't contend. Chelsea could be a bit off in their motivation as they chase a Champions League crown, leaving Manchester United as the top contender in the Premier League.
Admittedly, Man U doesn't field the strongest team on paper. However, they do have some nice pieces, and you know they are still trying to make a splash with a big-name transfer. Wesley Sneijder -- a Dutch star -- has been rumored to have drawn the Devils' interest. It's a huge key for United to score more. The Devils conceded just 28 goals last season, leading the Premiership. They can't just lean on Wayne Rooney to score all their goals, but it seems they're going to do just that unless a young player steps into a prominent role.
Even with aging Edwin Van Der Sar in goal, expect Manchester United to play strong, tough defense, and they'll be in every match as long as they can do that.
While Arsenal and Liverpool go through some transition, expect Tottenham and Manchester City to seriously contend for Champions League spots. The big challenge Tottenham faces is trying to guide a young team through the Champions League competition this fall while also fielding a contending Premier League squad. If they falter in this area -- and failing to move far in the Champions League with a favorable draw might be seen as a bigger disaster than failing to make it back next year -- it could be disastrous to their development.
City should be able to crack the Champions League lineup for 2011, should they form a strong team bond early in the season amid a rush of new faces. Ownership is serious about winning, and they'll spend what it takes to make that happen.
Liverpool is out of the Champions League for the first time in seven years, and the smart money is on Fernando Torres leading them back eventually, though it may not happen this year.
Other fearless predictions:
- Arsenal will find a way to get past the Cesc Fabregas drama and wiggle into Champions League contention, even if they don't qualify.
- Wigan and Sunderland will climb closer to the middle of the table, but won't finish higher then tenth.
- Newcomers West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle, and Blackpool will all struggle mightily, with all three being near the relegation line.
- Birmingham will surprise. Or maybe they won't. I guess it depends on your definition of "surprise".
- Aston Villa will have a lot of problems. They could finish much lower than expected.
1. Manchester United
4. Manchester City
6. Tottenham Hotspur
8. Birmingham City
10. West Ham United
11. Stoke City
12. Aston Villa
17. Newcastle United
19. West Bromwich Albion