By Chris Wright
Not that we’re sitting in our undercrackers, idly watching the clock or anything, but there is now only 26 days, 3 hours, 29 minutes and 29 seconds until the Premier League farts back into life and hits our screens again over the weekend of August 13th – so we reckon it’s high time to take a deep swill of chutzpah juice and make our famous(ly rubbish) and fearless predictions for 2011/12…
1. Chelsea to win the title – Let’s get the biggie out of the way first shall we? Sir Alex reckons we’re looking at a six-way rumble for the title next season, with United, Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and…erm…Spurs (we think?) all vying for the silverware.
We’ll discount Tottenham here and now because, in Layman’s terms, they’re Tottenham – but the possibility of Liverpool sneaking into the mix has been heightened by a decent batch of summer acquisitions and the warm, rejuvenated halo of optimism emanating from King Kenny’s hind-quarters.
We see City struggling to keep their plates spinning without the safety net of Carlos Tevez’s steady goal stream and Arsenal look more fractious than ever – so, when the dust finally settles after Christmas, we envisage yet another two-horse race with Chelsea pipping United this time around.
Though, to be fair, that’s what we said last year.
2. Liverpool to nab Arsenal’s spot in the top four – Many are backing Luis Suarez to carry on where he left off last season and provide Liverpool with the kind of flair that they’ve missed of late, but we’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it will be the altogether more agricultural ‘Downing/Carroll’ axis that yields the most points on Merseyside next year.
3. Top four will be – Chelsea, Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool with Arsenal securing Champions League football despite finishing fifth by qualifying via some ancient bylaw written in the small print of the Domesday book.
4. Blackburn to sack Steve Kean by October – Don’t get us wrong, Kean is by no means offensive, but unfortunately he is also utterly charmless and certainly doesn’t seem to sit right as far as Venky’s airy-fairy ambitions for Blackburn are concerned.
Looks like he hasn’t been allowed to spend any of the chicken money this summer and we reckon he’ll be the first managerial casualty of 2011/12 – being rolled aside for a ‘bigger’ name (Avram Grant?) to step into the breach following a couple of crap performances/ iffy results during the first few weeks of the season.
To be precise, we’ve got our eyes on the decisive pounding being doled out by Arsenal at Ewood on September 17th.
5. Fernando Torres to score a (relative) shed-load of goals – Nando’s already notched one in pre-season, and we’re backing the intricate approach play of the newly-fit Yossi Benayoun to really help make the difference vis-a-vis Torres’ goal haul in 2011/12.
Never has so much faith been heaped on top of one so spindly, grey and frail.
6. Robin van Persie to finish top scorer – Prolific on a game-by-game basis whenever he took to the field last season, if the Dutchman can stay fit for…ah.
Yes, we know he’ll be crocked for at least three months at some point, but we really think that next year RVP is going to land the golden boot despite his balsa wood skeleton and ligaments o’ warm-chocolate.
7. Alex McLeish to suck the life out of Villa – With Young and Downing riding off into the sunset, things aren’t looking too promising for Villa as the new campaign begins to crown over the horizon – especially given that they relied fairly heavily on their front three for long stretches of last season.
We don’t mean to stereotype, but you can probably expect a nine-man defensive unit at Villa Park next term, with Darren Bent (who’ll up-sticks and vamoose in January) told to man the opposition’s half solo, á la Cameron Jerome and all the big men then cavaliering forward to clatter home corners and free-kicks. Birmingham Mk II.
The club’s dwindling reserve of fleet-footed creative players (Albrighton, Agbonlahor, Ireland?) are going to have to seriously up their respective games if Villa are to even come close to repeating their ninth-place finish come next May.
8. Everton to have a decent start to a Premier League season for once – Another off-season of absolutely zippo transfer activity again suggests otherwise, but here’s hoping – Lord knows they’re long overdue.
After getting a tricky opener against Spurs out of the way on August 13th, the Toffees play QPR, Blackburn, Villa, Wigan and Man City before wading into the first Merseyside derby of the season on October 1st – by which we hope they’ll have snagged enough points to at least not have incurred the annual (laughable) ‘Moyes Out!’ internet campaign.
9. Norwich, QPR and Wigan will go down – Of the three clubs that were promoted, we’re backing Swansea to stay up by the skins of the teeth – though a maiden Premier League outing on the opening ‘Monday Night Football’ (Aug 15th) of the campaign against Man City is sure to test the Swans’ top-flight mettle straight off the bat.
We’ve got Norwich finishing bottom, Wigan finally succumbing and disappearing in a cloud of wild inconsistency and QPR slipping down in 18th, as having poor old, put-upon Neil Warnock at the helm (assuming he’s still there) makes you automatic Premier League relegation fodder by law.
10. Carlos Tevez returns to the Premier League – Signs for Chelsea in January after going on strike at Corinthians, retires after ‘falling out of love with paychecks’ in June, rejoins ‘boyhood club’ West Ham in July, retires again in August…etc, etc.
There you go folks and folkettes, any fearless predictions of your own you’d care to share with the group?
This season, Sky Sports will be showing 115 live Premier League fixtures, with every match available in HD and selected matches in 3D.
Every single Barclays Premier League team shown live in the first set of Sky Sports HD fixtures, and all three newly-promoted clubs shown live at least three times by the end of November.
Sky Sports will be covering all the big head-to-heads, including Manchester United’s heavyweight clashes with Arsenal (Aug 28th) and Chelsea (Sep 18th), as well as screening seven major derbies in HD including Everton v Liverpool (Oct 1st), Tottenham vs Arsenal (Oct 2nd) and the Manchester derby followed by QPR vs Chelsea (both on Oct 23rd).
Please note however, that all fixture are liable to change – we wouldn’t want you to miss out!