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August 17, 2012 / ultrafox1963

Where Egos Dare: A preview of the 2012-13 Premier League and Championship season

After the drama, thrills and euphoria of the biggest sporting extravaganza the country – and possibly the planet – has ever seen, the onset of the 2012-13 Premier League season was always going to bear a subdued air in comparison. 

Genuine global achievers (and in many sports, role models) have now left the stage, to be replaced by the usual collection of plutocrats, selectively-myopic managers, and a host of players ranking among the most obnoxious characters to be found outside prison or politics. 

Right now Manchester City seem favourites to repeat their title triumph of last season. The quality and depth throughout the side is awesome. Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero would probably walk in to any other current European team, Real Madrid and Barcelona included. 

Maybe they’ll also have a decent run in the Champions League this year? Paradoxically, the demands of that tournament may present the biggest threat to their hold on the Premier League crown.

Meanwhile, neighbours Manchester United will be boosted by the return of Nemanja Vidic from injury, plus the arrival of Shinji Kagawa and Robin Van Persie, but there are still questions about other areas of the side. Several squad members aren’t getting any younger and more astute owners than the Glazers would have allowed Sir Alex Ferguson to bring in quality replacements for them.

Of the rest, Arsenal once again lack sufficient cohesion and stability to threaten the top two, despite Arsene Wenger’s ventures into the transfer market. Chelsea, despite last season’s cup triumphs, are a side in transition and lack the consistency required for a full tilt at the title.

Spurs, now under Andre Villas-Boas, could again flatter to deceive before fading towards the end and Newcastle may find it difficult to repeat the successes of last season, especially as the demands of another Africa Cup of Nations in 2013 will hit them hard. League Cup holders Liverpool, even with Brendan Rodgers in charge and further heavy investment in the squad, are still nowhere near a top-four side, and Everton, Aston Villa and Sunderland will continue to punch below their weight.

At the bottom, perennial escapologists Wigan may finally fall through the relegation trap door. West Bromwich and Southampton could well join them, although Norwich and Swansea who both over-achieved last season, may also struggle this time around under new management. Promoted sides Reading and West Ham look to have bought well this summer and should both survive with some comfort.

The Championship continues to be a tough league to call, with the form book likely to be upset several times in any given week. However, Bolton seem to have regrouped fairly well during the summer, despite the blow of losing Fabrice Muamba, and look well placed for an immediate return to the top flight.

Wolves will find it difficult to keep key players and Blackburn continue to be plagued by off-field turmoil. Leeds will mount a stronger challenge with Neil Warnock in charge of a radically-revamped squad, Cardiff should again feature among the top six and newly-promoted Sheffield Wednesday could well surprise a few teams.

As for Leicester City, fans will remain hopeful this might be their year, but neither the manager nor the squad look entirely convincing. A play-off place may be as much as the Foxes can hope for. At the other end of the table, Barnsley, Bristol City and Peterborough can all expect a long, hard winter.

LEAGUE PREDICTIONS

Premier League

Manchester City

Manchester United

Chelsea

Arsenal

Everton

Newcastle United

Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool

Sunderland

Fulham

Aston Villa

Reading

Stoke City

Queens Park Rangers

West Ham United

Norwich City

Swansea City

West Bromwich Albion

Southampton

Wigan Athletic

 

Championship

 

Bolton Wanderers

Leeds United

 

Leicester City

Hull City

Cardiff City

Blackpool

 

Birmingham City

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Sheffield Wednesday

Middlesbrough

Nottingham Forest

Brighton & Hove Albion

Ipswich Town

Charlton Athletic

Blackburn Rovers

Millwall

Watford

Burnley

Derby County

Huddersfield Town

Crystal Palace

Peterborough United

Bristol City

Barnsley

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