The big kick-off is upon us again and those experts in the know from the world of TV and press have been busy telling us how it all ends, even before it has begun! As usual fixed odds in focus have joined in via their e-zine service Tipped at the Post.
In the Premiership, although Liverpool have spent big, they are not quite there yet and consequently are likely to fall short of Man Utd and Chelsea again. The Blues will be keen to regain their crown, but United still appear to have the edge. Arsenal are perhaps, one season away from being genuine challengers again; however, in Van Persie they do have a player capable giving the likes of Rooney, Ronaldo, Gerrard and Drogba a run for their money, with regards to player of the season. Spurs are getting closer to the big 4, but they are still not close enough and are more likely to be battling for the UEFA spots with Portsmouth, Villa, West Ham and Newcastle.
The likes of Reading, Everton, Sunderland and maybe surprisingly Derby can all make mid-table finishes. Most people will have the Rams as certainties to make an instant return to the Championship, but in Billy Davies they have a talented manager capable of keeping their heads above water. At the bottom Blackburn and Man City can stay out of trouble – just; with the rest in a real battle. Wigan have signed a lot of players, but too many of them have a lot to prove and Middlesbrough – with some un-inspiring signings – could join them in the bottom two. Of the remaining 3 teams, Bolton might struggle to cope post Allardyce and slip out at the death, leaving Birmingham and Fulham breathing huge sighs of relief.
Charlton, with a good manager and plenty of cash, are more than capable of jumping straight back up from the Championship and taking Wolves along with them. Last season will have been a good experience for the black country outfit. Sheff U have an impressive forward line, but defence is a worry and the play-off’s look a more likely option together with Watford, Cardiff and one from Norwich, Coventry and Southampton. West Brom may well suffer a Wembley hang over and just miss out. Mid-table is probably the best Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich and Palace; with Leicester, Hull and QPR improving on last term, but not significantly. Colchester did remarkably well in their first year up, but are likely to find it a great deal tougher second time around and Preston are likely to suffer from the loss of David Nugent. Bristol City and Blackpool are more than capable of consolidating, but the others look vulnerable. Barnsley can just about survive, likewise Plymouth; leaving Stoke Burnley and Scunthorpe fighting the drop.
In League One, Forest are everybody’s tip for promotion, but they look destined to miss out again. They have brought in Neil Lennon, but it’s a very tough division and you have to wonder about his legs. Tipped at the Post’s two for automatic promotion are Doncaster and Millwall. The Yorkshire club are very ambitious and James Hayter is a cracking signing at that level. The Lions young side finished well and Willie Donachie will have them spot on. Huddersfield, Oldham and Luton are taken to fill the play-off places with Forest; just ahead of Carlisle, Swansea, Yeovil and Southend. Bristol Rovers can have a brighter season than many are suggesting, as can Hartlepool and Walsall, all 3 coming up together. Brighton, Tranmere, Crewe and Port Vale seem set for pretty uninspiring seasons; and Gillingham and Leyton Orient look certain to be bottom half material. Leeds need some luck with their appeal against the 15 point penalty, otherwise they could slip straight through. Swindon can stay up at their expense, but Bournemouth, Northampton and Cheltenham look to have it all on to avoid the drop.
In League Two Paul Ince can get one over Fergie – Darren that is! MKD can just pip Peterborough at the top, with Shrewsbury joining them. Notts County, Darlington and Rotherham are taken to make the play-off’s along with surprise packages Bury. Chesterfield, Bradford and Rochdale should all go close; with Hereford, Wycombe and Mansfield not too far behind. Lincoln have probably missed their chances over the past 5 years and Terry Butcher will not find life easy at Brentford. The two newcomers can hold their own, but the rest might struggle with Chester and Accrington Stanley making way for the return of Torquay and Oxford, who are taken to make their League comebacks.