Friday, 29 July 2011

PSG set for Pastore coup, after club confirm duo signing.

Pastore isn't expected to wear the pink of Palermo for much longer

Paris Saint Germain look set to confirm their biggest signing since their recent Qatari takeover with the signature of Javier Pastore.

The much sought after Palermo midfielder looks set to join the French club despite serious interest from Chelsea. The Argentine midfielder has been linked with a move away from the club from a long period of time, however was expected to join a European powerhouse with Real Madrid reportedly keen on the services of Pastore. The signing will be a magnificent coup for the club, if the expected deal does materialise.

The news broke of Pastore's immanent arrival on the day the club confirmed the duo signing of former Liverpool midfielder, Mohamed Sissoko and Salvatore Sirigu, ironically Pastore's club team-mate at Palermo.

The French perennial underachievers have been very active in the current transfer market with no less then seven signings, with Kevin Gameiro from Lorient their most expensive in the region of 11million euros. The expected Pastore deal however will certainly exceed the Gameiro fee.

Serie A - PSG continue spending

Why Manchester City can win the league!

Sergio Aguero's addition is a fantastic one, meaning for me they are just one piece away from the side that can really challenge for the title.

The inconsistent form of Adam Johnson and James Milner means that City need to add an out and out winger to the side. David Silva had a superb first season at the club, however his best position is in the hole of the striker, and with Carlos Tevez set to leave the club, the Spaniard next season may get to play in his favoured position. Roberto Mancini clearly has highlighted the wing position as a worry, with interest in Alexis Sanchez reportedly high, only for the Chilean to join Barcelona. A perfect addition would be a player the club has been heavily linked with in Juan Mata. The Valencia star looks certain to leave the club with Arsenal reportedly another English side interested.

Defensively under Mancini Manchester City have been very good with Vincent Kompany, the clubs player of the year, and Joleon Lescott, who got into the side because of Kolo Toure's ban, forging a very good centre half partnership. They are also very strong in both full-back positions with differing options available to Mancini. The right back birth see's a battle between the attacking Micah Richards and the strong defensively good Pablo Zabaleta, with the left back area a straight fight between Aleksandar Kolarov and summer addition Gael Clichy. With the shield of Nigel De Jong and either Gareth Barry or Kolo Toure protecting a strong back four, for me City have a defensive unit as good as anything in the league.

The addition of Aguero just backs up the fact that the team has goals in it. Tevez's 20 league goals are going to be hard to replace, if his likely exit is confirmed before the end of the current transfer window, however Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and Aguero are three strikers who can score. You can always tell of a teams strength when the players who are no longer needed are of the quality of Roque Santa Cruz and Craig Bellamy who are of proven Premier League ability, despite the duo failing to score and being loaned out to a Championship club respectively last year.

Under Mark Hughes City lacked a real balance, however despite criticism for deploying 'negative' tactics, under Mancini City had a great year, winning the F.A Cup aswell as a third placed finish in the Premier League, even towards the end of the 2010-11 season some of their performances were hailed for their attacking flair. Their attacking play is supported well with two or even three of Yaya Toure, De Jong and Barry always playing, meaning teams will struggle to break them down. Their F.A cup victory shows that they have the know how to win trophies and with many of their squad successful with their previous clubs, the team has experience in winning leagues.

A reason why I feel City have a great chance this year is that, despite the league being stronger on the whole, the top sides in Arsenal, Chelsea and their Manchester rivals United, have decreased in quality in the last two years. Arsenal often flatter to deceive and when it comes down to the crunch part of the season have been accused of 'bottling it', most notably their 2-1 defeat to Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final. Chelsea's squad is an aging one, with seven first team players over the age of 30, and despite the addition of manager Andre Villas-Boas, I feel unless they add to their squad will struggle to challenge for the title this year. Manchester United despite winning the league last year have lost key players in Edwin Van Der Sar and Paul Scholes, and due to the laters retirement they lack a real quality creative midfielder, with this season a huge one for the Brazilian Anderson.

Last season Manchester City struggled for consistency and often drew against sides they really should be beating, however if they can overcome the weaker sides then I really expect them to challenge strongly for the title.

Manchester City are expected to challenge for more honours this year.

Santos 4 Flamengo 5

The scoreline doesnt do justice to what seems an absolutely incredible match. A Neymar wonder goal was overshadowed by a Ronaldinho hat-trick which inspired a come back victory for his side. Santos lead 3-0 and 4-3 only to lose the game. Other highlights from arguably the game of 2011 included a chipped penalty from former Manchester City player Elano, which embarrassingly for the Brazilian midfielder was saved as the keeper didn't move, and an incredible miss from the Flamengo forward Devid.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

City land Aguero

Aguero will now wear the blue of Manchester City

Sergio Aguero became Manchester City's most expensive transfer ever after his £38million move from Atletico Madrid was finally sealed today.

On Thursday evening the club confirmed Aguero had signed a five year deal with the Manchester side, and will wear the number 16 shirt.

On the move Aguero commented "I think we are a team that in future will be fighting every year to win major trophies."

With fellow Argentine Carlos Tevez expected to leave the club, City pressed quickly to sign the much sought after striker, with European giants Juventus and Real Madrid heavily linked with the former Independiente striker.

Aguero becomes City's third major signing of the summer after Stefen Savic and Gael Clichy, however manager Roberto Mancini is expected to add to his already illustrious squad ahead of their season opener against Swansea.

Aguero in action at the recent Copa America

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Rangers suffer Malmo defeat

Daniel Larsson's fine strike was enough for Malmo to take a 1-0 lead back to Sweden after overcoming a poor Rangers side.

The Swede's 18th minute strike was a goal of real quality, something that looked distinctly out of place in an otherwise dire match, running onto Wilton Figueiredo's back-heel, the smashed finish gave Allan McGregor no chance in the Rangers goal.

The goal maker Figueiredo was the best player on the pitch and gave the Rangers defence the run around all evening, with McGregor twice forced into action after long range efforts from the striker.

After Rangers disappointing start to the SPL season many expected Ally McCoist to get his first victory against the Swedish Champions, however their first half performance was poor and they were fortunate to only trail by one goal at the half-time break.

Rangers come out after the interval the better side and Steven Naismith should have levelled the tie for the Scottish Champions only to shoot wide on two seperate occasions. With time running out Steve Davis blazed over, and with that miss went any chance of Rangers drawing level.

With the return leg on the 3rd August, McCoist's side face an uphill struggle if they are to progress, and with their side already behind League favourites Celtic, the former assistant manager is going to have to adjust to life as the number one quick.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Despite poor starts all the big nations qualify

After much needed victories Brazil and Argentina confirmed their progression into the knock out stages of the Copa America. Uruguay also secured their place in the last eight with victory over Mexico, who were the only team from Group C who failed to progress.

In group A, Colombia secured top spot after easily overcoming a poor Bolivia side 2-0 with both goals coming from the much saught after striker Falcao. Playing a day later meant Argentina knew the highest they could finish was 2nd, which meant overcoming a second string Costa Rica side. And after making wholesale changes they were far too strong for the youthful Costa Rican's winning easily 3-0. Two goals for Sergio Aguero and one for Angel Di Maria only slightly resembled their dominance in what was a much better performance. Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi along with the two goalscorers all spearheaded a frightening strike force, with Messi claiming two assists, the second a beautiful pass for Di Maria who smashed home.

For the second time in as many games Paraguay failed to hold a lead with the game heading into injury time, however this time they threw away a 3-1 lead with Venezuela rescuing the unlikeliest of points with Miku and Perozo snatching a draw which ensured Venezuela finished second. Brazil, like Argentina, drew their opening two games, and again they followed the Argentina method after winning their final group game to secure progression. Two goals apiece from Neymar and Pato ensured Julio Cesar's error to allow Manchester City's Felipe Caceido to draw the sides level at 1-1 was irrelevant. The win ensured Brazil finished top of Group B, meaning they play Paraguay in the quarter finals, ironically who finished third in their group.

In the final group the trio of Chile, Uruguay and Peru all qualified. Chile overcame Peru thanks to a last minute own goal, ensuring the Chilians topped group C and a quarter final match with Venezuela. Uruguay went into their final game knowing defeat would've ended their Copa America campaign, however despite spurning many chances they beat a youthful Mexico 1-0, with Diego Forlan coming in for some criticism after missing countless chances for the World Cup semi-finalists.

Quarter final draw (predictions in brackets)
Colombia vs Peru (2-0)
Uruguay vs Argentina (1-2)
Brazil vs Paraguay (2-1)
Chile vs Venezuela (3-1)

Round 3 predictions (actual score in brackets)- Argentina 3 Costa Rica 1 (3-0), Colombia 2 Bolivia 0 (2-0), Brazil 1 Ecuador 0 (4-2), Paraguay 1 Venezeula 0 (3-3), Chile 2 Peru 1 (1-0), Uruguay 2 Mexico 0 (1-0)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Liverpool still need to add if they are to challenge.

Liverpool's recent revival under Kenny Dalglish has been impressive, however if the club are going to challenge for the top four and silverware, they still need to add to their squad.

The left-back area for Liverpool has been a problem for the club, with the Paul Konchesky, the club's last signature in the left full-back spot, suffering a horrendous first season, finishing the season on loan at Nottingham Forest. The return of Emiliano Insua from his loan spell with Galatasaray offers an alternative, however it is highly likely that Dalglish will want to bring a full back of his own. The club lost out on Gael Clichy with the Frenchman opting for Manchester City, and next in the pecking order is reportedly Jose Enrique at Newcastle United, who has frequently been linked with a move to the Merseyside club. The Spanish full back will slot in well at Liverpool. After taking a year to adjust to English football, Enrique had successive fine seasons with Newcastle, and if Dalglish secures the services of Enrique, it could bring an end to the clubs problematic area. Enrique probably won't be the only defender on Liverpool's radar, and despite Martin Skrtel impressing last year, the club will want to bring in another centre back with Daniel Agger and Sotris Kyrgiakos both linked with moves away from the club.
Enrique's fine form has attracted interest from Liverpool

Liverpool are also in desperate need to sign a winger, with Maxi Rodriguez likely to leave the club to return to Argentina. Since Rafa Benitez the club has had many wingers come and go, Jermaine Pennant and Harry Kewell to name but two who haven't matched the hype surrounding their move. Dirk Kuyt over the last three seasons has often been deployed as a winger, moving from his favoured centre forward position to help the team. However despite the Dutchman's best efforts he isn't a winger. The club have moved their need for a winger to the top of their wanted list this summer, with Stewart Downing the most likely addition. Juan Mata, Jeffren, Aaron Lennon and Marc Albrighton have all been linked with the club, however a move for the former Middlesborough star is being lined up. After a bid of £15million rejected, it is expected that Liverpool will increase their bid, with Villa likely to accept an offer in the region of £20million.

Despite Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam being good additions, for me I don't feel the duo are better then the centre midfields they already have at the club. Henderson is a huge talent, however his tender age suggests his best years at the club will be in the future. The return of Steven Gerrard is a huge bonus, and despite now being in his 30's is still the best centre midfielder at the club. The much criticised Lucas Leiva had a fantastic season and was arguably the teams player of the year last year. And when you throw in Raul Meireles and the returning Alberto Aquilani, who when you can get on the pitch is a fantastic player, the club aren't short of centre midfielders, and with the double addition of Henderson and Adam, that means Liverpool have six centre midfielders all vying for a maximum three spots in the side.

Much will be expected from their £35million man Andy Carroll this season who struggled for fitness and form despite the clubs strong form towards the end of the season. One possible reason behind this was due to their lack of a winger at the club to supply crosses for the target man, added to the fact Steven Gerrard missed the final three months of the season, Liverpool didn't have a strong set piece taker to supply Carroll, who flourished under Joey Barton's ability behind a dead ball in the first half of the season. However with Gerrard set for a return and an addition on the wing immanent, Carroll should be able to regain his form that made him England's most expensive player.

Towards the end of the season Liverpool had a nice balance to them, and the question is can Dalglish's Liverpool replicate that form when the pressure is more intensified. For me there is no way Liverpool will compete with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea for the title, however I do feel they are only a couple additions away from a much need return to the Champions League.

King Kenny is likely to continue his spending spree

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Corinthians make £35million bid for Tevez

Brazil giants Corinthians have officially bid for the services of Manchester City's want away centre forward Carlos Tevez.

The offer, in the region of £35million, is expected to be rejected by the Manchester club, however the bid signalls intent from Tevez's former club, with the Argentine centre forward "flattered and excited" with the interest show in him.

After withdrawing a transfer request in December 2010, the Premier League's joint top scorer Tevez went on to have a successful season with Manchester City, as the club won the F.A Cup aswell as securing Champions League football with their third placed finish.

However a week yesterday Tevez reiterated his desire to leave the football club, citing family reasons, behind his decision, with his wife and kids living at home in Argentina.

Monday, 11 July 2011

India draw final test with the West Indies

A sublime century from Shivnarine Chanderpaul  rescued a draw for the West Indies in the third and final test with the India, however despite Chanderpaul's ton, India still won the series 1-0.

Chanderpul and Fidel Edwards defied the Indian attack in earning a draw, as the duo put on 65 runs for the eigth wicket partnership, guiding the West Indies to a second innings total of 332.

Set a target of 180 to win, India finished day five on 94-3, with both captains deciding to call an early end to the play with neither side likely to force a late win.

India now travel to England ahead of the first test at Lords on the 21st July. The series see's two of the three highest ranked test nations compete together, with England hoping to close the gap between them and India at the top of the rankings.

Gervinho set for Arsenal move

Arsene Wenger confirmed today that the club have signed Gervinho from French Champions Lille.

The transfer had always been on the cards when Wenger confirmed an interest in the Ivorian striker at the end of the season. Arsenal beat off reported interest from London rivals Tottenham Hotspur for the 24-year olds signature.

Wenger confirmed the deal this morning as Arsenal prepared for their tour of the Middle East saying "Gervinho has joined. He had a medical on Thursday. We sent him home for a couple of days because he has a family and children. He did not come [on tour] because he has not had a [training] session yet."

The signing is the clubs second addition of the transfer window after moving for Charlton's teenage defender Carl Jenkinson. Gervinho is the second of the Lille double winning side to move to the Premier League following Yohan Cabaye's move to Newcastle United.

Gervinho's move is expected to be in the region of £12million

Fulham need to add strength in depth to avoid a tough season.

Despite being in the relegation mix come Christmas, Fulham easily avoided any end of the season with a terrific run of form in 2011, however with their Europa commitments I see the season being a challenge for the London club.

After Mark Hughes's resignation, the club appointed Martin Jol, who ironically was their first choice before Hughes' appointment last year. After three years managing in Germany and his native Holland, Jol's return to English football wasn't unexpected.

Under Roy Hodgson Fulham so famously made the Europa League final, however thier league form failed naturally, however the points tally they achieved would've seen them embroilled in a relegation battle the following year. And with the League's continual strength Jol will have to add to his squad if Fulham are to balance a Europa League run with a strong Premier League campaign. With John Arne Riise expected to move from AS Roma in the next few days, Jol will be hoping its the first of many signings.

Only Chelsea and both Manchester clubs conceded less goals then Fulham last year, and with the interest in Brede Hangeland seeming to fade away, Fulham don't really need defensive reinforcements. However the club struggled to score goals last year, with Andy Johnson, Moussa Dembele and Bobby Zamora mustering just 11 goals between them, one short of their top scorer in Clint Dempsey, who again had a terrific season. With Spurs apparently willing to sell Jol could be tempted to try and re-united himself with either Jermaine Defoe or Robbie Keane, whom both are apparently growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of game time.

I don't for one second expect Fulham to be caught up in a relegation battle, however additions are needed if they to get anywhere near the top half of the table, especially with a heavy fixture list expected due to the "burden" of the Europa League.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Copa America round up

After the second set of group matches were played, favourites Argentina and Brazil find themselves in awful shape, with both third in their group after back-to-back draws.

In Group A a Costa Rican under 23 side overcame Bolivia who finished the game with nine men. The result saw Costa Rica move above Argentina in the group, ensuring a draw for them against the mighty Argentina would ensure qualification.

Argentina were fortunate to escape with a draw against Colombia, with the Colombians threatening to score the vital break through goal on numerous occasions in a dominated first half performance. In fact Colombia should have easily won the game, with Dayro Moreno missing an open goal, much to the players disbelief. Sergio Batista is expected to make wholesale changes for their final Group A game with Costa Rica on Monday.

In group B, Venezula overcame a poor Ecuador to take a suprise lead at the top of Group B. The win means Venezula can probably afford to lose their last game and still qualify, with two of the three third placed sides qualifying. In the same group Brazil needed a last minute leveller from Fred to rescue a point with Paraguay. Shakthar Donestk's Jadson opened the scoring late in the first half, only for Roque Santa Cruz and Nelson Valdez to turn the game on its head. And with Paraguay looking like stealing a march on their South American rivals in the group with victory, Fred came off the bench to level the scores and seal a vital point for Brazil.

Chile and Peru are level on four points at the top of group C, with the later securing a late victory against a young Mexico side. Pablo Guerrero's 81st minute winner saw Peru add to their opening point with Uruguay and leave themselves in good stead after two games. In arguably the game of the tournament so far Uruguay drew 1-1 with Chile as Alexis Sanchez rounded of a lovely team move to rescue a point. Alvaro Perriera had given the World Cup semi-finalists a deserved lead after poor defending from the Chilians. Diego Forlan and Co will probably have to beat Mexico to ensure a place in the quarter-finals after two draws from two.

My round 3 predicitions
Argentina 3 Costa Rica 1
Colombia 2 Bolivia 0
Brazil 1 Ecuador 0
Paraguay 1 Venezula 0
Chile 2 Peru 1
Uruguay 2 Mexico 0

My round 2 predicitions- Argentina 2 Colombia 1 (0-0), Bolivia 1 Costa Rica 0 (0-2) Brazil 1 Paraguay 1 (2-2) Ecuador 2 Venezula 0 (0-1) Chile 1 Uruguay 1 (1-1) Peru 1-0 Mexico (1-0)

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Sanchez rounds off class team goal in draw with Uruguay

In a highly entertaining draw, the much sought after winger Alexis Sanchez rounded off a lovely team goal. The draw see's Chile and Peru level of points at the top of Group C, with the World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay needing a victory to ensure qualification for the knock out stages.

Why are Argentina suffering so badly?

If their first performance was bad, then Argentina's second was woeful. Colombia only have themselves to blame for failing to take all three points, with numerous guilt edged chances missed. Sergio Batista refused to change his line-up from their opener with Bolivia and their lack of width again was on show with star player Lionel Messi prefering to find space in the middle of the pitch. Their narrow formation with defensive midfielders would be fine if on either flank their full-backs were attacking, and with Javier Zanetti and Pablo Zabaleta prodominately defensive minded, it ensured Colombia could defend narrowly and send Argentina out wide.

At Barcelona, Messi can afford to roam into the centre of the park often because he knows on the other flank there is anout and out winger in Pedro, who ensures that the oppositions defence is stretched. However Eszquiel Lavezzi, who again was poor, isn't a winger and despite a very good season at Napoli is struggling to adapt to international football. If Batista is going to stick with this formation then he needs to ensure that he plays an out and out winger, and with Angel Di Maria on the bench, he has someone who can more then do a job.

At the World Cup many questioned Argentina's centre half duo of Martin Demichelis and Walter Samuel, however the performances of Nicolas Burdisso and Gabriel Milito made the duo looked Franceso Baresi esq, with Burdisso and Milito on three sepearate occasions gifting the Colombians one on one oppourtunities with Romero in the Argentine goal due to their severe lack of concentration at the back.

Batista is likely to come huge scrutiny for his team selections and substitutions. With Ever Banega, Estaban Cambiasso and Javier Mascherano all playing, the centre of Argentina's midfield lacks a real creative player with much sort after Javier Pastore not selected. If the team selection was hard to believe, the fact that Batista opted to leave Pastore on the bench for the entire game, deciding to replace Banega with a like for like replacement in Fernando Gago was completing dumbfounding.

Batista's team selection have baffled fans
At the World Cup under Diego Maradona Argentina were poor defensively, however they created chances at will, which at the Copa America they aren't doing. Many people questioned Maradona's managerial ability, however the team selection then seems much more logical then Batista's. Despite Juan Veron's ageing legs he still was able to find a pass, and with the attacking quartet of Messi, Di Maria, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain in front of him and Mascherano, the team had a better balance to them.

After Costa Rica's victory against Bolivia, Argentina's progression is in the balance, and if they are going to have a change of fortunes then Batista must change his team.

My team for the Costa Rica game
Romero, Zabaleta, Burdisso, Garay, Zanetti, Mascherano, Cambiasso, Di Maria, Pastore, Messi, Tevez/Higuain.

Messi doesn't appear as happy as he does playing for Barcelona

Friday, 8 July 2011

Leon Osman - hugely under rated.

There form in the second half of the season was mirrored with the form of their un-sung hero in Leon Osman, who surely can't be far from a first senior international call-up. The midfielder was particularly superb in home games with Chelsea and Manchester City, with his goal against the later personifiying the bravery and energy of Osman, after colliding heads with ironically Lescott the former Everton defender.

The versatility of Osman gives Moyes many options when selecting a team, with Osman able to play anywhere in the midfield or even in the hole of a striker. In the two games mentioned above, Osman underlined his ability to play in many different positions. With the team trailing 1-0 to an impressive City side, Osman was pushed further forward to support Jermaine Beckford, and with Everton dominating the second half, he was able to dominate the ageing Patrick Vieria who was playing in front of Citys back four. This was highlighted with the winning goal where his burst into the box saw him score a headed goal his team-mate Tim Cahill would've been proud of.

After beating Liverpool 2-0 at home last season, Everton went on a dire run, only winning once in twelve games, away to Manchester City 2-1. During them twelve games Leon Osman was only able to play 99 minutes, with 74 of them coming in the suprise victory away to City, only highlighting how key he is to Everton. And with all the speculation of Everton players linked with a move away from the club, Moyes must be esctatic that their under rated star isn't one of those.

With the national team coming under scrutiny recently for their poor performances, many fans have wanted a change in the team, and despite a overhaul since the World Cup in 2010, the season Osman has had at club level surely merits notice from Fabio Capello. With England playing a friendly with the Dutch in September, it would be a perfect oppourtunity for Osman to be called up, who must be growing increasingly annoyed at being overlooked for those out of form.

Despite the likes of Cahill, Mikel Arteta and Leighton Baines usually taking the plaudits, those at Everton know how important Osman is to the club, with Tim Howard stating "The thing with Ossie is that he’s a real unsung hero who will do anything for the team". And with Moyes again expected to have a small budget, Osman will again be a main stay in the Toffee's starting eleven.

League one title race

In the last two season league one has lost 6 very good teams via promotion in Norwich, Leeds, Millwall, Brighton, Southampton and Peterborough, leaving the league at its weakest in a few years, despite the powerhouses of both Sheffield clubs in the third tier of English football. All this means that unlike last year when only a selected few had a shot at promotion this year numerous teams can consider themselves to have a chance of promotion.

After narrowly missing out twice in successive seasons, I feel Huddersfield are the favourites for promotion. Under Lee Clark they have a good young manager and the club are growing under his teniourship. Only one defeat in 2011, the play-off final, suggests that if the Terriers can put play-off heart-ache behind them then they are more then equiped for promotion.
Huddersfield- 1st

After having five different managers at some stage last season I expect Sheffield United to bounce straight back up under Danny Wilson. The former Swindon manager is very expierenced at this level, and I feel he has the required knowledge and ability to guide United straight back up. Keeping ahold of their young players who got their youth team to the cup final will be key.
Sheffield United- 2nd

Paul Dickovs side started the season fantastic last year, and despite falling away towards the end of the season I expect his Oldham side to run the top two close. The signing of Jean Yves Mvoto is a strong one with reported interest from a couple of Championship sides in the Frenchman. Dickov's Oldham played with attacking flair last year however lacked a real cutting threat, so a goalscorer is a needed addition.
Oldham- 3rd

Phil Brown nearly did the impossible and keep Preston up after they slumped so poorly under previous manager Darren Ferguson, however they just failed in their bid to maintain their Championship status. However Brown has brought a very good professional in Ian Ashbee and with Neil Mellor returning to the club after his loan spell with Sheffield Wednesday, the team should score goals. And despite the loss of key defender Sean St.Ledger, I expect Preston to make a play-off spot.
Preston- 4th.

Bournemouth perfomed admirably in their assault at a back to back promotions, narrowly missing out in the play-off semi-finals, however this years side most equipt for consecutive promotions is Chesterfield. Mark Randall will bring some class to their midfield, and with the foward duo of Jack Lester and Craig Davies, the team will score goals.
Chesterfield- 5th.

Uwe Rosler's appointment as manager of Brentford sparked summer additions to the club. Clayton Donaldson brings a real quality, with Jonathan Douglas's know how in the middle of the park a vital addition. And with Rosler set to use his expierence in the game to bring in more faces, if the club can gel quickly then a play-off spot should be theres.
Brentford- 6th.

7th- Leyton Orient
8th- Sheffield Wednesday
9th- Charlton
10th- MK Dons
11th- Scunthorpe United
12th- Colchester United

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Who will win promotion from the Championship?

The Championship this year is a strong league with a huge percentage of teams fancying their chances of winning promotion to the promise land that is the Premier League.

My favourites for promotion are Leicester City who have been bankrolled heavily by the Thailand company King Powers, and with Sven Goran Eriksson at the helm he has already used his status in the game to bring in players from abroad. Already adding Neil Danns, Lee Peltier, Kasper Schmichel, Sean St Ledger and David Nugent, the club have used their financial muscle to beat of competition from arguably bigger clubs.

Predicition: 1st.

Of the three relegated teams I believe West Ham have the best chance of bouncing back straight away. The shrewd appointment of Sam Allardyce has given many people the belief that they won't be in the second tier for too long. Abdoulaye Faye and Kevin Nolan are fantastic additions with Premier League aspirations. The club will obviously have to sell some of their players on high wages in Carlton Cole and Scott Parker, however with Allardyce at the helm the club will be there or there abouts.

Prediction: 2nd.

Nigel Pearson did a terrific job at Leicester in returning them to the second tier of English football, and after a year consoldating himself at Hull City this is the year I feel Hull will kick on with a promotion bid. After signing no less then three players from his former club Pearson obviously now has got the players he wants in the team. And with money to spend and a strike force of Matty Fryatt and Aaron McClean there will be goals.

Prediction: 3rd.

Nigel Atkins down a terrific job with Southampton, and he'll be hoping to copy the likes of Leicester and Norwich City over the past two years who have been promoted and then more then challenged for back-to-back promotions. The club is full of young English talent and the club are well finaced after years of trouble in that context, and with the right signings I feel Southampton are the best of the three promoted teams to challenge, despite the likes of Brighton and Peterborough having strong sides and spending well.

Prediction: 4th.

Chris Hughton inherits a Birmingham side that is likely to be picked apart by the Premier League voltures due to the clubs relegation from the Premier League. The one worry again is the lack of goals which cost them so dearly in their the unsuccesful bid to survive, and the addition of Marlon King for me isn't going to change that. Hughton will hopefully be given a good percentage of the money made from probable sales and bring it new faces.

Prediction: 5th.

The recent trend of the League one clubs being succesful in the Championship will definately be extended this year with the three promoted teams arguably the best collectively they've been. And I feel Gus Poyet's Brighton will sneak into the final play-off spot. The additions of Craig Mackail-Smith and Will Buckley will give them an extra attacking dimension, and if Brighton were to add a couple of defensive additions I see now reason why they can't make the play-offs.

Prediction: 6th.

7th- Burnley
8th- Nottingham Forest
9th- Leeds United
10th- Ipswich Town
11th- Middlesborough
12th- Reading

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Hard season ahead of Bolton

With the club in spiralling debt and their best players linked with moves away from the club, its going to be a difficult season for Owen Coyle's side.

Johan Elmander opitimised Bolton last year, after a superb first half of the season many expected them to qualify for the Europa League, yet in the second half of the season the Swede only scored one goal, with Bolton registering just the five victories in 2011, despite the goal return of January loanee Daniel Sturridge, and I can't see Bolton turning their fortune and reckon they'll struggle this year.

Coyle and Bolton earned rave reviews for the way they went about their football, however with a limited budget Coyle is going to have his work cut out if they are going to improve on their 14th placed finish. The addition of Darren Pratley is a good one and he'll fit perfectly into the Bolton team and the way they play. However after losing their top scorer in Elmander and the imminent return of Sturridge to his parent club Chelsea, it is hard to see where the goals will come from.

Pratley is Bolton's only summer addition so far

Key defender Gary Cahill is set to leave the club with the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal reportedly interested in the England defender, and with Zak Knight's fitness and form in question, it places a huge amount of pressure on David Wheater. The club are looking to bring in around £15million for Cahill, and Coyle needs the money to re-invest in his small squad, with Bolton failing to fufill the bench on numerous occasions last year due to their injury problems.

A midfield of Lee, Holden, Muamba and Petrov is strong, however their inability to score goals and stop them at the other end will always cause problems. For me Bolton need to bring in at least five more faces if they are to challenge last seasons finish, and in Coyle they have a top manager who will manage at a higher level in the future, however this year I feel Bolton are going to struggle.

How Blackburn should spend the Jones transfer money.

After the Venky's takeover of Blackburn Rovers last year, the board have been desperate to bring in big names to the club, and despite their public attempts to sign the likes of Ronaldinho and Ruud Van Nistelrooy, the club should trust Steve Kean with any transfer budget along with the £16million raised from the Phil Jones deal, and not make moves without his knowledge for passed it big time charlies.

The club last year struggled for goals, with the what appeared to be shrewd signing of Roque Santa Cruz failing with the Paraguayian forward struggling to find the net in his second spell with the club. Blackburn officially made a bid for Robbie Keane, however their bid in the region of £3million pounds was rejected. And despite a good summer with his country, Keane's best days are behind him. Again the club publicy stated their interest in another 'big name player' in Emanuel Adebayor, however the Real Madrid loanee quickly distanced himself with a move to Ewood Park.

For me the club already has a top centre forward in Nikola Kalanic and his lack of game time under not just Kean but their previous manager Sam Allardyce bemuses not just me but the player himself. Most clubs look to take advantage of the three relegated teams, however their is only one centre forward from the three relegated teams who is as good as Kalanic and that is Carlton Cole. Despite the Englands international having a poor 18 months, he has shown he has what it takes to play at a high level, with Liverpool reportedly interested in him at the start of last season. And with the striker avaliable for a cut-price move, Blackburn could do worse for their value.

Ryan Nelsen and Christopher Samba have forged an excellent partnership over the last four years for Rovers, and with the later attracting interest from the likes of Arsenal, added to the fact he publicy stated he wanted to leave the club after Allardyce's shock sacking, it is going to be hard for Blackburn to keep their star player at the club. Another West Ham player is avaliable in the market if they were to lose Samba in the shape of Matthew Upson. His release by the Hammers ensures he can move to any club now for free, and despite a poor season, it was only a year ago he was an England regular and with the club being bankrolled heavily his wage demands shouldn't be an issue. If there are concerns about Upson's pace, then they could look no further then Upson's former colleage at West Ham James Tomkins, who has his best years infront of him and despite the clubs relegation he had an encouraging season.

With David Dunn's injury problems failing to curtail, the club lacks a creative centre midfielder, and Blackburn should look no further then the firesale at Spurs, with Harry Redknapp expected to get rid of many fringe players so he can fund moves for world class strikers. Jermaine Jenas is avaliable for around £7million and the extra passing quality he brings to the midfield would more then make up for the loss of Jermaine Jones, who isn't expected to make his loan deal permanent. Another former England international Jenas would be a perfect foil for an ever improving Steven N'Zonzi.

With Blackburn usually employing just the one striker, the club needs someone who can play off them, and with Stephen Irelands future unclear as ever, the club could steal the attacking midfielder on the cheap via a loan deal or a permanent move in the region of £3million.

A bad transfer window for Blackburn would be an avoidance of the Venky's and their limited knowledge of football using their presence at the club to purchase the big names they feel the need to meet their desire.

The Venkys have publicy stated their desire to bring players with a big reputations to the club