John O’Shea (Sunderland), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City) and Wes Morgan (Leicester City) during the EPL season launch in London yesterday.
John O’Shea (Sunderland), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City) and Wes Morgan (Leicester City) during the EPL season launch in London yesterday. Steve Bardens GETTY IMAGES

League champions aim sky high again

HERE we go again.

It doesn't seem that long ago Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany was lifting the English Premier League trophy aloft after his team won one of the most hotly contested title races in recent memory.

And come May next year, who's to say the Belgian, who only this week signed a five-year deal to stay with the reigning champion, won't be doing the same thing.

City is favourite for back-to-back successes and a third title in four years when the EPL season kicks off tomorrow.

But, just as last year, Manuel Pellegrini's men won't have it all their own way.

Kompany is a key component in City's title push, as is Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko. All had reasonable World Cups but will need to be at their best if the Sky Blues are to retain their crown.

Pellegrini hasn't been too active in the transfer market but expect another couple of big signings by transfer deadline on August 31.

The same cannot be said for Arsenal or Liverpool, however.

Alexis Sanchez's signing from Barcelona will take pressure off Olivier Giroud on the goals front, so expect the Gunners to get close to a first EPL title in 10 years.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has pillaged Southampton with Ricky Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren all making the move from the south coast plus there have been a number of other big-name signings.

But it is the man who won't be there who will affect what Liverpool does this season.

Luis Suarez is irreplaceable and Liverpool will struggle to score the goals it did last season without him.

It remains to be seen whether the Reds will have enough firepower to reproduce last season's heroics, especially with a Champions League campaign to worry about too and they could miss out on a top-four spot if the new signings don't gel.

Manchester United and Chelsea, meanwhile, are harder teams to gauge just where they are at.

Jose Mourhino moaned last year about a lack of firepower, yet he let Romelu Lukaku, Demba Ba, Samuel Eto'o leave, while signing Diego Costa and an aging Didier Drogba.

The jury is also out on United but the Red Devils will definitely perform better this year than under David Moyes with Dutch master Louis van Gaal in charge.

Wayne Rooney will be key, not only in terms of goals but how he performs as a leader after being named captain.

United will push for a top-three spot but it all depends on how this group of players settle under van Gaal.

The bottom three for me is a bit easier to pick as I think two of the three promoted teams - Leicester City and Burnley will fill the relegation spots along with West Bromwich Albion.

The third promoted side, QPR, has Harry Redknapp at the helm and he should be able to keep his side up but only just.

All in all, it's going be a bumpy ride but an exciting one all the same and it should be just as close as last season, if not closer.


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