The Premier League kicks off this weekend. But who’s got what it takes to scoop the title and who dares guess? Famous faces take the leap…
The Pundit: Robbie Savage
Now that Cardiff have been promoted, I can’t wait for the first derby game against Swansea City. It promises to add some real spice to the Premier League because there’s no love lost between those two sides. I’ve played in a few derbies, but nothing matches that one for passion. I actually think both clubs will do well and Cardiff will easily survive. I’ve been impressed by the signings they’ve made, and in Malky Mackay they’ve got a very shrewd manager. I’m also looking forward to watching Spurs’ new striker Roberto Soldado and Chelsea’s Eden
Hazard. Hazard is such a talent and with one season in the Premier League already under his belt, I can really see him blossoming this year. He thrives on confidence so he could be the player who benefits most from Jose Mourinho’s man management. I’m hoping that referees will allow the art of tackling to come back into our game. Last season I saw so many fantastic tackles given as fouls that it was really frustrating. Refs were too finicky and every coming together seemed to result in a free kick or booking. Obviously malicious or dangerous tackles have to be punished, but tackling’s a real art. And there’s nothing like a meaty, strong tackle to get the fans excited.
*Winner: Manchester City — but if Chelsea sign Rooney I’ll go with them.
*Relegation: Crystal Place, Hull and one from Sunderland, Fulham or norwich.
(Robbie Savage is a member of the BBC’s punditry team)
The Commentator: Clive Tyldesley
While everyone’s been talking about Gareth Bale’s seemingly imminent transfer, Spurs have quietly made two very astute signings that have gone largely under the radar.
Roberto Soldado and Paulinho could really light up the Premier League. Soldado is a sharp goalscorer with a hint of Jermaine Defoe about him, in that his specialist subject is finishing. And Paulinho looks like a strong, rugged and very energetic Brazilian midfielder who won’t have any problems adapting to the Premier League.
So Tottenham fans can look forward to having two more idols should Bale leave. Personally, I don’t think Bale’s stock will ever be higher, so if he really does want to leave, it’s probably in Tottenham’s best interests to sell him now.
The biggest change for the game this season is the introduction of goal-line technology in the shape of Hawk-Eye. As a commentator, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have definitive evidence of a key mistake during a game and for it not to be applied. But the knot that cricket has tied itself in this summer with technology and umpire reviews should serve as a warning that the technology has to be 100 per cent correct. The problem is that things can often look different when viewed from three different camera angles.
That said, I feel that if we can use it to prove whether the ball has crossed the goal-line, that’s a welcome addition. But I wouldn’t want to see it introduced anywhere else in the game. Cricket has provided a very timely reminder that it can sometimes create more problems than it solves.
*Winner: It’s between Man United, Man City and Chelsea. But who comes out on top will be determined during the transfer window.
*Relegation: With new managers and a new style of play, things are never quite going to be the same at Stoke and Sunderland. And norwich will have to watch out for second-season syndrome.
(Clive Tyldesley commentates for ITV Sport)
The Presenter: Jeff Stelling
I’m looking forward to a much more closely contested title race this season. Last year Manchester United ran away with it, but I don’t anticipate that happening again. The big three clubs have all got new managers – which is a bit like revisiting your favourite restaurant to find there’s a completely new menu. We don’t quite know what to expect, do we? But Pellegrini’s past record suggests Manchester City will be playing a more attacking brand of football and Chelsea have still got some fabulous players. So add to that Jose Mourinho returning and I can’t see how it will be anything other than a really close-run thing.
I will miss Sir Alex because he was always wonderful company whenever I met him. But I’m a big fan of David Moyes, who’s proved he can handle big names, and of course the charisma of Jose will be a great addition. I wasn’t overly impressed with Real Madrid when he was in charge so I feel this year he has to prove that he really is the Special One. I’m also looking forward to having Ian Holloway back. The manager of Crystal Palace is a fantastic character. I’ve never forgotten when he got promotion with QPR and said, “Every dog has its day and today is woof day!” Priceless.
*Winner: Man United. All their young players will be better for having won the league last year, which will make them very hard to beat.
*Relegation: As new boys, Hull and Crystal Palace are going to find it very tough. And I think Stoke, Sunderland and Fulham could also be scrapping it out near the bottom.
(Jeff Stelling presents Soccer Saturday, 3pm Sky Sports 1)
The phone-in hosts: Ian Wright
I’m expecting to get Arsenal supporters ringing the show. These days I get more stick from Arsenal fans than Spurs fans. It’s because I’m always honest, and Arsenal fans can’t seem to handle that. It’s been eight years since they last won a trophy and yet the club are still talking about a new deal for Arsène Wenger, so I don’t think he’s under the same pressure as other managers. I can see Arsenal coming fourth again, but if Suarez was to join I might revise that.
It amazes me where fans want to chat. I’m usually at the urinal in the pub when the bloke next to me will say, “What about Arsenal, eh?” I’m always happy to talk football, but there’s a time and a place! I also wish fans would stop taking photos during a game. I mean, why does anyone want to see a photo of Gareth Bale about to take a corner?
*Winner: Man City.
*Relegation: Cardiff, Hull and Crystal Palace.
I’m so glad Jose Mourinho’s back. I always want to hear from people who are brilliant at what they do and Jose’s got more to say than most. So I’m expecting Chelsea to be even stronger this season. As for Liverpool [Kelly is the daughter of Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish], I think they’re going to have to settle for a Europa League place – particularly if they lose Suarez. But I’d love them to really go for a trophy – as a supporter, you’d much rather have silverware and a day out at Wembley than a top ten finish.
If I could wish for two things this season, it would be for players to stop arguing with the referee. It feels like it’s an automatic reaction now and I’m sick of seeing players arguing about stuff that isn’t even up for debate. And I wish clubs would stop playing music after a goal is scored. It feels like orchestrated excitement – and fans don’t need to be told how to celebrate.
*Winner: manchester City.
*Relegation: Cardiff, Hull and Crystal Palace.
(Ian Wright and Kelly Cates host 5 Live’s 6-0-6 phone-in on Sundays)
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