Our Liverpool correspondent, Scott, weights in with some delusional thoughts on what should be yet another pain-filled season for him:
Prediction is a funny art: In my view, it's a three syllable word for “guess” that is often employed by those who bear a resemblance to the second syllable and who prefer the third as a course of action when they are proven wrong. But since I’ve been called worse and I strive to bolster intra-staff rivalries, below you'll find a pint-sized list of clairvoyant concoctions.
That my team predilections and raging CFE (Current Form Envy – recently included as a diagnosable condition in the latest DSM – EPL version) are essential ingredients, should in no way cause you to doubt the accuracy of my hopes, err, predictions. 1) Liverpool will win another title before Manchester United does. Yes, it is with no small amount of trepidation that I lead off with such an inflammatory statement, almost certainly to be met with patronizing and derisive chuckles around the office. But I stand firmly behind it – not so much because Manchester United has declined significantly (although David De Gea in goal is a big step down, both starting center backs went off injured last game and I believe the Rooney-Berbatov-Hernandez détente will crumble this year) but because, as has been pointed out in other columns, Liverpool is a vastly improved team this year in terms of talent.
The Liverpool midfield was already filled with talent the likes of Dirk Kuyt, Raul Miereles, and Maxi Rodriguez (not to mention Steven Gerrard when [if?] he’s not injured), but with the additions of Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, it has become an embarrassment of riches. The forward position was waning with Fernando Torres, but is waxing once again with the scurrying Luis Suarez and the fit-again Andy Carroll. Recommitted to the team, Pepe Reina is one of the best keepers in the league. That only leaves the defense as suspect which, admittedly, is not yet up to snuff and I expect King Kenny to work his magic there soon, too. The recent addition of Jose Enrique helps but more is needed, the youth of John Flanagan notwithstanding. Liverpool will finish in the Top 4, can compete for the Title and will win the Title again before Manchester United does.
2) Manchester City won’t qualify for Champions League. And neither will Tottenham, but for different reasons. City is loaded but Roberto Mancini can’t seem to herd his talented cats. Maybe Sergio Aguero can make a difference, but Carlos Tevez is still unhappy about being there and the “other" Manchester team seems to be a place where, with few exceptions, good players go to regress back to the mean. Consider Emmanuel Adebayor, Joleon Lescott, James Milner and Craig Bellamy.
Manchester City is the New York Yankees of the EPL – it takes more than talented, highly paid players to win. You also need chemistry and they don’t have it yet. Tottenham, on the other hand, punches above its weight and, in hanging onto Luca Modric, will be strong again. But with Jermain Defoe a shadow of his former self and the run-of-the-mill Roman Pavlyucheko and Peter Crouch filling out the goal scoring side of the team, they will still be on the outside looking in this time next year. 3) Norwich City will stay up. I really don’t have much to support this (other than the hopes and dreams of my childhood soccer coach and myself) and the cards are certainly stacked against the back-to-back-promoted Canaries, but maybe Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson can continue to work their magic. My hope and expectation is that they will provide the type of gutsy, entertaining football with which Blackpool rewarded us last year. So there you have it – Three (or four, depending on how you count number 2 above) bold predictions for the new season. Should any of them come to pass, you will most assuredly read these words once again. Should none of them come to pass, we’ll just forget all about this. And in closing, just because it seems to be good form around the office, here's how I see the finish: 1) Liverpool 2) Manchester United 3) Chelsea 4) Arsenal 5) Manchester City 6) Tottenham