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El Tel Predicts


Guest Brian M

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Guest Brian M

By TERRY VENABLES

AUGUST 11, 2007

MANCHESTER UNITED may have spent big - but I reckon Chelsea can bank on winning the title this season.

While Alex Ferguson has splashed ?50million, his great rival at Stamford Bridge emerged the wiser investor.

Jose Mourinho spent less than most other managers but he has recruited very shrewdly.

On this occasion, he has outfoxed the old master Fergie in the transfer market.

Here is how I think this season's Premier League table will look in May 2008:

1.Chelsea

CHELSEA will be the team to beat and the one to catch. Under Jose Mourinho they have been the most consistent side. The fact they are unbeaten at home under the manager is no coincidence. Titles are built on results at home and Chelsea look stronger and hungrier. Mourinho is worried about losing players early next year to the African Nations Cup but I think with their signings they?ll keep their nose in front. Didier Drogba will once again be a big player as will Frank Lampard.

ONE TO WATCH: Florent Malouda

2.Manchester United

UNITED will battle to the last to retain their crown and you?d be hard pressed to slide a piece of paper between the top four this year. Alex Ferguson has made exciting signings to add to his terrific squad. I?m looking forward to seeing Owen Hargreaves play week in, week out in English football. But I wonder if some minds will re-focus on Europe. And it?s hard to play two seasons consecutively at the very top of your game and that is the challenge for their wing ace Cristiano Ronaldo.

ONE TO WATCH: Owen Hargreaves

3. Arsenal

ARSENAL will improve and I see them contesting the title for much longer than last term. They have immense talent and just need more consistency. Their younger lads have matured, though, and I like the look of Eduardo da Silva. I?m surprised he hasn?t been picked up before because he?s a clever player who will get goals. Nicklas Bendtner has improved, while Robin van Persie will inspire them.

ONE TO WATCH: Robin van Persie

4. Liverpool

LIVERPOOL have broken their record fee for ?21.5million Spanish hitman Fernando Torres and it?s a bold statement of intent.But I worry about the numbe r of players they have brought in and now it will affect them. Ii will be very hard for Rafa Benitez to accommodate everyone. It may cause unrest and it will be hard to keep everyone in check. They remain a very talented side but fourth place is as good as they will achieve.

ONE TO WATCH: Fernando Torres

5. Tottenham

I?VE been very impressed by Tottenham and the way they have gone about their business. The ?40million has been spent wisely and Darren Bent reminds me of Gary Lineker in his prime. I?d love the problem of picking between their four strikers. Gareth Bale and Younes Kaboul are top defenders as well.

ONE TO WATCH: Darren Bent

BARTON ... can he spark Toon?

6. Newcastle

NEWCASTLE are one of the dark horses in this year?s title race. Sam Allardyce has spent wisely and is the kind of boss to get the best from players. Mark Viduka will score goals for them, as will Alan Smith. The crux for the Toon will be how midfielder Joey Barton responds to his move.

ONE TO WATCH: Joey Barton

7. Everton

EVERTON are another of the teams chasing a place in Europe. Phil Jagielka will prove very useful. He did very well for England B and, along with Andy Johnson, will be staking his international claim. They are still short of a striker, though that could be sorted if they get Yakubu from Boro.

ONE TO WATCH: Phil Jagielka

8. Blackburn

BLACKBURN will continue their fine form of last season and European football will help. Mark Hughes has concentrated on adding to his squad and bringing in the likes of striker Roque Santa Cruz is clever. They need a bit more consistency but hanging on to Benni McCarthy is huge.

ONE TO WATCH: David Bentley

9. Portsmouth

HARRY REDKNAPP has really great experience in the transfer market and has put that to good use again. I like the look of his range of strikers and David Nugent, signed from Preston, makes them more competitive. Veterans Sol Campbell and David James will help them impress again this term.

ONE TO WATCH: David Nugent

10. West Ham

WEST HAM have spent a lot of cash and clearly have big ambitions. Mark Noble will just get better this season and is the kind of midfielder to feed Craig Bellamy the passes the Welshman loves to run on to. I?m thrilled to see Dean Ashton fit and scoring goals. He has huge potential.

ONE TO WATCH: Mark Noble

11. Manchester City

MAN CITY will be another of the season?s interesting tales. Sven Goran Eriksson has done what I?d call a Portsmouth or Bolton - signing players he hopes will have an immediate impact. Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov is dynamic, Elano is also good and Geovanni is technically excellent.

ONE TO WATCH: Martin Petrov

MOORE ... Villa goals

12. Aston Villa

VILLA?S Martin O?Neill has let more players go than he has signed. The second season will be harder for the manager and expectations have increased. Gabriel Agbonlahor showed glimpses of what he can do last term and we will see Luke Moore and Ashley Young shine. Nigel Reo-Coker will add steel.

ONE TO WATCH: Luke Moore

13. Bolton Wanderers

SAMMY LEE has a difficult task to follow in Sam Allardyce?s footsteps. I don?t expect them to change their style but they could slump down the table. And striker Nicolas Anelka was unsettled this summer after being linked to Arsenal.

ONE TO WATCH: Nicolas Anelka

14. Fulham

LAWRIE SANCHEZ has wasted no time spending money at Fulham and has practically brought in a whole new team. He?s gone for a few players he knew as Northern Ireland boss. They know him and he knows how to motivate them.

ONE TO WATCH: Diomansy Kamara

15. Sunderland

ROY KEANE?S new-boys will be the best of the three promoted sides. They haven?t panic-bought and Keane has chosen to spend most of his money on a goalkeeper - ?9million for Craig Gordon. I think that?s money well spent.

ONE TO WATCH: Craig Gordon

16. Middlesbrough

I WAS impressed by Gareth Southgate in his first season in management. He coached well and kept his cool. My concern is the lack of signings. Losing Mark Viduka was a big blow and he needs to keep Jonathan Woodgate fit.

ONE TO WATCH: Tuncay Sanli

17. Reading

STEVE COPPELL already seems to be suffering the second-season blues. He hasn?t improved the squad and lost Steve Sidwell on a free to Chelsea. But Leroy Lita?s England Under-21 displays were one of the highlights of the summer.

ONE TO WATCH: Leroy Lita

18. Wigan Athletic

THE Latics have done very well in the last two years and performed the great escape on the last day of last season. I don?t see that happening this year, though. They haven?t invested enough in strengthening the team.

ONE TO WATCH: Jason Koumas

19. Birmingham City

STEVE BRUCE has spent a lot of cash at Birmingham but he encountered some difficulty. Controversy over Tottenham duo Mido and Hossam Ghaly has left a bad taste and Bruce may have to do more shopping.

ONE TO WATCH: Olivier Kapo

20. Derby County

BILLY DAVIES has decided not to go for broke in the transfer market which unfortunately means Derby will go straight back to the Championship. Robert Earnshaw tends to be a player who signs, scores goals and then leaves.

ONE TO WATCH: Steve Howard

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