Blog originally published on August 16...
I've dusted off my crystal ball to deliver my verdict on how I think the 2008/09 season will unfold...
I can't see United being knocked off their perch this season. If anything, Alex Ferguson's side will be stronger this time round as younger players like Anderson take a step forward following their experiences last season and veteran defender Gary Neville returns to bolster the back line. And should Dimitar Berbatov arrive at Old Trafford, United's already strong line-up will be complete. Far and away a better all-round team than their rivals.
It's a lot to ask of Luiz Felipe Scolari to win the Premier League in his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge, considering he has never managed a domestic side in Europe before. He still has a great deal to prove at club level, despite his sizeable achievements internationally, and the pressure of delivering immediate success to Roman Abramovich should prove too great. Close second, but no cigar.
Most likely to break into Big Four
No one. The chasing pack will continue to be just that, although if any club can challenge for fourth place it will be Portsmouth. Harry Redknapp has again been shrewd in the transfer market, but he has to be braver in his tactics this season to ensure he gets the best out of Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch as a partnership - and that means playing the pair together in every game. As for the other contenders, Everton will be resilient but not outstanding, Tottenham will flatter to deceive and Aston Villa will be better than last season but still not strong enough.
It will be hard to bet against Hull and Stoke making swift returns to the Championship come May next year. But the third and final relegation slot is not so clear cut. I fear for Fulham who may not have enough to beat the drop this time round, although a couple of big names could also be in danger of getting embroiled in a fight against relegation. With boardroom uncertainty disrupting operations at St James's Park before the season has even started, Newcastle could get dragged into the mix while the question marks hanging over Manchester City's owner could yet have major implications on the pitch.
Most likely to stay up
Out of the three newly-promoted sides, West Brom are the best equipped side to preserve their Premier League status. Tony Mowbray has several players with top flight experience at his disposal and having proved to be the best team in the Championship last season, I fancy them more than the others to stay up.
First manager to lose his job
Not Phil Brown or Tony Pulis - expectation levels for the newly promoted sides are low. But the same cannot be said for Alan Curbishley, who will be facing a great deal of pressure early on in the campaign. If West Ham cannot deliver, Curbishley could well become this season's first managerial casualty.
Fernando Torres. An outstanding marksman who is capable of scoring 30 league goals just as long as Rafa Benitez plays him week in week out in the Premier League.
Most likely to hit the headlines for wrong reasons
Other than Joey Barton - we all know what he is capable of - watch out for West Ham's dynamic duo of Craig Bellamy and Lee Bowyer. I reckon both of them are capable of starting an argument in an empty room.