2006/2007 Premiership Previews

"The Greatest show on Earth" gets underway on Saturday. Yes folks, get ready for another season of the world's most popular soccer league - The Premiership, which kicks off this weekend.

The history of the Barclays Premiership dates back to 1992, when some clubs in the Football League First Division decided to break away from the Football League to take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal.

The league has only got better every year since its inception in 1992 and has been a huge success both commercially and professionally. It wasn't too long ago when England wasn't considered good enough for a world-class footballer to showcase his talent to the world. Then the La Liga and the Series A were considered better places to ply one's trade. Today it boasts of the likes of Thierry Henry, Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney to name a few.

The Premiership today not only boasts of some of the best footballers in the business, but also some of the best tactical brains in today's world in the form of managers. Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez. The list can go on and on. It is now considered as one of the most challenging and entertaining leagues in the world, with attacking finesse and defensive skill both finding a place in the scheme of things.

The league has 20 clubs competing for the ultimate prize in English football and in its 14 seasons so far, only 4 clubs have won it--Arsenal, Blackburn, Chelsea and Manchester United. Lets have a look at the possible movers and shakers this season.

The Contenders:
The Big four have been running the Premiership for the past few seasons now, and this season will be no different. Chelsea, Man U, Arsenal and Liverpool will be fighting it out for the title and it is very difficult to expect anyone outside these four to walk away with the crown.

Chelsea:
From complete obscurity three years ago, the Londoners have come up the ranks and are a prime force to reckon with. Riding on the zillions of Roman Abrahamovic, the Blues have signed many stars and have enjoyed tremendous success in the English league. Managed by the charismatic Jose Mourinho, the Blues will start favorites to clinch their third title in a row, something that only Manchester United have been able to do so far. The English trio of Joe Cole, John Terry and Frank Lampard will continue to play a pivotal role for the Londoners. Peter Cech is a solid goalkeeper that most managers would die for. But the transfer season has seen a lot of turbulence at Stamford Bridge. Established stars like Gudjohnsen, Del Horno, Glen Johnson and Duff have left the Bridge. New talents have arrived. Ballack, Kalou, Shevchenko and company are all geared up to grace the English League. It would be very difficult to dethrone them though, given their consistency. Manchester City would have the chance of upsetting their applecart when they take on the Blues in their opening game on the 20th of August at the City of Manchester Stadium!

Arsenal:
Arsenel Wenger has catapulted this little known London club to superstardom. As Arsenal move to their new home at the Emirates Stadium, they will hope that newer pastures will help them recapturing the prize that not too long ago, was theirs for the taking. A Champions League runner up spot and a 4th place in the league was not bad for a club, which saw influential midfielder Patrick Vieira leave before the start of the season. With their own "demi-god" Theirry Henry committing to the club, the Arsenal faithful have renewed hope that the glory days of the invincible Arsenal side are set to return. Old-head Dennis Bergkamp has bid adieu to the club he loved so much. Czech medio Tomas Rosicky has been roped in by Wenger to marshal the midfield along with Cesc Fabregas. Henry, Adebayor, Reyes and Van Persie form a formidable attacking line-up. The defense may have a few holes with Sol Campbell signing for Portsmouth. We may also see precocious teenager Theo Walcott play his first Premiership game this season.

Manchester United:
Is this the calm before the storm? I am tempted to ask this question as Manchester United have had a very quiet pre-season. Sir Alex has not made any major forays in the transfer market and one can surely find some chinks in the first-team squad. The only notable arrival at Old Trafford is that of Michael Carrick, who many believe is overvalued at a staggering 18 million pounds. Man Utd are pursuing their interest in Marcos Senna while the Torres link has cooled down. Van Nistelrooy is the biggest name to head out of Old Trafford this summer. Following him out of the club are Jonathan Spector and Quinton Fortune. The onus will again be on the old heads to carry the famous Red flag flying high. Scholes, Giggs, Ferdinand, Van Der Sar will have to do a lot of work. Saha and Kieran Richardson are under-rated to a great extent and I won't be surprised if they have a very successful season. And then there is a certain Wayne Rooney too!

Liverpool:
Rafa Benitez has changed the fortunes of the Merseyside outfit. Some of his talents have carved a niche for themselves in England with exceptional performances throughout the season; Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia being two examples. Liverpool looks like a very strong outfit. And special care has been taken by Rafa to have specialized players for every position. The problematic left-back spot is secure with the arrival of Fabio Aurelio from Valencia, the club the coach knows all about. The arrival of Jermaine Pennant from Birmingham is a huge relief as it will enable Gerrard to push back into center midfield whereas Pennant would play wide on the right. Pennant's pinpoint crossing could result into lots of goals for Peter Crouch. Djimi Traore, Fernando Morientes, Djibril Cisse are no longer associated with the club now. A revitalized Robbie Fowler looks set to net quite a few goals for the club where he is idolized as "GOD"; whereas Craig Bellamy will play the role of the small man feeding on the head-downs by Crouch. Liverpool looks all set to have a cracking season ahead. Top-2 Premiership finish for me. And perhaps last 8 in the Champions League, if not the last 4.



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