Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Football predictions...

Well, all too soon, the holiday’s over and the sun and sand have once again been exchanged for the cooler, greener pastures of home.

I have to admit that whilst we were away, other than the odd look at the English papers, I didn’t really make too much effort to keep up with the news, so I thought that for my first post-holiday post, as it were, I’d have a look at another one of my passions: football. More specifically, the predictions made in the Daily Mail (which I read on the plane home) as to where the twenty Premier League clubs will finish come next May.

These are the predictions as made by Neil Ashton…followed by mine in red…

1. Man United (Man United)
2. Chelsea (Chelsea)
3. Liverpool (Arsenal)
4. Arsenal (Liverpool)

Not too much to argue with there, as to the clubs which will make up the top four and hence take the coveted Champions League places. My only quibble is that for all their loss of important players, I can’t see Arsenal being beaten into fourth place by a Liverpool team despite the acquisition of Robbie Keane.

Moving on…

5. Portsmouth (Everton)
6. Spurs (Aston Villa)
7. Everton (Portsmouth)
8. Man City (Spurs)
9. Aston Villa (Sunderland)
10. West Ham (Newcastle)
11. Newcastle (Man City)
12. Sunderland (West Ham)

Hmmm. Some interesting suggestions there. I can’t see Portsmouth finishing above Aston Villa or Everton and given Dr Thaksin’s current difficulties, Man City may be looking for a new owner with enough money to pay the wages at Christmas rather than dreaming about potential glory. I fear that Mark Hughes has jumped out of the relatively pressure-free safety of Blackburn Rovers into a financial maelstrom at City which could well see him leaving his new post before the nights start drawing in.

Other than that, the perennial suggestion that Spurs are launching a bid to force themselves into the top four is always a source of hilarity when it once again collapses in failure and to suggest that a poor West Ham team will finish tenth is taking London-centric reporting to new extremes of optimism. Sunderland, meanwhile will surprise a few people this season, whilst Newcastle will remain in steady mid-table position.

And bringing up the rear…

13. Middlesborough (Blackburn)
14. Wigan (Wigan)
15. Fulham (Bolton)
16. Blackburn (Fulham)
17. Bolton (Middlesborough)
18. Stoke (West Brom)
19. Hull (Stoke)
20. West Brom (Hull)

Intriguing. Dealing with the easier ones to predict, much the same as the top of the league, I suspect that the bottom three select themselves, for the simple reason that the gap between the Premier League and the Championship is now so wide, I cannot see any promoted club surviving until QPR come up, backed by the massive resources of Bernie Ecclestone, Lakshmi Mittal and Silvio Briatore.

That aside, there has been much talk in the press of a crisis at Blackburn Rovers in the wake of Mark Hughes’ departure and the transfers of both David Bentley and Brad Friedel. I have no doubt that they will slip from their seventh place of last season, but not as far as Ashton suggests. After them, I see their Lancashire neighbours in Wigan and Bolton - both clubs have strengthened considerably over the summer - followed by Fulham and Middlesborough, both of whom will finish several points above the relegation zone. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if this season saw the largest ever gap between the tem relegated in 18th place and the one staying up in 17th.

Of course, these are only my best, relatively well informed guesses…I will return to my predictions at the end of the season to assess my crystal ball gazing and doubtless demonstrate my profound lack of ability as a pundit…

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