11th Aug 2014 7:23am | By Michael Gadd
They bought big and are aiming for the stars, or simply survival - TNT previews the Premier League
The 2014/15 Premier League season kicks off on August 16 with so much changing since last season yet so much staying the same. Read on for the lowdown on Premier League title and Champions League contenders, those who’ve made the leap from the Championship, and the best buys in the transfer market.
If listening to bookies, Chelsea are well and truly the favourites with Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Diego Costa and Felipe Luis (both Atletico Madrid) joining an already star-studded squad that managed second last year and should have done better. They’re so strong they’ve let Frank Lampard and Samuel Eto’o go and can afford to keep Fernando Torres.
After that we’ve got Manchester City, the Champions, who have been relatively quiet on the transfer front but have kept Yaya Toure after his spat over them missing his birthday.
After these two come some unknown packages in Manchester United and Arsenal, with the very busy shoppers Liverpool.
United’s biggest addition is manager Louis van Gaal, while Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao) and Luke Shaw (Southampton) add quality and more youth to the squad.
Arsenal are looking strong with Chile’s Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona) and France’s Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle).
Liverpool have flashed the chequebook big time after letting chompy striker Luis Suarez go to Barca. They’ve raided Southampton for Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, and picked up Benfica’s Lazar Markovic and Lille’s Divock Origi (although he’ll remain at the French club on loand). They also turned down Loic Remy on medical grounds.
Tottenham would wish they were on the list, but after spending big last summer, new manager Mauricio Pochettino has signed no one of note so far and their chances of reaching the Champions League look grim.
UP AND COMERS
The promotion-relegation battle has to be one of the most exciting clashes in sport – and it comes when most of the season is done and dusted. Cardiff, Fulham and Norwich have dropped down a division as Queens Park Rangers, Leicester and Burnley come up.
QPR won what is the richest game in football, beating Derby in the play-off final (TV money for PL teams is huge!). Harry Redknapp’s mob are joined by Rio Ferdinand, the biggest signing of the promoted clubs, but it’s easy to forget from all the excitement of the play-offs that the top two teams in the Championship went through before them.
Leicester ended a 10-year absence from the top-flight when they won the second-tier title in style - their 102 point haul just four short of Reading’s record points tally. The Foxes are managed by another stern and pivotal figure in their rise, Nigel Pearson.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche looks like he should wield a sledgehammer but is known as the Ginger Mourinho. His side won promotion after finishing second behind Leicester. It’ll be a season of spirited scrapping for these guys to stay up.
Arsenal’s Chilean Alexis Sanchez was one of the most exciting stars of the World Cup, only surpassed by Colombia’s James Rodriguez, now with Real Madrid, and the efficient unit that was the Germany team – his pulling-up-shorts habit’s a bit weird though.
Gareth Barry was epic for Everton on loan last season and has officialy joined from Man City. Tom Ince is a good get for Hull FC after Inter Milan showed genuine interest, while they’ve also landed Robert Snodgrass from relegated Norwich.
Up front Liverpool have gone bananas but Bayer Leverkusen’s Emre Can could be key to their midfield depth – as back-up for Steven Gerrard – going into Europe. Man City’s Costel Pantilimon got sick of being No.2 to Joe Hart and will be good for Sunderland.
DOWN UNDER IN THE TOP FLIGHT
CHRIS HERD (Aus, Aston Villa) Had some personal problems in 2013 but back on track and ready to stake his claim on a first team spot.
ALEX CISAK (Aus, Burnley) Poland-born keeper and lower league journeyman who’s played for Aussie U20s.
MARK SCHWARZER (Aus, Chelsea) At 41, signed a new one-year deal at the west London giants. Will be third string to Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois.
MILE JEDINAK (Aus, Crystal Palace) Socceroos and Palace skipper and stalwart in the heart of midfield.
CHRIS WOOD (NZ, Leicester) No-nonsense powerhouse striker who’s found a permanent home with the Foxes.
BRAD JONES (Aus, Liverpool) Another of Australia’s outstanding arsenal of keepers – unlucky to have played in this era – is Simon Mignolet’s understudy.
CURTIS GOOD (Aus, Newcastle) The serial loanee defender missed the World Cup with injury.
WINSTON REID (NZ, West Ham) The All Whites captain is fit after injury and ready to menace strikers again.
Image via Getty