With the Premier League season almost upon us, here's a look at the title challengers for the 2013/14 season.
It could be argued Chelsea have a weaker squad than the Manchester clubs but in reality they are only one centre-forward behind the two.
Should the club manage to pull of the Rooney transfer or the rumoured deal for Eto’o then the West London outfit look to set the league by storm. The Blues have arguably the greatest manager in the game at the helm and last seasons exciting young players like Hazard and Oscar are a season wiser and stronger.
Last seasons 15 point deficit is undeniably a big gap to make up but if you look at some of the results throughout the previous season the gap doesn’t look as insurmountable as it could.
The team started in blistering form beating Tottenham and Arsenal away and looked pretty unstoppable until the infamous game game against United in which the side went 2-0 down, came back to equalise but eventually lost due to a controversial goal from Hernandez.
The club lost momentum and began a four game winless run in the league. Chelsea have regularly suffered around November since Mourinho’s departure so with the Portuguese back to steady the ship, long runs of games picking up next to no points should be a thing of the past.
2. Manchester City
On paper City look to have the strongest squad but as we all know the league isn’t won on paper. For five or six years now City have had the squad full of the big names and with all the proven “world class” players and yet the trophy return is very poor.
It took a season of bedding in for the stars under Mancini for the team to be consistent enough to win the league. It looks like it could be a similar story this season as the additions of four internationals to any already stacked squad may end up causing more problems than it has solved. City know better than most the impact of troublesome players in the squad after the years spent scratching their heads at Balotelli's decisions and the notorious Tevez sulks.
Now with a new fairly unproven manager and so many players competing for places some players will undoubtedly find themselves on the bench and with a squad notorious for its ego’s that could spell trouble. There is also the strong suggestion that putting up a much stronger fight in Europe is the priority for the Citizens this season.
The club certainly have the squad to focus on several competitions at once but unless the league is sewn up by March, nerves and focus on big Champions League nights can certainly prove a costly distraction to the league campaign and this coming Premier League season is looking like it is going to run right to the final day of the season.
3. Manchester United
United just don’t seem to able to recruit anybody that makes you think they have much of a chance this season. They have a squad that it is widely accepted overachieved last season down to the expertise of their departed hero, Alex Ferguson.
Van Persie still remains the deadliest striker in the league but with the potential loss of Rooney the Dutchman is going to have to stay fit and be prepared for a long season. On the transfer front - Moyes is having to set his sights a bit lower - reportedly thinking of bringing in Fellaini. The Belgian would be a decent addition but he has a long way to go before he could be considered at the level of the players the club has bid for so far.
The fact that they have a completely unproven manager certainly has to factored in as well. A lot of people believe Moyes is the man for the job but he has already looked pretty stressed in press conferences over the Rooney saga and if that distraction continues on into the season will he be able to cope with months of journalists asking about Rooney's dedication.
The Scot never won a trophy with Everton which is definitely not a good sign, you can certainly throw in the old arguments that he didn’t have much money or a big squad but as Wigan recently proved those arguments are pretty weak.
Arsenal fans won’t be happy with this one but I personally don’t think they have a chance currently. Tottenham have added a lot of quality to their squad and so far have kept Bale.
If the Welshman stays United might be looking over their shoulders with a bit of worry. AVB’s side were good value last season and they had the foundations of a good team in Dembele, Lennon, Lloris and of course Bale and at one point it looked like fourth was theirs and fifth for Arsenal.
As only one of the two teams has strengthened there can only really be a case made for Tottenham. If Arsenal add Suarez and Tottenham loose Bale then it may well be a different story but currently there isn’t much of a contest.
Tottenham’s Europa League schedule could well come into play later into the season as the gruelling slog backwards and forwards across Europe to half forgotten ex-Soviet states can prove a tough ask compared to the slightly less arduous and much more glamourous Champions League nights.
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