The English Premier League kicks off its 2009-2010 season this weekend and it promises to be an enthralling season again in Europe’s top league.
Yesterday I looked at the likely relegation battle candidates and today I will look at those teams who are destined to be middle of the table With the transfer window still a couple of weeks away the prospects for many teams will rise and fall on how is added or leaves between now and then. But with the current rosters, this is how I see the battle for the Premiership going in 2009-2010.
Mid-Table Candidates The mid-table candidates are those from position 9-14 who are not in any danger of being relegated but also have little realistic chance of qualifying for Europe. The teams in this group include Sunderland, West Ham, Blackburn, Fulham, Stoke and Bolton.
Sunderland was involved in the relegation battle last year but a new manger in Steve Bruce and dressing room clear-out means safety to Sunderland this season. Darren Bent and Frazier Campbell along with Kenwyne Jones will provide Sunderland with the goals that they need this season.
Blackburn is another team with a revolving door in its dressing room. Big Sam has cleared house and brought in his types of players. That means lots of long balls, and battles all over the field. It is not “the beautiful game” but it will keep Rovers in the Premier League this year.
Fulham manger Roy Hodgson did a terrific job last year and was my manger of the year. The challenge I see for Fulham this season is meeting expectations, which are much higher than in previous year. Combine that with Europa league games and Fulham’s small squad will be really tested this year.
Gianfranco Zola is one of the up and coming managers in the Premier League and I expect another mid-table finish for the Hammers is where West ham will end up. My only worry for West Ham is where the goals will come fro this season.
Stoke were a big surprise last year in that they avoided relegation. Adding James Beattie in January was a masterstroke move by Tony Pulis and it probably kept Stoke up. Stoke’s home form was exceptional last year and if they can make the Britannia Stadium as difficult for opposing teams this year then they will avoid relegation again.
Bolton will finish just outside the relegation battle simply because there are worst teams in the Premier League. Gary Megson is not a favorite of mine (or the Bolton fans), but with Jaaskelainen, Cahill and Davies, Bolton is strong enough down the middle of the park to be difficult to beat most Saturdays.