Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Newcastle United

Newcastle-United

Image: mirror.co.uk

Newcastle were expected to walk the Championship last season, but stuttered on their way to the title, only just edging out Brighton. Credit must go to Rafa Benitez for sticking with the club in the Championship, and if he stays, which is not a certainty at the moment, he will be the reason that Newcastle won’t go down this season. Christian Atsu has made his loan move permanent, and £6.2m could prove a bargain. The Magpies’ strength is out wide, with Atsu joining the hugely influential Matt Richie, who impressed in his previous Premier League season with Bournemouth, and another new signing Jacob Murphy. Murphy was a key player for Norwich last season, netting nine goals and providing six assists. Florian Lejeune has joined from Eibar, and will likely partner Ciaran Clark at centre-back. Javier Manquillo, who spent last season on loan at rivals Sunderland, will also bolster the defence, as Benitez has looked to strengthen the best defence in the Championship last season. It’s been a frustrating summer for Magpies fans, as the club have missed out on a number of transfer targets and owner Mike Ashley appears to have gone back on his promise that boss Rafa Benitez would be given the money to strengthen his squad. Newcastle have the squad to avoid a relegation scrap and push for mid-table, but ultimately where they finish will depend on whether Benitez stays.

Key Player: Matt Ritchie. The Scottish winger has one of the best left foots in the division, and was a key player in the Magpies’ promotion season. He chipped in with 12 goals, making him Newcastle’s second top scorer, and this goal threat will be vital to support Dwight Gayle, who does not guarantee goals in the top division. Almost half of Ritchie’s assists last season were to Gayle, so this partnership could again bear fruit.

One to Watch: Freddie Woodman. The goalkeeping position is a competitive one for Newcastle this season, but Woodman has proved that he has the ability to step up to the plate. Like Jordan Pickford did last season, Woodman has the chance to assert himself as a potential first choice ‘keeper, as the club has no stand-out number one. Despite never playing for Newcastle, Woodman has experience of playing under pressure, winning the 2014 Under-17 European Championship and the 2017 Under-20 World Cup with England, winning the golden glove and saving a penalty in the final of the latter.

Last Season: 1st (Championship)

Predicted Finish: 15th

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Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Chelsea

chelsea

Image: Premier League

Chelsea’s dominance last season was not predicted by many, but the real test will be whether their squad can maintain a title push whilst also challenging in Europe. The main problem that Chelsea face is the expected loss of Diego Costa. Conte has replaced him, with Alvaro Morata coming in for £70m. Morata averaged a goal every 88 minutes last season for Real Madrid, but whether he can adapt to the Premier League straight away and replace the presence that Costa brought to the team. Michy Batshuayi will hope to get a chance to prove himself in Costa’s absence, after scoring 5 goals in just 239 minutes of game time last season. The Blues have also splashed out on Antonio Rudiger, providing them with a natural centre-back, rather than having to play full-back Cesar Azpilicueta as a part of the back three. Tiemoue Bakayoko has arrived from Monaco as an upgrade on Nemanja Matic, who has left for Manchester United, and support for N’golo Kante. Chelsea’s new signings will have to bed in quickly, as they face European-chasing rivals Tottenham, Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City before the end of September.

Key Player: Eden Hazard. The Belgian was Chelsea’s stand out player last season, contributing 16 goals and 5 assists. This was a huge improvement on his 2015/16 season, and Hazard will again be key to Chelsea retaining their title. With Morata being less of a complete forward than Costa, Hazard’s creativity will be relied upon to maintain Chelsea’s goals.

One to Watch: Andreas Christensen. It’s hard to pin-point a player to watch for Chelsea, as most of these are out on loan across Europe. But Andreas Christensen may be given a chance this season after impressing on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach. With Kurt Zouma heading out on loan, Christensen could offer the rotation option as a part of the back three. The 21-year-old has experience of playing in Europe so should not look out of his depth when given a chance.

Last Season: 1st

Predicted Finish: 2nd

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Leicester City

leicester champions

Leicester defied all the odds to win the title last season. Image: Daily Mail

Nobody predicted Leicester’s title victory last season, with many pundits tipping them to be relegated. Somehow they have managed to keep hold of most of their key players, with only N’Golo Kante leaving the club. Jamie Vardy turned down a move to Arsenal, whilst Riyad Mahrez also looks likely to stay. It will be tough for the Foxes to retain their title, with their rivals spending vast sums of money to catch up. But the champions have not been idle, bringing in six players. Nampalys Mendy will attempt to fill the gap left by Kante, while Bartosz Kapustka will also bolster the midfield after an impressive EURO 2016 campaign. Ahmed Musa will help ease the burden on Jamie Vardy, having scored 13 in 30 games for CSKA Moscow last season, and also bagging a brace against Barcelona in pre-season. Ron-Robert Zieler has come in to provide competition for Kasper Schmeichel and Luis Hernandez will join one of the league’s strongest defences. The Foxes’ ability to keep clean sheets was at the heart of their title win, and keeping the Morgan-Huth centre back partnership together will be vital if they are to challenge once again.

Key Man: Riyad Mahrez. Mahrez’s performances for the Foxes last season saw him named PFA Player of the Year and have seen him linked with a number of high profile clubs. The Algerian contributed with 17 goals and 11 assists last time out, and he will be a key component of Leicester’s attack again this year. Keeping hold of Mahrez will probably be Leicester’s best piece of business this season.

One to Watch: Bartosz Kapustka. The centre midfielder has joined the Foxes for £7.5m, and could prove value for money based upon his performances for Poland. Although he may initially struggle to break in to the team, at 19 years old Kapustka has plenty of time to develop. He could settle well in to the Premier League, having impressed against British opposition when Poland beat Northern Ireland at the Euros.

Last Season: 1st

Prediction: 6th