Chelsea, City favourites; United, Arsenal in trouble (Preview)

London, Aug 16 (IANS) The return of the ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho to Chelsea has been the talk of the town and, with Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini spending over 80 million pounds sterling on new recruitments, it would be safe to say that the two clubs start the Premier League season as favourites.

After a first spell in charge at Stamford Bridge, which saw Mourinho win a remarkable six trophies in three seasons, including back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006, two Carling Cups, an FA Cup and the Community Shield, the second coming of the Portuguese has sent the excitement quotient skyrocketing.

Mourinho, though seems like a changed man. His ‘Happy One’ status is not one to be taken seriously. The 50-year-old has a massive point to prove after a not so successful stint last La Liga season with Real Madrid.

Chelsea have made some key additions to an already youthful and strong squad. German international Andre Schurrle, who can double as a striker and a winger, was weaned away from Bayern Leverkusen.

Marco Van Ginkel, tipped by the Dutch media to be the next Michael Ballack, is also a smart and young signing.

The 20-year-old from Dutch club Vitesse was impressive in the pre-season outings and his tie-up with Micheal Essien in the middle of the park was one of the biggest pluses for the Europa League champions.

But it is the return of some players that make Chelsea so strong. Belgian pair Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne returned from their loan spell where they impressed for their clubs West Brom and Werder Bremen respectively.

Mourinho is looking to further strengthen the squad by bringing in England striker Wayne Rooney. But Manchester United’s reluctance to sell the player to a local rival seems to be the sticking point.

Chelsea play their first match against Steve Bruce’s Hull City Sunday.

Manchester City, who roped in former Malaga boss Pellegrini in the summer, have already spent heavily on the likes of Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic.

The Chilean has said that the summer spending spree isn’t finished yet. With or without more recruitments, the 2010-11 champions definitely have the strongest squad at their disposal.

With the exodus of Carlos Tevez, Kolo Toure, Wayne Bridge, Maicon and Roque Santa Cruz, City have shed some deadwood.

The Tevez saga last season was probably the biggest deterrent to City retaining the league title but all that seems to have been resolved and with a new manager at the helm the ‘Citizens’ will look to hit the ground running when they start their campaign against Newcastle United Monday.

David Moyes led Manchester United seem to be in a bit of a freefall.

Following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson after 27 years at the helm, new boss Moyes has had a turbulent summer.

The prolonged Rooney saga combined with a poor pre-season, where they won just three games in nine, saw the football pundits give Moyes a slim chance of retaining the title.

The failure to get a marquee signing has also added to the woes of the Macunians. Former Arsenal midfielder was at the top of Moyes’ wishlist, but the Spanish international made it quite clear that he will be staying with Barcelona.

Spain U-21 star Thiago Alcantara was also a wanted man at Old Trafford but the youngster chose to sign with current European champions Bayern Munich.

That leaves United with fewer options to strengthen their teetering midfield. Everton’s Marouane Fellaini could be Moyes’ first real signing, but his former club doesn’t seem him coming cheap in a volatile market.

The others on the radar are Leighton Baines, but again Everton have rejected the first bid.

The English champions have a tricky first match against Swansea City Saturday and even a point in that match won’t be too bad a result.

Arsenal’s dream of finishing in the top four is in danger, a mini-crisis seems to be brewing at the Emirates with manager Arsene Wenger refusing to lighten his pockets.

The Gunners have let go 17 players and have only signed an unknown 20-year-old Frenchman from Ligue 2 on free transfer.

While many will say that the clean-out at the club was much needed but a failure to replace them means that Arsenal are struggling find an experienced starting eleven.

Wenger has reiterated that the club will be signing players but at this eleventh hour there no marquee players on the transfer list and even if the Frenchman makes a bid, their price would be hugely elevated.

But Wenger’s biggest problem is not their lack of signings but the transfer activity of London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.

Arsenal host Aston Villa Saturday.

Spurs, who finished just a point behind Arsenal last season, have spent over 60 million pounds sterling on the likes of Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and Roberto Soldado.

With or without Gareth Bale, Spur look to be stringing together a formidable team and are favourites to finish among the top four.

Liverpool, too, have been active, signing Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas, Kolo Toure and Simon Mignoley and if Luis Suarez does stay they could be fighting with Arsenal and Spurs for the final Champions League spot.

IANS 2013-08-16 20:20:29

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