|Poland vs Portugal||Wales vs Belgium||Germany vs Italy||France vs Iceland|
|Quarterfinal 1 - Jun 30 3pm||Quarterfinal 2 - Jul 1 3pm||Quarterfinal 3 - Jun 2 3pm||Quarterfinal 4 - Jul 3 3pm|
The 2011/2012 English Premier League season is not far away from kicking off, so it’s certainly a perfect time to look once more at the teams involved and at the things expected.
Like each year, 3 teams go down and 3 teams go up. Like each year, only a few teams get to qualify for Europe. And like each year again, only one team gets to be crowned as winners of England’s globally followed Premiership.
Manchester United are the reigning champions—having collected a total of 80 points (9 more than Chelsea and Manchester City). Meanwhile, one of the big talking points at the end of last season was about Arsenal’s devastated conditions.
The Gunners’ chances of enjoying a historical year were bright until things such as the following happened: Barcelona controversially ousted them from the UEFA Champions League, Birmingham City upset them in the Carling Cup final, and the last few matches in the English Premier League saw them run out of fuel. Arsenal’s shock defeats to Bolton Wanderers, Stoke City and Aston Villa finally rounded-up things on a bad note for Wenger’s side as billionaires Manchester City secured an automatic spot in the UEFA Champions League’s group stages.
A bit lower in the 2010/2011 English Premier League table, Tottenham Hotspur edged past Liverpool to qualify for the Europa League as 5th place finishers. Fulham in 8th made it to the 2011/2012 Europa League First qualifying round as the highest ranked side in the Fair Play table.
Stoke City’s runners-up feat to Champions League-qualified Manchester City in the 2011 FA Cup final also put the Potters through to the Third qualifying round in the Europa League. Lastly, Birmingham City joined Tottenham Hotspur in the Play-off round after claiming the Carling Cup title.
But the 3 teams we won’t see throughout the 2011/2012 English Premier League season are Blackpool, West Ham United and League Cup champions Birmingham City. They have all been relegated after failing to clinch the 40-point mark.
As always, all teams commence their respective campaign with 0 point. However, like it’s been the case since the past 1, 2 or 3 decades, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea have been the top names out there. Recently, Manchester City added their name to the list of England’s giants whereas the Merseyside Reds and the Gunners are enduring periods of reconstruction or toughness.
Ahead of the 2011/2012 English Premier League season, 3 newcomers have been welcomed. They are Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City.
And don’t forget that the English Premier League keeps providing one too many surprises each season. Hull City, for example, stunned football fans a couple of years ago as they were experiencing their debut in top-flight football.
Now, football pundits are looking at Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea to engage in a three-horse race. Each of these 3 clubs have in fact enjoyed a great pre-season this summer. But things have turned out differently for the worse for Liverpool this summer. Meanwhile, they had showed great signs of a comeback following Kenny Dalglish’s appointment earlier in 2011.
Arsenal, meanwhile, are yet to fill their supporters with confidence while Arsene Wenger is under pressure to make better signings. Let’s look at England’s top 5 teams with the exclusion of Tottenham Hotspur who are enduring a torrid time on the transfer market this summer.
Manchester United: The strong competition between Nani and Ashley Young could greatly benefit Sir Alex Ferguson’s team. But young goalkeeper David de Gea is set to face tough challenges in post considering the demanding level of play in the English Premier League. Will the ex-Atletico Madrid succeed in replacing Edwin van der Sar? How about the departure of Paul Scholes? Will it be greatly felt?
Chelsea: Everyone’s eyes will be on Andre Villas-Boas who made a crucial decision this summer to leave his comfort zone with Porto for a new challenge under the reign of Roman Abramovic at Chelsea. If he fails to lead the Blues anywhere throughout the 2011/2012 English Premier League season, expect critics to slam him as an inexperienced man who must learn the difference between Portuguese football and English football. So how is Villas-Boas going to fight against the big men out there like Fergie?
Manchester City: The fire is burning among Roberto Mancini’s millionaire players who can optimistically look at the upcoming season with genuine hopes of becoming champions. In addition, they have signed hot striker Sergio Aguero only to add more power and excitement in their mission for success. Then again, what sort of impact will Champions League football have over Manchester City’s Premiership campaign? Will the Sky Blues suffer from a congested agenda?
Liverpool and Arsenal: One may be wrong to judge Liverpool and Arsenal that quickly upon their pre-season form. Note that the Merseyside Reds and the Gunners have been without many of their top stars this summer.
For Liverpool, the return of 2011 Copa America champion Luis Suarez among the club’s new signings could be the perfect tonic for a positive campaign.
For Arsenal, the condition of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri might have a great impact on the squad’s team spirit and tactical plans. And what could Gervinho offer the Gunners, besides?
Additional info ahead of the 2011/2012 season as seen below:
1) Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, located in Manchester. Capacity: 75,957
2) Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, located in London. Capacity: 60,361
3) Newcastle United’s St James’ Park, located in Newcastle. Capacity: 52,409
4) Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, located in Sunderland. Capacity: 49,000
5) Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, located in Manchester. Capacity: 47,405
6) Liverpool’s Anfield stadium, located in Liverpool. Capacity: 45,276
7) Aston Villa’s Villa Park stadium, located in Birmingham. Capacity: 42,789
8) Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium, located in London. Capacity: 42,449
9) Everton’s Goodison Park stadium, located in Liverpool. Capacity: 40,157
10) Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane stadium, located in London. Capacity: 36,230
Arsenal: Arsène Wenger
Aston Villa: Alex McLeish
Blackburn Rovers: Steve Kean
Bolton Wanderers: Owen Coyle
Chelsea: André Villas-Boas
Everton: David Moyes
Fulham: Martin Jol
Liverpool: Kenny Dalglish
Manchester City: Roberto Mancini
Manchester United: Alex Ferguson
Newcastle United: Alan Pardew
Norwich City: Paul Lambert
Queens Park Rangers: Neil Warnock
Stoke City: Tony Pulis
Sunderland: Steve Bruce
Swansea City: Brendan Rodgers
Tottenham Hotspur: Harry Redknapp
West Bromwich Albion: Roy Hodgson
Wigan Athletic: Roberto Martínez
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Mick McCarthy