CHELSEA: WILL TORRES MAKE IT A BLUE DAY?
Strengths: With Alex, Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, David Luiz and Ashley Cole among the club's defenders, the Blues have one of the most solid backlines in the Premier League. Not only that, but the defence scored 11 goals between them last season, proving they are a real handful going forward, too. Any team able to call on the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba will be a threat at the top end of the league, while the injection of new ideas and impetus from the talented and hungry Andre Villas-Boas could give Chelsea that extra edge.
Weaknesses: There is a squad full of winners at Stamford Bridge, yet in five matches against Man United last season, the Blues won just once (in controversial circumstances) and were dumped out of the Champions League by the Red Devils, while effectively losing their Premier League title in a crunch game at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Liverpool beat them home and away and the Blues crashed to defeats at Man City and Arsenal. Something wasn't quite right and new manager Andre Villas-Boas needs to restore a winning edge in the biggest games. Incorporating Fernando Torres into the starting line up could prove an unwanted distraction, too, as could the pursuit of Champions League glory.
One to watch: Daniel Sturridge will have gained great confidence after Andre Villas-Boas involved him fully in Chelsea's pre-season. He had a brilliant spell on loan at Bolton last season where he scored eight in 11 league starts and has been among the Blues' goal scorers in their warm-up games. The 21-year-old rightly deserves the praise he is currently getting and will be looking to break into the first team under his new boss, although he faces stiff competition from Drogba, Torres and new boy Romelu Lukaku.
Key man: Fernando Torres. If the £50m signing can get himself on the score sheet against Stoke on Sunday it would be a huge boost to his flagging confidence and he is capable of scoring goals for fun, but the longer his dry spell continues the more the pressure will build. Having spent a huge figure on Torres, the club won't be happy seeing him on the bench, which puts pressure on Villas-Boas to find a way to accommodate the misfiring forward. If the Portuguese gaffer can get the best out of the Spaniard, Chelsea could be very difficult to stop.
Big signing: After a long pursuit, Chelsea have finally got young forward Romelu Lukaku. Prior to his recent big money transfer to London, the Belgian was one of Europe's most sought after talents and the 18-year-old – who scored 16 goals in 37 league games for Anderlecht – has drawn inevitable comparisons with Didier Drogba. Lukaku, however, may prove a more suitable foil for Torres than the Ivorian, as Belgium's national team boss George Leekens told talkSPORT: "[Lukaku] can play deep, he's not an egotistical player."
Fact: Chelsea lost just six points from winning positions last year.
Odds to win the Premier League: 3/1 (Ladbrokes).
talkSPORT Magazine prediction: third place.
EVERTON: CAN'T SCORE FOR TOFFEE
Strengths: Stability and continuity helped the Toffees to a very respectable seventh place finish last year. Phil Neville, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Sylvain Distin all played over 30 games, while in David Moyes they have a manager who has been able to deliver consistency, arguably punching above his limited budget for nine years.
Weaknesses: Everton's strikers were not able to score enough goals last season. Louis Saha, Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford don't lack quality, but not one of them reached double figures in Premier League goals. Thank goodness for midfielder Tim Cahill and his noggin, then. The midfielder has scored the most headed goals in Premier League history, netting a goal on average every 6.3 games and finished last season as Everton's top league scorer with nine goals.
One to watch: Magaye Gueye has just turned 21 and the young forward is a possible solution to the lack of goals at Goodison Park. Thanks to the club's shoestring transfer budget, a promising crop of youth players at Everton could get their chance to shine sooner rather than later and the France Under-21 international has already been involved in the club's pre-season friendlies.
Key man: While there is no doubting that Mikel Arteta, whose creativity will be vital from midfield, is one of Everton's most influential players, left back Leighton Baines has been the club's most consistent performer, not missing a single minute of the league campaign last season. Solid at the back and a danger going forward, he chipped in with seven goals in all competitions and contributed 11 assists last season – more than double anyone else at Goodison.
Big signing: Eric Dier is the only summer 'signing'. The England-born defender, who moved to Portugal when he was seven, has been brought in on loan until the end of the season from Sporting Lisbon. The 17-year-old was also on loan at the club last year, but didn't play a single game.
Fact: They haven't lost two successive league matches since November 2009, the longest current run in the Premier League.
Odds to win the Premier League: 400/1 (Ladbrokes).
talkSPORT Magazine prediction: seventh place.
FULHAM: CRAVEN STABILITY UNDER MARTIN JOL
Strengths: Defenders Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes are an extremely important part of the team but Damien Duff, Clint Dempsey, Moussa Dembele and skipper Danny Murphy are a dangerous foursome when going forward and can be expected to flourish under Martin Jol. In addition, the club's competitive campaign began earlier than others thanks to their Europa League commitments, which could see them starting the season that little bit sharper than their rivals.
Weaknesses: That aforementioned strength could also prove to be a weakness when considering the depth of the squad and that the season does not finish until 13 May 2012. Fulham's players are also having to adapt to their third manager in three seasons and, while Martin Jol did a decent enough job at Spurs during his previous stint in the Premier League, it can take time for a new man to implement his way of doing things, as Mark Hughes demonstrated last season.
One to watch: The arrival of John Arne Riise may limit the number of appearances Matthew Briggs will make, but the 20-year-old is a highly regarded by Martin Jol and has already scored this season. The defender nabbed himself a wonderful goal against Crusaders in the Europa League second round qualifier in July and has represented England at Under-16, 17, 19 and 20 levels.
Key man: American Clint Dempsey is consistently good and arguably one of the best attacking midfielders in the league. With 12 goals last season, Dempsey's contribution was an important part of another good season for the Cottagers and he often goes unnoticed. Which can only be a good thing for Fulham.
Big signing: After three years at Roma, left back John Arne Riise has moved back to the Premier League where he previously starred for Liverpool. The Norwegian packs a punch with his shooting and his experience should benefit Fulham's defence.
Fact: Captain Danny Murphy completed 2329 passes last season, the highest number in the league.
Odds to win the Premier League: 3000/1 (Ladbrokes).
talkSPORT Magazine prediction: 11th place.
LIVERPOOL: A CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
Strengths: Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll look like a real handful up front, while the Reds are not short of midfielders to supply them with the ammunition. Most important for the fans, however, is that the club finally have a decent owner in John W Henry and his Fenway Sports Group. Fans of Boston Red Sox, who are owned by FSG, are quick to point out how well run the baseball club is and so far they certainly have not been shy in writing cheques for Kenny Dalglish. The fans will also be fully behind their manager, which is a lot more than could be said for this time last year.
Weaknesses: Last season Liverpool lost 14 times in the Premier League alone, which was just one less than relegated Birmingham. Kenny Dalglish did a fantastic job turning their season around, but the Reds need to be far harder to beat if they are going to challenge for the Champions League places, let alone the title. Dalglish's signings would appear to have significantly bolstered Liverpool's attacking options, but defensively they look short of the very best – top teams don't lose many games and that stems from defensive solidity.
One to watch: In the final game of the 2009/10 season, Jack Robinson became the club's youngest ever player when he came on against Hull. Last season under Kenny Dalglish, he made two appearances and acquitted himself brilliantly, particularly when thrown into the away game at Arsenal. With the manager's willingness to give youth a chance and the Reds not currently blessed with strength at left back, expect to see more of Robinson at some point.
Key man: The exciting form of Uruguayan Luis Suarez left Liverpool fans asking, 'Fernando who?' Explosive, with fantastic skill in tight spaces, Suarez burst on to the Premier League scene and his ability to finish inside and outside of the box, allied to great movement, added a completely new dimension to the Reds' attack. Fresh from winning the Copa America with Uruguay, if Suarez can maintain his form Liverpool will cause the very best plenty of problems.
Big signing: Winger Stewart Downing has been brought in to supply Liverpool's strikers and, at £20m, will be under pressure to deliver chances for Suarez and particularly big man Andy Carroll. Since August 2004, only four players – Ryan Giggs, Cesc Fabregas, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard – have provided more goal scoring opportunities in the Premier League than Downing. This fact, plus the width he will provide Liverpool's attack, explain why Dalglish was so willing to spend big on the former Villa man.
Odds to win the Premier League: 10/1 (Ladbrokes).
talkSPORT Magazine prediction: fifth place.
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