Season preview: 2014-15 Premier League

Sports Mole previews the 2014-15 Premier League campaign with an in-depth look at all 20 clubs.


In: Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona, £30m), Calum Chambers (Southampton, £16m), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle United, £12m), David Ospina (Nice, £3m), Elias Chatzitheodoridis (Mas Kallitheakos, Undisclosed), Hugo Keto (HJK Helsinki, Undisclosed), Ben Sheaf (West Ham, United, Undisclosed), Georgios Spanoudakis (Barcelona, Undisclosed)

Out: Johan Djourou (Hamburg, £2.5m), Thomas Eisfeld (Fulham, Unidsclosed), Zak Ansah (Charlton Athletic), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), Zachari Fagan (Welling United), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Chuks Aneke (Zulte Waregem), Wellington Silva (UD Almeria, Loan), Carl Jenkinson (West Ham United, Loan), Benik Afobe (MK Dons, Loan)

Last season: 4th

Key player: Aaron Ramsey

Aaron Ramsey in action for Arsenal during the Community Shield on August 10, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Arsenal's first trophy in nine years went a long way to masking the fact that once again, the Gunners choked in the Premier League. They held top spot for 128 days, whereas eventual champions Man City only sat at the summit for 14 days. It was their form away from home against their fellow top-four members that ultimately proved costly, with six goals conceded in both trips to City and Chelsea, while Liverpool hit the North Londoners for five.

The arrivals of Sanchez and Chambers in particular have been met with positive noises, but there is a school of belief that more is needed to prevent those hammerings in the big games from becoming a recurring theme. Finishing in the Champions League places should be a given, but an experienced centre-back and holding midfielder will be needed for Arsene Wenger's team to challenge for the main prize.

First game: Crystal Palace (H). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 3rd


In: Joe Cole (West Ham United), Tom Leggett (Southampton), Isaac Nehemie (Southampton), Philippe Senderos (Valencia), Kieran Richardson (Fulham), Aly Cissokho (Valenica, Undisclosed)

Out: Jordan Bowery (Rotherham United, £250,000), Samir Carruthers (MK Dons, Undisclosed), Marc Albrighton (Leicester City), Nathan Delfouneso (Blackpool), Nicklas Helenius (Aalborg, Loan), Yacouba Sylla (Erciyesspor, Loan), Jed Steer (Doncaster Rovers, Loan), Antonio Luna (Verona, Loan), Daniel Johnson (Chesterfield, Loan)

Last season: 15th

Key player: Ron Vlaar

Ron Vlaar of Aston Villa runs with the ball during the pre season friendly match between Aston Villa and Parma at Villa Park on August 9, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

You would have been given long odds had you marched into a bookmakers on the final day of last season and backed Paul Lambert to still be the Villa boss come the start of this campaign. Having seen their side make no progression from the season before, the Villa Park faithful grew restless.

Lambert remains at the helm, though, but his business in the transfer market has hardly got the pulses raising. He has added some much-needed experience to a young squad, but it's fair to say that the likes of Cole's better days are behind him. Retaining the services of Vlaar, who shone at the World Cup, will be crucial, but even with the Dutch international in defence, Villa look to have another battle on their hands.

First game: Stoke City (A). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 15th


In: Lukas Jutkiewicz (Middlesbrough, £1.5m), Marvin Sordell (Bolton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Michael Kightly (Stoke City, Undisclosed), Matt Gilks (Blackpool), Steven Reid (West Bromwich Albion), Matt Taylor (West Ham United)

Out: David Edgar (Birmingham City), Joseph Mills (Oldham Athletic), Junior Stanislas (AFC Bournemouth), Chris Baird (West Bromwich Albion)

Last season: 2nd in Championship

Key player: Danny Ings

Burnley manager Sean Dyche celebrates with Danny Ings following the Sky Bet Championship match between Burnley and Wigan Athletic at Turf Moor on April 21, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

The fact that Burnley are in the Premier League is a major achievement. After all, 12 months ago, there were few that had backed the Clarets to be challenging for promotion in the Championship, let alone earn it. As it was, they can count themselves unlucky not to have finished top, having amassed a hefty 93 points, which would have been enough to win six of the previous seven titles.

However, the Premier League is a completely different kettle of fish. When Burnley were promoted in 2010, they seemed thoroughly underprepared and returned to the second flight instantly. While they may be a much more organised unit under Sean Dyche's guidance, it remains to be seen if the quality is there to survive in the Premier League. A lot of the onus will be on last season's leading goalscorer Ings to continue from where he left off.

First game: Chelsea (H). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 20th


In: Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid, £32m), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona, £27m), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid, £15.8m), Mario Pasalic (Hajduk Split, £2.4m), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray)

Out: David Luiz (Paris Saint-Germain, £50m), Romelu Lukaku (Everton, £28m), Demba Ba (Besiktas, £4.7m), Patrick van Aanholt (Sunderland, Undisclosed), Ashley Cole (Roma), Sam Hutchinson (Sheffield Wednesday), Frank Lampard (New York City), George Cole, Daniel Pappoe (Both Brighton & Hove Albion), Billy Clifford (Walsall), Tomas Kalas (Cologne, Loan), Wallace (Vitesse Arnhem, Loan), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach, Loan), Bertrand Traore (Vitesse, Loan), Cristián Cuevas (Club Universidad de Chile, Loan), Mario Pasalic (Elche, Loan), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton, Loan), Gael Kakuta (Rayo Vallecano, Loan), John Swift (Rotherham United, Loan), Oriol Romeu (Chelsea, Loan), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough, Loan)

Last season: 3rd

Key player: Diego Costa

Atletico Madrid's Brazilian-born forward Diego Costa celebrates past Atletico Madrid's Brazilian defender Filipe Luis after scoring during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs Elche CF at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on A© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Jose Mourinho was adamant that his side was not good enough to win the Premier League last season and - surprise, surprise - he was right. The Blues may have had the best defensive record in the division, but it was scoring goals that would ultimately prove to be their downfall. In the end, they scored at least 30 fewer goals than Man City and Liverpool, both of whom finished above Mourinho's men.

It's unlikely that owner Roman Abramovich will settle for another campaign without success, particularly after he has spent big on Costa, Fabregas and Luis. The former of those three additions will be expected to provide plenty of goals and if last season with Atletico Madrid is anything to go by, he should deliver. If anyone is able to finish above the West Londoners, they will almost certainly win the title.

First game: Burnley (A). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 1st


In: Fraizer Campbell (Cardiff City, £900,000), Chris Kettings (Blackpool), Brede Hangeland (Fulham)

Out: Jose Campana (Sampdoria, £1.4m), Neil Alexander (Heart of Midlothian), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Cardiff City), Dean Moxey (Bolton Wanderers), Aaron Wilbraham (Bristol City), Jonathan Parr (Ipswich Town), Ross Fitzsimons (Bolton Wanderers), Osman Sow (Heart of Midlothian), Alex Wynter (Portsmouth, Loan), Kwesi Appiah (Cambridge United, Loan), Jack Hunt (Nottingham Forest, Loan), Stephen Dobbie (Fleetwood Town, Loan)

Last season: 11th

Key player: Mile Jedinak

Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak applauds the fans after the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace at The Hawthorns on November 2, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Tony Pulis took charge of 28 Palace matches last term and had the campaign actually started from his appointment onwards, the Eagles would have finished eighth. The baseball-capped gaffer inherited what was perceived to be a bunch of no-hopers and transformed them into one of the most difficult sides in the Premier League to defeat. Indeed, it reached a point where opposition sides would dread the trip to Selhurst Park.

The task now for Pulis and his players will be avoiding the dreaded 'second season syndrome'. The manager's experience of having established Stoke as a consistent Premier League presence could end up being a vital commodity. He has been relatively quiet in the transfer market so far, but with a couple more additions, there should be plenty of worse sides than Palace.

First game: Arsenal (A). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 10th


In: Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, £28m), Muhamed Besic (Ferencvaros, £4m), Gareth Barry (Manchester City, £1m), Brendon Galloway (MK Dons, Undisclosed)

Out: Magaye Gueye (Millwall), John Lundstram (Blackpool, Loan)

Last season: 5th

Key player: Romelu Lukaku

Everton's Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Southampton during their Premier League match on December 29, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

David Moyes could not catch a break last season. Not only did he see his six-year contract with Man United ripped up after only a matter of months, but he had to watch on as his replacement at Goodison Park - Roberto Martinez - guided Everton beyond the best ever points tally that he achieved during his 11 years at the helm. What's more, Martinez reached such heights with his team playing with a verve that had supporters and pundits alike salivating.

Even so, Martinez recently admitted himself that his team ended the campaign poorly. Having defeated Arsenal 3-0 in April, they were in pole position as far as finishing in fourth place was concerned. They'd go on to lose three of their final five games, though, which saw them fall short. The Toffees still qualified for the Europa League, which is a first for Martinez as a manager and will require a juggling act, but providing that the squad stays injury-free, it should be another positive season, particularly with the permanent addition of Lukaku in mind.

First game: Leicester City (A). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 7th


In: Jake Livermore (Tottenham Hotspur, £8m), Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City, £7m), Andrew Robertson (Dundee United, £2.85m), Tom Ince (Blackpool), Karim Rossi (Stoke City), Harry Maguire (Sheffield United, £2.5m)

Out: Matty Fryatt (Nottingham Forest), Paul McElroy (Sheffield Wednesday), Conor Henderson (Crawley Town), Cameron Stewart (Ipswich Town), Jack Barlow (Boston United), Robert Koren (Melbourne City), Mark Oxley (Hibernian, Loan), Conor Townsend (Dundee United, Loan), Joe Dudgeon (Barnsley, Loan)

Last season: 16th

Key player: Tom Huddlestone

Hull's Tom Huddlestone celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against Sheffield United during the FA Cup semi final match on April 13, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Had you have offered Steve Bruce Premier League survival and an appearance in the FA Cup final 12 months ago, he would have snapped your hands off. The former Manchester United centre-back deserves plenty of credit for the job that he has carried out so far at the KC Stadium, but he will be only too aware that there is still plenty of work to be done.

The January additions of strikers Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic were rightly lauded and now he has moved to recruit players that will load the bullets for that duo. Ince and Snodgrass should provide some creativity from the flanks, while youthful defenders have also arrived. Their participation in the Europa League may make things tricky, but there should be enough quality on Humberside to secure their Premier League status for a third campaign.

First game: Queens Park Rangers (A). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 14th


In: Leonardo Ulloa (Brighton & Hove Albion, £8m), Matthew Upson (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa), Jack Barmby (Manchester United), Louis Rowley (Manchester United), Ben Hamer (Charlton Athletic)

Out: Lloyd Dyer (Watford), George Taft (Burton Albion), Zak Whitbread (Derby County), Neil Danns (Bolton Wanderers), Ben Frempah (Ross County), Paul Gallagher (Preston North End, Loan)

Last season: 1st in Championship

Key player: Danny Drinkwater

Leicester's Daniel Drinkwater celebrates after scoring a late equaliser against Watford during their Championship match on February 8, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

When Leicester were last in the Premier League 10 years ago, it was a campaign to forget. Micky Adams had a squad jammed full of players that were way past their best. Fast forward to the present day and Nigel Pearson has assembled a group of players that romped their way to the Championship title, playing some exciting football in the process.

As we've seen on numerous occasions, though, cruising in the Championship does not automatically translate to success a level up. There is not too much Premier League experience in the Leicester ranks, which may count against them at crucial moments. Pearson will have them well organised, but they may well fall short down the home straight.

First game: Everton (H). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 18th


In: Adam Lallana (Southampton, £25m), Dejan Lovren (Southampton, £20m), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, £20m), Divock Origi (Lille, £10m), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, £9.75m), Rickie Lambert (Southampton, £4m), Javier Manquillo (Atletico Madrid, Loan)

Out: Conor Coady (Huddersfield Town, £375,000), Villyan Bijev (Slavia Sofia), Jakub Sokolik (Yeovil Town), Luis Alberto (Malaga, Loan), Iago Aspas (Sevilla, Loan), Andre Wisdom (West Bromwich Albion, Loan), Brad Smith (Swindon Town, Loan), Luis Suarez (Barcelona, Undisclosed)

Last season: 2nd

Key player: Daniel Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield on January 28, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

The love affair is over. Time and again Liverpool made allowances for Luis Suarez and even stood by him when other clubs may have washed their hands of the Uruguayan. Yet, when you have a striker that scores 31 Premier League goals in a season - as he did last year - it's easy to understand why the club was prepared to turn a blind eye on occasions. Yet, a third bite of his career at the World Cup and a subsequent £75m bid from Barcelona has seen the frontman move on.

As Brendan Rodgers has stressed, no player is bigger than the club. He's reinvested those funds by signing a host of players, but there are those that are rightly worried that Liverpool may have fallen into the Tottenham trap after they brought badly following the sale of Gareth Bale last summer. As it stands, with no genuine world-class talent, the title looks beyond Liverpool and with the rigours of Champions League football to contend with, matching last season's exploits could prove tough to do. As former striker Michael Owen recently told Sports Mole, finishing in the top four should be regarded a success.

First game: Southampton (H). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 5th


In: Fernando (Porto, £12m), Willy Caballero (Malaga, £6m), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Frank Lampard (New York City, Loan), Bruno Zuculini (Racing Club, Undisclosed), Eliaquim Mangala (Porto, Undisclosed)

Out: Jack Rodwell (Sunderland, £10m), Gareth Barry (Everton, £1m), Costel Pantilimon (Sunderland), Joleon Lescott (WBA), Alex Henshall (Ipswich Town), Ellis Plummer (St Mirren), Reece Wabara (Doncaster Rovers), Marcos Lopes (Lille, Loan), Emyr Huws (Wigan Athletic, Loan)

Last season: 1st

Key player: Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on December 14, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

As many jumped on the Liverpool bandwagon, City went about their business quietly during the title run-in. They needed a slip (no Steven Gerrard pun intended) from the Merseysiders and when that arrived, Manuel Pellegrini's charges pounced. Their success was even more impressive when considering that at times last year, they were without key players such as Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Vincent Kompany because of injury. Now, despite that success, the job is arguably even bigger for Pellegrini this time around.

When City won the title in 2012 with Roberto Mancini in charge, they were accused of not making the necessary improvements to the playing squad. The same cannot be said of Pellegrini, who has carried out a lot of his transfer business early. Sagna is a good addition on a free, while Mangala has plenty of potential. But, with City's owners bound to be demanding further progression in the Champions League than ever before, the pressure is on.

First game: Newcastle United (A). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 2nd


In: Luke Shaw (Southampton, £30m), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £28.8m), Vanja Milinkovic (FK Vojvodina, Undisclosed)

Out: Alexander Buttner (Dynamo Moscow, £4.4m), Patrice Evra (Juventus, £1.2m), Bebe (Benfica, £2.25m), Jack Barmby (Leicester City), Feredrico Macheda (Cardiff City), Nemanja Vidic (Inter Milan), Louis Rowley (Leicester City), Rio Ferdinand (Queens Park Rangers), Vanja Milinkovic (FK Vojvodina, Loan)

Last season: 7th

Key player: Juan Mata

Juan Mata of Manchester United celebrates scoring their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St James' Park on April 5, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

What a difference 12 months make. From a manager that had never won a major trophy and ultimately looked out of his depth almost from day one, United now have a man in charge with the arrogance to take on such a role. Whether Louis van Gaal will make a success of the job, that is another question entirely. His time at Ajax, Barcelona, AZ Alkmaar and Bayern Munich would suggest that trophies will return to Old Trafford at some stage, while pre-season performances and results (with a new 3-5-2 formation) have been promising.

Left-back Shaw and Spanish midfielder Herrera appear to be positive additions, but more signings are needed if United are to challenge alongside the likes of Chelsea and City for the title. Currently, a return to the top four does not look to be beyond the realms of possibility, particularly with no European distractions, but two new defenders and a midfielder, all of a high calibre, would be needed for a genuine tilt at the title.

First game: Swansea City (A). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 4th


In: Remy Cabella (Montpellier, £12m), Emmanuel Riviere (Monaco, £6.3m), Siem de Jong (Ajax, £6m), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord, £5m), Ayoze Perez (Tenerife, £1.5m), Jack Colback (Sunderland), Facundo Ferreyra (Shakhtar Donetsk, Loan), Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest, Undisclosed), Karl Darlow (Nottingham Forest, Undisclosed)

Out: Mathieu Debuchy (Arsenal, £12m), James Tavernier (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed), Dan Gosling (AFC Bournemouth), Jonathan Mitchell (Derby County), Conor Newton (Rotherham United), Romain Amalfitano (Dijon), Adam Campbell (Fleetwood Town, Loan), Sylvain Marveaux (Guingcamp, Loan), Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest, Loan), Karl Darlow (Nottingham Forest, Loan)

Last season: 10th

Key player: Siem de Jong

Siem De Jong of AFC Ajax walks into the field during the international friendly match between Perija Jakarta and AFC Ajax on May 11, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

The Magpies raced out of the traps like a greyhound last season, but following the sale of Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain - and their failure to replace him - in January, their campaign fell apart in true Newcastle fashion. A miserable run of form culminated in manager Alan Pardew being banned in March for headbutting Hull midfielder David Meyler. It seemed that Pardew's days at St James' Park were numbered.

He remains in the hotseat, though, and if truth be told, some of the doom and gloom has been lifted from Tyneside. Although many are unproven in the Premier League, some impressive additions have been made, although another centre-back and a striker wouldn't go amiss. Nevertheless, it would be a major surprise if Newcastle don't finish in the top half.

First game: Manchester City (H). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 8th


In: Steven Caulker (Cardiff City, £8.5m), Jordan Mutch (Cardiff City, £6m), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Mauricio Isla (Juventus, Loan)

Out: Yossi Benayoun (Maccabi Haifa, Undisclosed), Esteban Granero (Real Sociedad, Undisclosed), Tom Hitchcock (MK Dons), Aaron Hughes (Brighton & Hove Albion), Mo Shariff (Bradford City), Gary O'Neil (Norwich City)

Last season: Won Championship playoffs

Key player: Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand and Jack Collison in a training session at QPR on July 18, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

The R's may not have been convincing for large parts in the Championship last season, but they still achieved promotion via the lottery of the playoffs. Now, after the calamitous 2012-13 campaign which ended in relegation, QPR have chance to start over again. Big money was spent on average talent back then, but Harry Redknapp has been adamant in recent weeks that the same mistakes will not be made this time around.

It's Redknapp's job to mould a team, rather than picking a bunch of individuals. Ferdinand's experience of the top level could prove crucial, while Mutch's goals from midfield are a real asset. There is little doubt that the Londoners will be involved in the relegation scrap over the coming months, but with a couple more positive additions, there is no reason why they cannot survive.

First game: Hull City (H). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 16th


In: Dusan Tadic (FC Twente, £10.9m), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord, £9m), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan, Swap), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, Loan), Fraser Forster (Celtic, Undisclosed)

Out: Luke Shaw (Manchester United, £30m), Adam Lallana (Liverpool, £25m), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool, £20m), Calum Chambers (Arsenal, £16m), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool, £4m), Tom Leggett, Isaac Nehemie (Both Aston Villa, Undisclosed), Danny Fox (Nottingham Forest), Andy Robinson (Bolton), Lee Barnard (Southend United), Matt Young (Sheffield Wednesday), Jonathan Forte (Oldham Athletic), Dani Osvaldo (Inter Milan, Swap), Jordan Turnbull (Swindon Town, Loan)

Last season: 8th

Key player: Fraser Forster

Fraser Forster of England looks on prior to the international friendly match between England and Chile at Wembley Stadium on November 15, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Pre-season training at Southampton this summer must have been like a journey into the unknown. Players probably made the trip not knowing which of their teammates would be there and which had been sold. Key players such as Shaw, Lallana, Lovren and Lambert have all headed for pastures new, but if any manager is capable of dealing with such a scenario, it's the newly-appointed Ronald Koeman.

The former Dutch international once inherited a Feyenoord side that had hit rock bottom, but he reversed those fortunes and made them a competitive force once again. His five additions to date, on paper at least, look to be positive ones, with more expected to arrive at the St Mary's Stadium. While scaling the heights of last season is likely to prove nigh on impossible, a halfway finish would be respectable for the Saints.

First game: Liverpool (A). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 12th


In: Bojan Krkic (Barcelona, £3m), Dionatan Teixeira (Banska Bystrica, Undisclosed), Mame Biram Diouf (Hannover 96), Phil Bardsley (Sunderland), Steve Sidwell (Fulham)

Out: Michael Kightly (Burnley, Undisclosed), Jordan Keane (Alfreton Town), Ed Sanders (Sheffield Wednesday), Karim Rossi (Hull City)

Last season: 9th

Key player: Peter Odemwingie

Peter Odemwingie of Stoke City scores during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Hull City at Britannia Stadium on March 29, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

The Stoke faithful had grown restless with Pulis's direct style, particularly after it had almost seen them relegated in 2013. Yet, it appeared to be a case of be careful what you wish when under Mark Hughes's management, as a more easy-on-the-eye Stoke side went without a victory throughout September and October. Slowly, though, things changed for the better as the Potters went on to record their highest league finish (ninth) in 39 years.

In terms of quality, Stoke have their best squad in their six years as a Premier League club. All of the arrivals should add some depth to the squad, with Bojan and Diouf tasked with improving upon the team's goal return of 45 from last term. More of the same will be deemed a success.

First game: Aston Villa (H). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 9th


In: Jack Rodwell (Manchester City, £10m), Patrick van Aanholt (Chelsea, Undisclosed), Jordi Gomez (Wigan Athletic), Billy Jones (West Bromwich Albion), Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City), Santiago Vergini (Estudiantes, Loan)

Out: Ignacio Scocco (Newell's Old Boys, £2.1m), Phil Bardsley (Stoke City), Jack Colback (Newcastle United), Craig Gardner (West Bromwich Albion), Billy Knott (Bradford City), John Egan (Gillingham), Kieren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Louis Laing (Nottingham Forest), Reece Noble (Durham City), Jordan Pickford (Bradford City, Loan)

Last season: 14th

Key player: Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson of Sunderland celebrates scoring a hat trick during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Sunderland at Craven Cottage on January 11, 2014© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Quite how Sunderland are a Premier League team is hard to explain. Following a thrashing away at Tottenham in early April, Gus Poyet's men looked dead and buried. Somehow, they survived. Seven points were collected from trips to Man City, Man United and Chelsea, while vital wins were recorded over Cardiff and West Brom. Having earned themselves an unexpected reprieve, Poyet will be desperate to avoid such nightmares this time.

He's been active in the transfer market, while a number of players have also departed the Stadium of Light. Such a huge turnover brings with it a degree of uncertainty, but if Sunderland can take the confidence gained from their form towards the end of last season into this campaign, survival should be secured.

First game: West Bromwich Albion (A). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 13th


In: Jefferson Montero (Monarcas Morelia, £4m), Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough, £1.5m), Stephen Kingsley (Falkirk, Undisclosed), Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal), Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Tottenham Hotspur, Undisclosed)

Out: Michel Vorm (Tottenham Hotspur, £4.5m), Gwion Edwards (Crawley Town, £700,000), Alejandro Pozuelo (Rayo Vallecano, Undisclosed), Thomas Atyeo (Aberystwyth Town), Daniel Alfei (Northampton Town, Loan), Michu (Napoli, Loan)

Last season: 12th

Key player: Wilfried Bony

Swansea's Wilfried Bony celebrates after scoring his team's opening goal against Stoke on November 10, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Positive form towards the end of the season papered over the cracks at the Liberty Stadium. The inexperienced Garry Monk may have got his stint in charge off to a positive start with a win over Welsh rivals Cardiff, but that was soon followed by a winless run of nine matches. Indeed, the Swans have actually struggled for consistent form ever since they triumphed in the League Cup back in 2013.

What Monk does have is the support of the players, so much so that Ashley Williams turned down the likes of Sunderland to remain with the club. Will that be enough to keep hold of Bony, though? After an impressive debut season, the vultures are thought to be circling. If the Ivorian were to leave, it could be a long season for Monk and his men.

First game: Manchester United (A). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 17th


In: Ben Davies (Swansea City, £8m), Michel Vorm (Swansea City, £4.5m), Eric Dier (Sporting Lisbon, £4m)

Out: Jake Livermore (Hull City, £8m), Iago Falque (Genoa, £4m), Heurelho Gomes (Watford), Darren McQueen (Ipswich Town), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea City), Grant Hall (Birmingham City, Loan), Alex Pritchard (Brentford, Loan), Kenny McEvoy (Peterborough United, Loan), Shaquile Coulthirst (Southend United, Loan), Jordan Archer (Northampton Town, Loan)

Last season: 6th

Key player: Christian Eriksen

Tottenham's Christian Eriksen celebrates after scoring his team's opening goal against Benfica during their Europa League match on March 13, 2014© AFP

Sports Mole says

Liverpool beware! Spurs showed last term that selling your best player for big bucks and replacing him with a large quantity of players is perhaps not the best route to go down. Twelve months on and it's yet another new dawn at White Hart Lane. After trying and then sacking Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood, Mauricio Pochettino is now the man in the hotseat. In terms of playing style, the Argentine fits the bill.

But then so did Villas-Boas. What Pochettino will need to do, where others have failed, is instill confidence into a squad that does indeed contain some talented players. A goalscorer would be a welcome addition, but even so, breaking into the top four and the luxury of the Champions League appears too much of a gap to bridge.

First game: West Ham United (A). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 6th


In: Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev, £10m), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hannover 96, £1.5m), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo, Undisclosed), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg, Undisclosed), Craig Gardner (Sunderland), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Chris Baird (Burnley), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool, Loan)

Out: George Thorne (Derby County, £2m), Billy Jones (Sunderland), Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers), Steven Reid (Burnley), Cameron Gayle (Shrewsbury Town), Donervon Daniels (Blackpool, Loan)

Last season: 17th

Key player: Ben Foster

West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster during the Premier League match against Southampton on August 17, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

There is a real danger that the Baggies will be this season's Norwich City. When last term's fixtures were released, the Canaries knew that they would need to be safe before the final few games of the campaign because they were due to face the likes of Arsenal, Man United and Chelsea. As it was, they didn't have enough points on the board and the inevitable demotion was confirmed.

West Brom's final five games of this campaign read: Liverpool (H), Man United (A) Newcastle (A), Chelsea (H) and Arsenal (A) - so the more points that they have come the end of April, the better. The appointment of Alan Irvine has not exactly inspired the fans, but he has been busy in the transfer market at least. It's difficult to ignore those final five fixtures, though, and those are what could prove terminal to the club's Premier League status.

First game: Sunderland (H). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 19th


In: Enner Valencia (Pachuca, £12m), Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich Town, £3.75m), Cheikhou Kouyate (Anderlecht, Undisclosed), Mauro Zarate (Velez Sarsfield, Undisclosed), Diego Poyet (Charlton Athletic, Compensation), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, Loan)

Out: Ben Sheaf (Arsenal, Undisclosed), Joe Cole (Aston Villa), Matt Taylor (Burnley), Stephen Henderson (Charlton Athletic), Robert Girdlestone (Chelmsford City), Raphael Spiegel (Crawley Town, Loan), George Moncur (Colchester United, Loan)

Last season: 13th

Key player: Winston Reid

West Ham's Winston Reid in action against Everton on September 21, 2013© Getty Images

Sports Mole says

Like Lambert at Villa, it seemed certain that Sam Allardyce would be relieved of his duties at Upton Park. Even victories were met by jeers by home supporters, who had seen enough of the direct approach that their side had been instructed to play. While Allardyce has kept his job for now, it would appear that the board were at least listening to the discontent raining down from the stands.

A joint statement from the owners and Allardyce earlier this summer promised a more exciting brand of football over the coming months and the signings to date would suggest that is indeed the plan. However, can a leopard really change its spots? Allardyce has been largely successful with that style, so there is real pressure on him to deliver more flair. Failure to do so is likely to cost him his job, but it shouldn't prevent the team from having a steady campaign in terms of results.

First game: Tottenham Hotspur (H). Full fixture list.

Prediction: 11th


1. Chelsea
2. Man City
3. Arsenal
4. Man United
5. Liverpool
6. Tottenham
7. Everton
8. Newcastle
9. Stoke
10. Crystal Palace
11. West Ham
12. Southampton
13. Sunderland
14. Hull
15. Aston Villa
16. QPR
17. Swansea
18. Leicester
19. West Brom
20. Burnley

Juan Cuadrado of Colombia controls the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C match between Japan and Colombia at Arena Pantanal on June 24, 2014
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1Manchester CityMan City23202167175062
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd23155348163250
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs23135546212544
8Leicester CityLeicester238783432231
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham2367102941-1225
12Crystal Palace2367102133-1225
14Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2366111939-2024
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2365122131-1023
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2358101729-1223
18Stoke CityStoke2355132350-2720
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom23310101830-1219
20Swansea CitySwansea2345141435-2117
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