The Skysports.com team give their views on who is going to sparkle and who will flop this season.
Last Updated: 13/08/08 9:16am
The Skysports.com team have been putting their collective heads on the block ahead of the 2008/09 season to predict who they think is going to light up the Premier League campaign and who is going to have a dim old time of things.
Last season's crystal ball gazing provided a mixture of Mystic Meg accuracy and the misguided forecasting of a £1-a-pop psychic on Blackpool front.
Peter O'Rourke deserves credit for picking out that Roque Santa Cruz would be the buy of the season, but Alex Dunn is still smarting from tipping Fernando Torres to be the biggest flop - you'd think for £20-odd million, you'd get more than 33 goals!
So, without further ado, here are skysports.com's predictions for you to deride at your leisure. Feel free to add your comments at the foot of the article.
Title winner:Manchester United may not have strengthened the squad over the summer, but the younger members of the team have an extra year's experience on their backs and they remain the team to beat.
Going down:It would be easy to say the three promoted clubs will go straight back down, but having tipped Wigan to be relegated last season, I'm not going to desert them now! Stoke City and West Brom to join the Latics in the Championship.
Coming up:Where's my pin? Birmingham City look to have good strength in depth, while Coventry City and Queens Park Rangers can end their exile from the big time.
Best buy:There don't seem to have been too many bargains floating around the Premier League this summer, but I think Giovani Dos Santos has the potential to sparkle at Spurs
Biggest flop:A rash of £15million-plus signings means there are a few contenders for this category, but the biggest gamble is Manchester City's recruitment of Jo. He may just turn out to be the next Fernando Torres, though!
Player of Year:Carlos Tevez. The Argentinian impressed during his first season at Manchester United and looks certain to have further improvement in him.
Youngster to watch:Fraizer Campbell impressed on loan at Hull last season and if he is given a chance in the United side he has the ability to score goals.
Top scorer:With Peter Crouch alongside him, Jermain Defoe should get plenty of opportunities and it is not hard to see him rattling in at least 20 goals this season.
Fantasy League must have:With three points for an assist, Cesc Fabregas must be worth having in your team. He rarely has a bad game and if he starts to score goals then he should rack up the points.
Dark Horses:Crouch is a very astute signing for Portsmouth and, providing European exertions do not impact too heavily on Harry Redknapp's squad, they have the ability to challenge at the top end of the table.
Title winner:Manchester United for me although Chelsea will push them close while I expect Liverpool and Arsenal to close the gap. The Red Devils need another striker but I expect Sir Alex to oblige which is why I see them doing it again.
Going down:Could easily be all three newly promoted sides, and indeed I think Hull and Stoke have just too much to do - but I can see West Brom just getting the better of Bolton to send Gary Megson's men down.
Coming up:I expect Birmingham will be there with Wolves, Reading, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace. Three from those five.
Best buy:Despite the big price-tag I think Robbie Keane's arrival at Anfield could take Rafa's men very close to Premier League success, but also watch out for bargains Jonas Gutierrez and Didier Digard in the North East.
Biggest flop:As easy as it was for Rolando Bianchi to be picked out last year, I just don't see how Johan Elmander will be able to justify a £10million price-tag at Bolton.
Player of Year:Frank Lampard. As long as Inter Milan and Jose don't manage to grab him before the end of August - expect Frank to sign off his Chelsea career with a brilliant final year at Stamford Bridge.
Youngster to watch:David Wheater. From Darlington to England in less than 12 months. If the Middlesbrough defender can keep improving then he has the world at his feet.
Top scorer:Emmanuel Adebayor. Again as long as he stays put, the lack of strike-partners will see him bagging on a regular basis.
Fantasy League must have:With Ronaldo missing the start of the season it has to be Steven Gerrard, captain supreme who will score double figures and assist even more.
Dark Horses:If Aston Villa keep Gareth Barry - which appears unlikely - then they could push top-five, so if not them I think Sunderland could break into the top-ten and finish comfortably above North East rivals Newcastle and Middlesbrough.
Title winner:For 18 years long-suffering Liverpool fans have gone without landing the title and I think, following the acquisition of Robbie Keane, Rafa Benitez's men might just do it this season! Sticking my neck out I know, but I think they are due and I think it would be good for the league to have someone different crowned as champions.
Going down:It's hard to look beyond the newly promoted clubs for the drop so I won't. Stoke, Hull City and West Brom to last just one season in England's top flight. However, Bolton, Fulham and Wigan will need to watch their backs very carefully if they are to avoid being sucked into a relegation dogfight.
Coming up:Reading are my favourites to top the Championship and unsurprisingly they will be followed by Alex McLeish's Birmingham. I fancy QPR to secure promotion against Wolves in a thrilling play-off final.
Best buy:For an initial fee of £4.7million Spurs' close-season capture of Giovani dos Santos is my best buy of the summer. Although the fee could rise to £8.6million depending on appearances I think the Mexico international will light up the Premier League. His Spurs colleague David Bentley should prove an excellent signing as well.
Biggest flop:Fulham have spent big on Andy Johnson's capture from Everton, a deal that could rise to a whopping £13million. With the Cottagers' dour brand of football and lack of creativity in midfield Johnson may struggle to find the back of the net consistently enough to impress.
Player of Year:Should Liverpool go on and be crowned champions of England then England international Steve Gerrard will be at the forefront of The Reds' play. The league title is one Gerrard craves so much and I think it will be his and the Merseysiders' year.
Youngster to watch:Although Manchester City like splashing the cash on new signings I believe Welsh youngster Ched Evans could impress many off the bench for the club this season and chip in with his fair share of goals.
Top scorer:Fernando Torres is a natural goalscorer and I fully expect him to be up there pushing the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor and Didier Drogba for top scorer. This race will be extremely tight, but I think Torres will emerge victorious.
Fantasy League must have:David Bentley supplied the most successful crosses last term and with Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Bent to aim for I think the winger will again set up goals week-in, week-out. He also knows where the back of the net making him a must-have regardless of price.
Dark Horses:Given that not many people fancy Liverpool for the title they go down as my dark horses for the season to surprise all and claim Premier League glory. Hopefully these words won't be too fondly remembered should it be another season of league disappointment for The Reds.
Title winner:Chelsea - With Manchester United failing to recruit and with talisman Cristiano Ronaldo out for several months, expect the Blues to land the title this time. Having retained Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba and added quality with Deco and Jose Bosingwa, I expect Chelsea to go one better than last term..
Going down:West Brom, Hull City and Stoke City - While not exactly sticking my neck on the block with these three, it is hard to see beyond the promoted clubs making an early return to the Championship. Unless significant reenforcements arrive, I expect the Tigers and the Potters to be adrfit by Christmas. The Baggies will make more of a fist of it but unless the likes of Wigan, Bolton and Fulham have an injury nightmare I can't see them surviving either.
Coming up:Birmingham, Sheffield United and Reading - The Championship looks as open as ever but Blues have retained much of their Premier League squad so expect them to make a swift return. Kevin Blackwell has stablised the Blades so they will go well while Reading could also get back into the top flight at the first attempt.
Best buy:Heurelho Gomes - Juande Ramos has overhauled the Spurs squad this summer and was quick to identify goalkeeper as a problem position. Gomes has turned in some excellent performances for PSV Eindhoven and should give Tottenham a firm foundation to challenge for a top-six place.
Biggest flop:Andy Johnson - Fulham were desperately short of firepower last term and have managed to land England striker Johnson to try and address the problem but he ran out of steam at Everton and could struggle to find the net again.
Player of Year:Michael Ballack - if, as predicted, Chelsea do land the Premier League crown then expect the German to play a major part. After a tough first 18 months at Stamford Bridge, Ballack produced some inspired play in the title run-in last season and I expect more of the same this time.
Youngster to watch:Ryan Shawcross. Plucked from Manchester United's reserves 12 months ago, the Stoke central defender was one of the Championship's most impressive performers last season and he possesses all the qualities to make the step up.
Top scorer:Michael Owen - OK he may not be favourite exactly but with SkyBet offering odds of 33-1 he looks good value. If fit he will play in all Newcastle's games and should bring a hefty return of goals.
Fantasy League must have:Frank Lampard -The England midfielder missed large chunks of last season but expect him to be his usual consistent self this time. He won't be too far away as season's top goal scorer either if he stays fit.
Dark Horses:Sunderland - Having retained their Premier League status last season, this term the Black Cats will kick on. The likes of Steed Malbranque and El-Hadji Diouf should add creativity and I expect a top ten finish with a good cup run to boot.
Title winner:Sir Alex Ferguson may not have added to his squad over the summer, but in retaining the services of Cristiano Ronaldo the Manchester United boss can still boast his most potent attacking threat. Injury will keep the Portugal international out until October, but I still think the Red Devils can hold off Chelsea and achieve another Premier League hat-trick.
Going down:Championship play-off winners rarely fare well in the Premier League and Hull are highly unlikely to buck that trend. Stoke's direct approach will not be enough having made the step up, while Bolton are my tip to fill the third spot after narrowly surviving last term.
Coming up:Around half the Championship harbour realistic aspirations of challenging for promotion, so selecting just three is no easy task. Birmingham have a strong squad, QPR have the financial muscle, and Sheffield United are my outside punt.
Best buy:For £19million, Robbie Keane may be one of the most costly summer signings, but he is also one of the most astute. A proven Premier League performer and a proven Premier League goalscorer, his partnership with Fernando Torres should help Liverpool mount a more realistic title challenge.
Biggest flop:Fulham managed to re-negotiate with Everton to reduce Andy Johnson's transfer fee to £10.5million, but that still seems an awful lot of money for someone who bagged a grand total of six Premier League goals last season.
Player of Year:Rio Ferdinand superbly marshalled Manchester United's defence last season as they claimed the Premier League and UEFA Champions League. The errors which were prevalent in his game as a youngster have gone to be replaced by a new-found maturity and the England captain-in-waiting will shine again.
Youngster to watch:David Wheater was on loan with Darlington in League Two in May 2007. A mere 12 months later the 21-year-old Middlesbrough centre-back was named in Fabio Capello's England squad. A fairly impressive rise by anyone's standards.
Top scorer:Fernando Torres grabbed 24 goals in his debut Premier League season. With Robbie Keane now alongside him, that tally could increase, and if he can find his scoring boots away from Anfield, the sky is the limit.
Fantasy League must have:As the proud owner of a Fantasy League wooden spoon, I'm not sure I should be dishing out advice. But Cesc Fabregas plays week-in, week-out for one of the leading Premier League teams and is capable of both scoring and creating on a regular basis. What more do you want?
Dark Horses:While the top four monopoly is unlikely to be broken, Aston Villa can emerge from the pack to be 'best of the rest'. Martin O'Neill's astute management and Randy Lerner's financial backing is a sound combination, although the Gareth Barry saga has been an unwelcome distraction this summer.
Title winner:Chelsea - The Blues finished just two points behind Manchester United last season and over the summer they have addressed their problem position at right-back by signing Jose Bosingwa and appointed the exceptional Luiz Felipe Scolari as manager. United, meanwhile, have not strengthened and will be without Cristiano Ronaldo for the start of the campaign.
Going down:Stoke, Hull, Bolton - Stoke and Hull are so poor that they could have ten-point head starts and still go down. West Brom were the best side in the Championship last term and may just do enough to avoid relegation, so Bolton look the most vulnerable to me.
Coming up:Birmingham, Crystal Palace, QPR - Birmingham have the quality to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt, Crystal Palace came close last season and have the right manager in Neil Warnock to lead them to success, while Queens Park Rangers have the ambition and financial power.
Best buy:Heurelho Gomes - Paul Robinson was anything but reliable in goal for Tottenham last season and Juande Ramos has wisely brought in a replacement. Anybody who has seen Gomes play for PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Champions League will be aware that he is something special. Expect him to be the best goalkeeper in the Premier League this term.
Biggest flop:Deco - It was clear last season that Deco's star was on the wane but Chelsea still decided to splash out £8million on him. The Portuguese playmaker will no doubt start the campaign in midfield for the Blues but I predict that he will find it difficult to adjust to the demands of the Premier League and soon lose his place.
Player of Year:Cristiano Ronaldo - Ronaldo has been in a different league to any other player in recent years and now that the speculation over his future has subsided, he is likely to make a major impact yet again.
Youngster to watch:Aaron Ramsey - Arsenal fought off competition from most of the Premier League's top clubs to land Ramsey and the Welsh midfielder is sure to be given the opportunities to impress under Arsene Wenger.
Top scorer:Fernando Torres - Torres enjoyed a stunning first season at Anfield and will only improve this term, particularly with Robbie Keane alongside him up front.
Fantasy League must have:Frank Lampard - While Ronaldo might be the midfielder who earns most points, Lampard is much better value and is likely to be an ever-present in a Chelsea side that will be looking to turn on the style under Scolari.
Dark horses:Tottenham - Spurs have been tipped to finish fifth this season but I believe they have a genuine chance of breaking into the top four (especially if they keep Dimitar Berbatov) after strengthening their squad with the ambitious signings of Gomes, David Bentley, Luka Modric and Giovani Dos Santos.
Title winner:Chelsea - I expect them to make a much stronger start this season under Luiz Felipe Scolari and they have the experience and depth to see the job through. Manchester United will run them extremely close though.
Going down:Stoke, Hull, Bolton - Watford showed that you can't prosper (or entertain) in the Premier League playing the Stoke way, while Hull and Bolton lack vital quality. Where are their goals going to come from?
Coming up:Birmingham, Wolves, Sheffield United - Lee Carsley and Kevin Phillips showed their worth to the Birmingham cause on the opening day while Marcus Bent is another astute addition. Michael Kightly and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake can be the difference for Wolves, while the Blades have plenty of experience and a steady supply of goals from James Beattie.
Best buy:Robbie Keane - Outstanding for Spurs last season, Keane should enjoy similar freedom as defences worry about stopping Fernando Torres. It promises to be some partnership, but still not enough to bring that elusive title.
Biggest flop:Seyi Olofinjana - A Premier League midfield enforcer? I doubt it.
Player of Year:Fernando Torres - A mountain of goals in his debut season for the club and there's no reason why he shouldn't do it all again. He scores pretty much every week at Anfield and he should start to add a few more away from home too.
Youngster to watch:Danny Sturridge - Injuries to others could give the England youth striker a real chance to shine at Manchester City this season. He's quick, clever and confident and his awareness of his team-mates is developing.
Top scorer:Fernando Torres - Comes with a guarantee of goals.
Fantasy League must have:Cristiano Ronaldo - He may be out until October, but you're unlikely to win without him.
Dark Horses:Nobody. I hope no one from the hyperbole department is reading, but, sorry to say, everyone will finish roughly where you expect them to.
h5>Title winner: Chelsea will be a like wounded animal this season after missing out on the title and Champions League to Manchester United last term and they will be determined to make amends this year. Luiz Felipe Scolari will get the best out of Chelsea's star-studded squad and they will pip United to the crown.