THIS season, more than any I can remember anticipating, is a hard one to call.
The top three teams from last season, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, all have new men at the helm.
Arsenal underperformed last season – but then, Arsenal have underperformed for a good few years now – while Spurs and Liverpool could both be facing up to life without their star men next season.
I can’t see any other team seriously breaking into the top four, but which of these six elite squads will is a hard call.
There’s my disclaimer out of the way.
But neck on the line I find it hard to see past Mourinho’s Chelsea for the title.
His team has a strength in depth matched only by Manchester City, with some real creative talent in the form of Hazard, Mata and Oscar – plus if anyone can hit the ground running it’s the Special One, a manager adept at settling into new clubs, with the benefit of having been here and done it before.
It’s this that gives him the edge over Pellegrini’s star-studded legions of Manchester City, who I’m placing second come May.
Last season, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal gave themselves a mountain to climb, and they climbed it admirably during the second half of the season. If they come out of the traps in the same form as they finished last time around, I can see them overhauling David Moyes and Manchester United’s defending champions, who’ll have to settle for fourth place.
Liverpool and Spurs I see missing out, without the depth in their squad to maintain a season-long campaign – although I will tip the Lilywhites’ new boy Roberto Soldado for the Golden Boot.
Tomorrow, I’m going to have a look at the other half of the table and predict who’ll be relegated…
SMUG face time – last night’s humbling of France by Mexico left Les Bleus teetering on the edge of going out, and although mathematically they could still qualify, they won’t.
I’d like to take this opportunity to point out Goaltastic stuck its neck out and predicted the French team heading out at the group stage.
Also, can I just say that I also tipped Serbia to do well, and after a wobbly start against Ghana the Serbs stuck one to the hotly-tipped Germans today.
Plus, can I add, that I said Diego Forlan would be an outside shout for the Golden Boot, long before he netted two in a man of the match performance against hosts South Africa.
Stick with Goaltastic, you’ll go far.
AS THE World Cup looms, football fans will be opening their wallets faster than Manchester City in order to win something – from buying a team in the office sweepstake to heading down the bookies with the deeds to their house.
But aside from the obvious punts – Spain to win, Lionel Messi for the Golden Boot etc. – here are some outside bets that, if they come off, are sure to offer as much in smug boasting value as actual monetary gain.
And first bet on your slip should be for France to fall at the first hurdle.
After squeaky-bumming their way past Ireland courtesy of a Thierry Henry handball, the French have been handed a tough group against freescoring Uruguay, sturdy Mexico and hosts South Africa.
They may be the bookies’ favourites to top the group, but the scandal-hit side will be coping without the talents of Karim Benzema, Patrick Vieira, Louis Saha and Samir Nasri for the tournament – and group stage elimination will double your money
So if trusty favourites France are out, which dark horse will be in – and I say Serbia, at 66/1 to win the tournament, would be worth a shout.
Not to win the whole thing mind – but to make the semis, at 12/1, is a generous for a team that topped France’s qualifying group scoring 22 goals and conceding only eight, and face an under-strength Germany, and relative minnows Australia and Ghana in Group D.
Lastly, Golden Boot winners are hardly predictable – so why not a long shot.
And a deadly striker capable of scoring in an instant – as Fulham and Liverpool found out in the Europa League – Diego Forlan of Uruguay is surely worth a pound of anyone’s money.
If he wins it, you get ÃÂ£1,250 back, and will no doubt be dancing like Nobby Styles all the way to the bank.