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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 29 July, 2014

TheScore.ie’s writers make their predictions for the 2013-2014 Premier League season

Our team discuss who’ll win the league, which Irish players will impress and more…

Steven O’Rourke

(Are Brendan Rodgers’ days at Liverpool numbered? Image credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire/Press Association Images)

What do you hope to see this season?

I’d really, really like someone outside of United, Arsenal, Chelsea, City to win the league or at least run them close. I know every league in Europe is dominated by 1-4 big teams but (outside of Spain) at least it feels like smaller clubs, equivalent to the likes of Liverpool and Spurs, get a shot at the title.

What do you expect to see?

Same old, same old. The top four will be the four I mentioned and Harry Redknapp will inexplicably be given a job with a mid-table team.

How much of it do you plan to watch?

Well, work will dictate I’ll watch a lot of it, but I’d be watching anyway.

Top tip…

Brendan Rodgers not to last the season with Liverpool.

Who will be captain of your Fantasy Football team?

RVP. It would have been Bale but it’s very unlikely he’ll be there.

What will be the top 4 come the end of the season?

Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Spurs (Arsenal if they get Suarez)

Who will get relegated?

Norwich, Stoke and Hull

Which Irish player(s) should we watch out for?

If James McCarthy gets to move back up to the top flight, him.

What’s your favourite football cliché?

‘These decisions (the bad ones) even themselves out over the course of the season’. It’s my favourite because it’s such rubbish.

Will you miss Bale and Suarez if they leave?

I’ll probably miss Bale scoring every goal by cutting inside the defender who for some reason refuses to show him to his weaker foot and big-toeing it but no, I wouldn’t miss Suarez at all, at all.

Where will West Brom finish this year (context here)?

A respectable 13th.

Paul Fennessy

(Gareth Bale has been heavily linked with a move away from Spurs? Image credit: Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport)

What do you hope to see this season?

The opposite of last season – a thrilling title race that goes down to the last day, with three or four teams genuinely challenging to win the league. Also, less managerial sackings (over half the clubs changed coach last year), less references to teams being “in crisis” when it’s clearly not the case, more small teams playing the type of intelligent brand of football that Swansea/Southampton employ and the realisation that other innovations apart from goal-line technology need to introduced to help referees further (I know this is all a lot to ask).

What do you expect to see?

Assuming they eventually lose Bale and Suarez, Tottenham and Liverpool struggling. Moyes to change little of Fergie’s magic formula and thus, prove a relatively safe pair of hands. BT Sport to provide genuine competition to Sky Sports’ Premier League coverage (David James seems to be an interesting pundit who’s not afraid to make provocative statements).

How much of it do you plan to watch?

As much as possible. If I’m not sitting down in my living room watching games, I’ll most likely be helping to report on them for TheScore.ie.

Top tip…

You may not know too much about Man United’s Adnan Januzaj or Tottenham’s Nacer Chadli at the moment, but they’ll be considerably more familiar to you come the end of the season.

Who will be captain of your Fantasy Football team?

Robin van Persie. Given that the well-documented doubts surrounding the futures of the Premier League’s other best two players (Bale and Suarez), RVP seems like the logical choice, despite United’s tough start to the season and the Dutchman’s high price tag.

What will be the top 4 come the end of the season?

Keeping in mind that this prediction is working under the assumption that United will make at least one big-name signing prior to the closure of the transfer deadline. If they don’t, I would be less confident in them winning. Chelsea will again be formidable, but Mourinho’s ostensible reluctance to accommodate key players, such as Juan Mata, within his system, may ultimately hurt them. City have made some interesting signings and Manuel Pellegrini seems like he could be an improvement on Roberto Mancini, but a poor attitude/too many egos may scupper their title bid, as it did last season. I have Arsenal down for fourth, though Luis Suarez’s arrival could make them genuine title challengers. Irrespective of whether or not that happens, their squad looks good enough to at least make the top four.

1. Man United 2. Chelsea 3. Man City 4. Arsenal

Who will get relegated?

Cardiff have made a good signing in Steven Caulker and the Premier League experience of Craig Bellamy will be invaluable, but many of the more vulnerable Premier League teams such as Sunderland, Southampton and Aston Villa seemed to improve towards the end of last season. Stoke could struggle without Tony Pulis, but appear to have too many good players to go down. Hull stumbled over the line in the Championship last year, and haven’t made too many big signings, so I can’t see them avoiding the drop. And as attractive as Ian Holloway’s attacking style is to watch, I don’t think Palace’s players are good enough to implement it effectively in the Premier League, especially now that they can no longer rely on the pace and trickery of Wilfried Zaha.

18. Cardiff 19. Hull 20. Crystal Palace

Which Irish player(s) should we watch out for?

Aside from the obvious likes of Shane Long and Seamus Coleman, Stephen Quinn has been around for a while now, but has always impressed whenever I’ve seen him play, and was voted Player of the Season last year by his Hull teammates. It’ll be also be interesting to see whether new Everton boss Roberto Martinez places faith in Shane Duffy. Sylvain Distin is 35 now, so the Toffees will need to find a viable long-term replacement for him sooner rather than later.

What’s your favourite football cliché?

The one about penalty kicks being “a lottery,” mainly because it’s a laughably inept analogy. It implies that whether or not you score a penalty is primarily based on chance, when in fact, it requires considerable skill and temperament. You might as well describe golf or conversions in rugby as “a lottery,” if you’re going to do the same with penalties.

Will you miss Bale and Suarez if they leave?

I can’t say I’ll miss the less savoury aspects of their game (e.g. diving, biting) but overall, yes, it’s always a shame when great players leave your favourite league.

Where will West Brom finish this year?

I expect them to do slightly worse than last year, largely due to the absence of Romelu Lukaku, so I’m going to say 12th.

Rónán Duffy

(Can Shinji Kagawa consolidate his place in the United first team? Image credit: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport)

What do you hope to see this season?

A genuine three-way fight for the title. Less talk of handshakes. Shinji Kagawa getting a proper run in the United team. Suarez with Arsenal.

What do you expect to see?

United making things difficult for themselves by falling behind in matches again but not quite having last year’s heroics. Mourinho enjoying being in a more stable position than his rivals and ultimately steering them home.

How much of it do you plan to watch?

With new managers at the top three clubs I haven’t been more excited about a new season in a long while. So quite a bit probably.

Top tip…

Mark Hughes getting the sack at another top-flight club for the last time.

Who will be captain of your Fantasy Football team?

I stopped doing it a few years ago. It influenced my view of watching games too much – you end up cheering for everybody.

What will be the top 4 come the end of the season?

Chelsea, City, United, Arsenal.

Who will get relegated?

Stoke, Norwich, Hull.

Which Irish player(s) should we watch out for?

The Irish midfield trio at Hull (Stephen Quinn, Robbie Brady and David Meyler) will be interesting to keep an eye on. Meyler especially if he puts his injury history to bed.

What’s your favourite football cliché?

‘The magic of the FA cup’. There is nothing magical about a cup format that happens in practically every footballing nation and very rarely produces a winner from outside the top flight.

Will you miss Bale and Suarez if they leave?

Suarez’s skill yes but I’d be far more interested to see how Bale would work alongside Ronaldo than seeing him at Spurs for another season.

Where will West Brom finish this year?

With chalk and cheese-like Anelka and Long up front, 12th.

Hugh O’Connell

(Will Seamus Coleman continue his good form from last year? Image credit: Stephen Pond/PA Archive/Press Association Images)

What do you hope to see this season?

A humdinger of a title race involving at least three teams battling it out to the last day. Less predictability from Man United and genuine doubts about Moyes. Luis Suarez to continue to cause controversy while at the same time score ridiculous goals (preferably at Liverpool). Mourinho and Moyes to clash loads while Pellegrini retains his dignity. Liverpool storming into the Champions League places.

What do you expect to see?

Manchester United to continue their unending dominance of British football. Mourinho to turn Chelsea into a winning machine and push Moyes’s side close. City to go nowhere under Pellegrini and Liverpool to finish sixth.

How much of it do you plan to watch?

I’m still on the fence about getting BT Sport in the house but Sky Sports should keep me plenty entertained as it is.

Top tip…

Liverpool’s Coutinho to score 15 – 20 goals, set up around the same amount and secure at least a PFA nomination.

Who will be captain of your Fantasy Football team?

Don’t do ‘em.

What will be the top 4 come the end of the season?

Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal – not necessarily in that order

Who will get relegated?

Sunderland, Cardiff and Hull.

Which Irish player(s) should we watch out for?

I think Coleman could flourish in Roberto Martinez’s Everton side and become one of the best full backs/wingers in the country. Shane Long to do enough to earn a big move in January or next summer.

What’s your favourite football cliché?

“The Premier League is the greatest league in the world.”

It is not.

Will you miss Bale and Suarez if they leave?

Bale? Nah, he’s boring. Suarez? Yes, he’s not boring.

Where will West Brom finish this year?

Mid-table mediocrity.

Paul Hosford

(Can Christian Benteke put his troubles behind him? Image credit: John Walton/EMPICS Sport)

What do you hope to see this season?

From a club point of view, I want to see Villa kicking on and settling nicely between 7th and 14th.

As a league, I’d like to see someone outside last year’s top 5 taking a decent swing at the top 4. Doubt this one as Liverpool are a work in progress, Everton will take a massive step back and Newcastle are, in the words of Malcolm Tucker, an omnishambles.

What do you expect to see?

Honestly? More of the same. City, United and Chelsea will dominate, Arsenal and Spurs will chase and Sky will try to convince us that the growing gulf between the haves and the have-nots is good for the sport.

How much of it do you plan to watch?

As many games as Villa are on for and then the decent games outside that. The last two years (McLeish and the first six months of last season specifically) drained any desire I had to watch Stoke and Sunderland on a Sunday evening.

Top tip…

Benteke to score at least 15 goals and Andi Weimann to get at least 10, Coutinho to light it up, Norwich to be this year’s West Brom and Marouane Fellaini to elbow someone in the first fortnight of the season.

Who will be captain of your Fantasy Football team?

Don’t do it. It gives people a silver lining in their team losing, which to me feels like a cop out.

What will be the top 4 come the end of the season?

City, Chelsea, Utd, Arsenal

Who will get relegated?

Stoke, Hull and Palace.

Which Irish player(s) should we watch out for?

Coleman and Meyler could have huge seasons. Meyler in particular. Shane Long obviously. But under the radar, Samir Carruthers at Villa has been threatening to do something brilliant for a while and has been playing a lot in pre season. He’s like Stephen Ireland without the absolute mentalness.

What’s your favourite football cliché?

“Zonal marking doesn’t work”. It does and you’re wrong.

Will you miss Bale and Suarez if they leave?

Not really. Bale is quick and has a thunderous left boot, but there’s no joy in watching him. Suarez is just joyous to watch at times, but an awful bollix.

Where will West Brom finish this year?

It’ll be a step back, but they’ll be fine: 13th.

Niall Kelly

(Robin van Persie – most people’s pick for Fantasy Football captain. Image credit: John Walton/EMPICS Sport)

What do you hope to see this season?

A close title race and some real competition for the Champions League places. Masterclasses in mind games from Mourinho. Three more envelopes from Brendan Rodgers.

What do you expect to see?

Same old, same old: three-way title race between the Manchester clubs and Chelsea; Arsenal and Spurs battling it out for fourth; Liverpool and Everton scrapping over the crumbs in sixth and seventh.

How much of it do you plan to watch?

As much as I can without shelling out for BT Sport or becoming overly familiar with my local barman.

Top tip…

Don’t put Liverpool in your accumulator.

Who will be captain of your Fantasy Football team?

Probably Van Persie until I inevitably lose interest after two weeks.

What will be the top 4 come the end of the season?

Chelsea, United, City, Spurs (in that order).

Who will get relegated?

Not West Brom anyway, that’s for sure. Palace, Hull Tiger City (or whatever they’re called) and… Sunderland.

Which Irish player(s) should we watch out for?

Owen Garvan frequently ran rings around me as a child so I suppose it would reflect well on me if he had a good Premier League season.

What’s your favourite football cliché?

“It’s a game of two halves.”

Will you miss Bale and Suarez if they leave?

The league will be poorer without them — but if Suarez only moves up the road to Arsenal there’ll be nothing to miss, will there?

Where will West Brom finish this year?

12th? Is that going to get me lynched?

Sean Farrell

(Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic –  another solid choice for Fantasy Football)

What do you hope to see this season?

Big crowds, at big games that matter. Brilliant, scrappy or late goals, solid tackles, cynical tackles treated as professional fouls. Hopefully, pundits finally accept that diving happens and is not the worst thing that could ever happen on the field.

What do you expect to see?

More of the same inconsistent refereeing. More of the same Liverpool shortcomings, Chelsea to bore the pants off people for a month before finding a rhythm, Manchester City to veer from sublime to ridiculous and Manchester United to tactically get caught between two stools with a moody English striker glaring into the back of David Moyes’ head.

How much of it do you plan to watch?

Before agreeing a pay-as-you-play deal with TheScore.ie, weekends were planned almost entirely around the ko times of decent matches. Now though, it’s a case of catching up on the snippets from Match of the Day

Top tip…

Fast forward through Gary Lineker’s jokes. Oh, and see if you can survive without buying BT Sport. Nothing wrong with getting up at the crack of noon the odd Saturday to head for the pub for a game you’re looking forward to.

Who will be captain of your Fantasy Football team?

Big Bad Branislav Ivanovic. All day.

What will be the top 4 come the end of the season?

In this order: Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Spurs.

Who will get relegated?

Definitely not Hull. The Phil Brown curse has been lifted. Everton will struggle… how about Palace, Cardiff and maybe Newcastle.

Which Irish player(s) should we watch out for?

I think we’re all looking forward to seeing how Robbie Brady fares in the big boy league.

What’s your favourite football cliché?

He probably hit it too well.

Will you miss Bale and Suarez if they leave?

Madrid with Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema is an intriguing prospect. It would definitely make more people watch La Liga. I’d wish him well. Not enough English-speaking players are brave enough to go to foreign lands. Suarez? Well, he wants to stay in England so he’ll never be far from the headlines.

Where will West Brom finish this year?

11th. Those guys are suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked – apart from the 62 teams below them.

Ben Blake

Aston Villa’s 17-year-old Irish winger Jack Grealish. Credit: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

What do you hope to see this season?

David Moyes proving the doubters wrong and leading Man United to the league title in his first year in charge, Mourinho adding a bit of spice and recent arrivals such as Roberto Soldado, Stevan Jovetic and Wilfried Bony bedding in quickly and making impacts at their respective clubs.

What do you expect to see?

So much change but most things remaining the same.

How much of it do you plan to watch?

As much as physically possible.

Top tip…

Don’t overthink choosing your fantasy team.

Who will be captain of your Fantasy Football team?

Robin van Persie.

What will be the top 4 come the end of the season?

In this order: Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Spurs.

Who will get relegated?

Although I’d like to see them stay up, Hull could struggle while I don’t fancy fellow newcomers Cardiff to survive. Beyond that, Newcastle may find themselves in trouble too.

Which Irish player(s) should we watch out for?

Aston Villa teenager Jack Grealish. Big things are expected from the Birmingham-born winger, who has represented Ireland at U19 level, so here’s hoping he breaks into Paul Lambert’s team this season – although club mate Samir Carruthers might be a safer bet.

What’s your favourite football cliché?

“He has a ‘cultured left foot’.”

Will you miss Bale and Suarez if they leave?

Like most, I admire Suarez’s ability but have grown tired of his antics and wouldn’t be sorry to see him depart for Spain or anywhere else. Bale, on the other hand, would be a significant loss to the Premier League in a summer that many big names have opted for other European leagues over England.

Where will West Brom finish this year?

10th. Nicolas Anelka is a shrewd signing after Romelu Lukaku’s return to Chelsea and here’s hoping his finishing can rub off on Shane Long.

Join TheScore.ie’s Premier League Fantasy Football League using this code: 800052-191374; http://fantasy.premierleague.com

Let us know your own predictions below.

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