Lethal Anelka to Nic it for settled-down Chelsea

Trevor Steven
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NOT since a certain Jose Mourinho was stalking the Stamford Bridge dugout in his Armani overcoat have Chelsea lifted the Premier League trophy. But I&rsquo;ve a feeling new boss Carlo Ancelotti will be hoisting it aloft come May. The Blues look stronger to me than last season, while their rivals appear&nbsp; to be weaker.<br /><br />Manchester United have several worries. Is Michael Owen going to find 20 goals? I&rsquo;m not sure, but the champions will need him to now they&rsquo;ve sold Cristiano Ronaldo. Does Sir Alex know who his No1 goalkeeper is, and is Ben Foster up to replacing the ageing Edwin van der Sar? And on top of that, the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville are all a little less evergreen.<br /><br />I also think Liverpool will struggle to repeat last year&rsquo;s title challenge. The departure of Xabi Alonso is a massive loss. His replacement in the heart of the midfield, Italy international Alberto Aquilani, has failed to catch my eye when I have watched him and unlike Alonso, he is not a&nbsp; match-winner.<br /><br /><strong>TWO-HORSE RACE</strong><br />Arsenal have a paper-thin squad and are relying on their key players to stay fit all season long. That is a big ask, and that&rsquo;s before you consider that they haven&rsquo;t replaced striker Emmanuel Adebayor.<br /><br />That brings us neatly to Manchester City, Adebayor&rsquo;s new club, who have lavished &pound;100m on summer signings as they look to crack the top four. City have some top quality players, although less so in defence and central midfield, but I can&rsquo;t see them having the consistency to play badly away from home and still win 1-0. They&rsquo;ll be top five.<br /><br />Chelsea, meanwhile, are more settled now the futures of John Terry and Didier Drogba have been sewn up. Michael Essien is fit again, and if they can keep him fit, he will be a big influence. Ancelotti seems to have started well &ndash; beating United in the Community Shield doesn&rsquo;t hurt &ndash; and to me they look stronger than in recent years.<br /><br />I see it being a two-horse race, with much hinging on two strikers. Owen has so much to prove at United, but at Chelsea I am sure Nicolas Anelka will get a bundle of goals &ndash; and that&rsquo;s why I fancy Ancelotti&rsquo;s men.<br /><br />TREVOR&rsquo;S TIPS PREDICTIONS<br /><strong>Champions:</strong> Chelsea<br /><strong>Runners-up:</strong> Manchester United<br /><strong>Third:</strong> Liverpool<br /><strong>Fourth:</strong> Arsenal<br /><strong>Fifth:</strong> Manchester City<br /><strong>Relegated:</strong> Birmingham, Wolves, Burnley<br /><strong>Top scorer:</strong> Nicolas Anelka