It’s the big kick-off in the Premier League tomorrow and the “Big Four” are already starting to jostle for position.
John Terry’s claim that Manchester United have “already peaked” may light the blue touch paper, but new Chelsea coach Luis Felipe Scolari could manage that all by himself.
The 59-year-old Brazilian, nicknamed ‘wooden leg’ during his playing days, would no doubt win a scuffle between the top four bosses, but his verbal sparring skills will be put to the test.
United are 5/4 favourites to win their third consecutive Premier League crown and Scolari will struggle to raid the Old Trafford trophy room.
Whether the former Portugal boss can integrate new-boy Deco into an already packed midfield remains to be seen, but the signing of Bosingwa will bolster the defence. The 13/8 for a Blues win may not be worth the risk, but look to Liverpool and Arsenal (both 6/1) to break the United and Chelsea duopoly of the past four seasons.
In a summer lacking the usual frenzied transfer activity, Rafa Benitez’s men have splashed the most cash by landing Spurs striker Robbie Keane. If Liverpool are to be successful, they must take advantage of United and Arsenal’s extensive injury lists.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are missing star player Cristiano Ronaldo for the first two months of the season, while Anderson, Ji-Sung Park, Louis Saha and Nani will miss the season opener
Arsene Wenger will be hoping new boys Aaron Ramsey and Samir Nasri will plug the sizeable Fabregas gap in the Arsenal midfield, and cover the departure of Matthieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb.
Write Arsenal off at your peril, but their north London rivals Tottenham could be a decent bet to break into the ‘big four.’
Juande Ramos has invested heavily, bringing in Giovani Dos Santos from Barcelona, PSV keeper Heurelho Gomes and Croatian Luka Modric. Spurs could be worth a cheeky bet at 11/2 to finish fourth.
At the other end of the table, newcomers West Brom (10/11), Stoke (4/11) and Hull (3/10) are favourites to go straight back down.
Usually I would throw Fulham (11/4) into the mix as well, but the acquisition of Andy Johnson should see them clear of danger before the clocks go forward.