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The first XI questions for this English Premier League season

Back, but this time in blue: Cesc Fabregas during the pre-season match between Chelsea and Real Sociedad.

Back, but this time in blue: Cesc Fabregas during the pre-season match between Chelsea and Real Sociedad.

1. Can Van Gaal rejuvenate Manchester United?

The biggest issue facing the Red Devils delves deeper than just the man in charge but questions the quality of the squad itself. Louis van Gaal's activity in the transfer window tells us the roster is no longer strong enough to compete with the club's rivals. Marouane Fellaini and Javier Hernandez were told they were surplus to requirements, and Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra chose to walk before they were pushed. The club's aggressive approach for players such as Arturo Vidal, Angel Di Maria and Daley Blind showswith a willingness to break transfer records. Van Gaal may struggle at first but expect a strong finish if he signs his targets.

2. Will Fabregas, now back in London, prove the difference at Chelsea?

The diminutive Spaniard is already a proven success in English football and returns a better player after two seasons in La Liga. He is not afraid to work hard off the ball – a must for coach Jose Mourinho – and his end product matches his creativity. He will do well in South London, but it is his partnership with striker Diego Costa that will be the most crucial aspect of his role. Chelsea lacked consistent firepower last season, in part due to their forwards and also the service from midfield. Fabregas will forge a link between both roles and is as much a signing for Costa as he is for Mourinho. If he combines with his Spanish teammate, Chelsea will challenge for the title.

3. Can Jedinak keep the Eagles flying?

Second year blues looks the most likely outcome for Crystal Palace, who have been dealt a blow on the eve of the new season with manager Tony Pulis parting ways by mutual consent. Disagreement over the club's transfer deals led to the departure and has destabilised its season before it began. The onus on Jedinak to unite the players has never been greater and the combative midfielder has been there before. He will find solace in the turnaround last season but it won't be easy to repeat.

4. Is Pochettino the man to finally fulfil Spurs' potential?

Tottenham have been quiet in the transfer window, which suggests the signing of coach Mauricio Pochettino is an attempt to bring the potential out of last year's failed investments. Argentine Erik Lamela and Spanish striker Roberto Soldado did little to live up to their reputation in their first year and it is hoped Pochettino's experience of bringing out the best in minnows such as Southampton and Espanyol will change that. 

5. Have Manchester City done enough in the off season to go back-to-back?

The champions were dealt a blow with the introduction of the financial fair play laws that restricted their activity in the transfer window. Nevertheless, they found the cash for defenders Bacary Sagna and Eliaquim Mangala. Titles are built on the back line so it makes sense to bolster the defence.Their transfer activity can be seen as a show of faith in the already impressive artillery up front and a five-year contract renewal for Sergio Aguero gives him a stable platform for a stellar season.

6. Is Alexis Sanchez the man to get the Gunners firing?

Few players arrive in the EPL carrying the weight of so much expectation as the Chilean forward. If there is such a thing as an "Arsenal player", Sanchez is that. He is agile, small and best with the ball at his feet but not the most reliable in front of goal. He had a great return last year at Barcelona but his rotation from the wing to striker hasn't aided his consistency over the years, especially at Udinese. Arsene Wenger though has a good track record of converting wingers into goal scorers and can cite Thierry Henry as his best project. Sanchez has all the capabilities of being the weapon the Gunners have long needed.

7. Have Liverpool invested wisely enough to mount another title run?

Luis Suarez is gone, leaving Liverpool's attack far less menacing but more stable and diverse. The Reds brought in Rickie Lambert to add another dimension to their forward line, and strengthened their width with Adam Lallana and former Benfica star, Lazar Markovic. Another Saint, Dejan Lovren, steadies their back line and one more striker is on their shopping list. If they don't sign a star forward, however, this squad looks very much like a challenger for the top four rather than the title. 

8. Who will fall into the relegation battle?

As experienced last season, the EPL has balanced out in the mid to lower table to such an extent that the trap door can remain open for many teams come round 38. The three promoted teams, QPR, Leicester and Burnley will probably struggle to break free from the bottom, and West Ham, Swansea, West Brom and Southampton might experience difficult campaigns. 

9. Who will provide the outside challenge? 

The best from the pack look to be Everton, Newcastle and Tottenham. Everton have retained two of their stars from last year who were on loan, Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku, but keeping them at Goodison drained the bulk of their funds. By contrast, Tottenham have had a quiet transfer market but the appointment of Pochettino is clearly aimed at bringing out the best of what is already at their disposal. Newcastle struggled after the sale of Yohan Cabaye and believe they have found a replacement in Remy Cabella. One final dark horse may be Stoke City, who have gone under the radar. 

10. Which of the promoted teams will fare the best?

It has been 10 years since Leicester were in the EPL and although they return as winners of the championship, that counts for little at the top level. The Foxes will look to David Nugent to again spearhead their attack. Burnley have kept hold of goal-scoring partners Sam Vokes and Danny Ings but again neither have much experience in the EPL. The best chance of survival is presented by QPR, who have a wealth of experience. Coached by Harry Redknapp and with a squad including Rio Ferdinand, Mauricio Isla, Loic Remy and rising star Charlie Austin, the Rangers will fancy their chances of avoiding the relegation fight.

11. What next for Southampton?

The Saints look set to experience the curse of rapid success, compounded by no clear strategy in the transfer market. Their impressive strides back into the EPL resulted in the sale of five first-team players. Gone are the likes of Luke Shaw, Lallana, Lambert and Lovren along with Pochettino. In their place come a host of personnel untested in England. Ronald Koeman is the new man in the dugout and unless he can use his massive budget to bring in some late quality additions, he will oversee a significant slide down the table.

5 comments so far

  • Lol... 30% say Arsenal to win the Premier League? It goes to show Aussies still have lots to learn about football.

    Commenter
    Loda Bollox
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    August 16, 2014, 7:51AM
    • Whilst I can't stand Arsenal (really, really dislike the club!), I kind of hope they do and then read your follow up comment regarding Aussies having a lot to learn about football.

      Commenter
      hahaha
      Date and time
      August 16, 2014, 8:44AM
    • Arsenal obviously getting the donkey vote. Stand by for more braying from the whining Wenger as they fall short again.

      Commenter
      pablodiablo
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 16, 2014, 9:11AM
    • How does 'Mike' jedinak feature in the first XI questions??? It goes to show Aussies still have a lot to learn about the EPL. No one over there cares about him, except for maybe half of the 10k palace supporters.

      Commenter
      AN
      Date and time
      August 16, 2014, 1:23PM
    • Palace was included in the article as one of the few teams that will field a player from either Australia or England.

      Commenter
      Pom
      Date and time
      August 16, 2014, 6:07PM

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Hyundai A - 2014-15 - All Rounds

Round 1
Sun, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1 vs ADE 2 Stats
Sat, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SYD 1 vs HRT 1 Stats
CCM 1 vs NEW Stats
Fri, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 4 vs WSW 1 Stats
Sat, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs PER 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
PER 3 vs BRI 2 Stats
Sat, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs NEW 1 Stats
CCM 1 vs WEL 2 Stats
SYD 3 vs WSW 2 Stats
Fri, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1 vs VIC 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs SYD 2 Stats
Wed, 19 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs CCM Stats
Sun, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 4 vs NEW 1 Stats
ADE 2 vs PER Stats
Sat, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 5 vs HRT 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Wed, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs BRI 08:30Pirtek Stadium
Fri, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs ADE 2 Stats
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 2 vs CCM Stats
Sat, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
PER 2 vs NEW 1 Stats
Mon, 03 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2 vs WEL Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs WSW Stats
ADE vs SYD Stats
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs PER 1 Stats
Sat, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2 vs VIC 2 Stats
BRI 1 vs HRT 3 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
PER 2 vs WSW 1 Stats
Fri, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs BRI 4 Stats
Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs VIC Stats
ADE 2 vs WEL 1 Stats
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
HRT 2 vs CCM 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sat, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
HRT 1 vs SYD 2 Stats
Fri, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1 vs BRI Stats
PER 2 vs WEL 1 Stats
Sat, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1 vs NEW 1 Stats
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs ADE 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sat, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs PER 06:00Suncorp Stadium
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs CCM 06:00Hunter Stadium
Fri, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs ADE 08:40AAMI Park
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs HRT 04:00Westpac Stadium
Sat, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs SYD 08:30Pirtek Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sat, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs WSW 08:30Coopers Stadium
Thu, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs PER 08:30Allianz Stadium
Fri, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs VIC 08:40North Sydney Oval
Sat, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs WEL 06:00Hunter Stadium
Sun, 07 DecTimes shown AEDT
HRT vs BRI 06:00AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Wed, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs HRT 08:30Pirtek Stadium
Fri, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
PER vs NEW 10:45nib Stadium
Sat, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs SYD 08:30Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Fri, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs BRI 08:40Coopers Stadium
Sat, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs CCM 04:00Eden Park
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Wed, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs WSW 09:00Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
HRT vs VIC 08:30AAMI Park
PER vs CCM 10:30nib Stadium
Sun, 21 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs WEL 06:00Allianz Stadium
Fri, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs ADE 08:40Hunter Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs ADE 08:45Allianz Stadium
Sat, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs BRI 06:00Central Coast Stadium
Sun, 28 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs WSW 06:00Westpac Stadium
Sat, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs NEW 08:30AAMI Park
Fri, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
HRT vs PER 06:30AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs PER 08:40Simonds Stadium
Tue, 30 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs HRT 06:00Hunter Stadium
Thu, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs CCM 08:30Pirtek Stadium
Tue, 30 DecTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs SYD 09:00Suncorp Stadium
Wed, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs WEL 08:30Coopers Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Tue, 06 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs VIC 08:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 04 JanTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs HRT 06:00Central Coast Stadium
WEL vs BRI 04:00Westpac Stadium
Mon, 05 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER vs ADE 09:00nib Stadium
Sat, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs NEW 08:30WIN Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Sun, 01 FebTimes shown AEDT
HRT vs WSW 06:00AAMI Park
Sat, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs SYD 08:30Central Coast Stadium
ADE vs NEW 06:00Coopers Stadium
Mon, 02 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs WEL 09:00Suncorp Stadium
Sun, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER vs VIC 09:00nib Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Sat, 07 FebTimes shown AEDT
PER vs SYD 10:30nib Stadium
CCM vs ADE 06:00Brookvale Oval
VIC vs HRT 08:30Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Fri, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs BRI 08:40Hunter Stadium
Sun, 08 FebTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs WEL 06:00Sportingbet Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs BRI 08:40Central Coast Stadium
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs HRT 04:00Hutt Recreational Ground
SYD vs VIC 08:30Allianz Stadium
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PER 06:00Coopers Stadium
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs WSW 06:00Hunter Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs NEW 04:00Hutt Recreational Ground
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs VIC 09:00Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs CCM 06:00Allianz Stadium
ADE vs WSW 08:30Coopers Stadium
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
HRT vs PER 06:00AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs CCM 06:00Hunter Stadium
WSW vs SYD 08:30Pirtek Stadium
PER vs BRI 10:30nib Stadium
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs WEL 06:00AAMI Park
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HRT vs ADE 08:40AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs PER 08:30AAMI Park
WEL vs ADE 06:00Hutt Recreational Ground
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs HRT 04:00Central Coast Stadium
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs SYD 08:40Hunter Stadium
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs WSW 06:00Suncorp Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
HRT vs NEW 08:30AAMI Park
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs VIC 08:40Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs BRI 06:00Allianz Stadium
Thu, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs CCM 08:30Coopers Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
PER vs WEL 10:30nib Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs PER 04:00Central Coast Stadium
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs NEW 06:00Pirtek Stadium
ADE vs VIC 08:30Coopers Stadium
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs WEL 06:00Suncorp Stadium
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs HRT 08:40Allianz Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs ADE 01:00Hunter Stadium
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs SYD 23:00Westpac Stadium
HRT vs BRI 08:30AAMI Park
PER vs WSW 10:30nib Stadium
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs CCM 08:40AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs HRT 03:40Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs VIC 02:00Westpac Stadium
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs ADE 03:30Allianz Stadium
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs CCM 04:00Suncorp Stadium
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
NEW vs PER 02:00Hunter Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
ADE vs BRI 02:00Coopers Stadium
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
PER vs SYD 06:45nib Stadium
VIC vs NEW 04:40AAMI Park
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CCM vs WSW 04:30Central Coast Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
HRT vs WEL 02:00AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
NEW vs SYD 04:45Hunter Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
PER vs HRT 02:00nib Stadium
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs CCM 02:30Westpac Stadium
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
WSW vs ADE 02:00Pirtek Stadium
BRI vs VIC 04:30Suncorp Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
VIC vs CCM 02:00AAMI Park
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HRT 04:30Coopers Stadium
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs NEW 04:40Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
WSW vs PER 02:00Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs SYD 00:00Westpac Stadium
View All Fixtures
Hyundai A - 2014-15 - Ladder
Overall standings
Team P W D L +/- Pts
7 6 0 1 4 18
6 0 2 4 -6 2
7 1 2 4 -5 5
7 4 3 0 9 15
7 5 2 0 7 17
7 3 0 4 0 9
7 0 3 4 -9 3
7 4 3 0 6 15
View all
 
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