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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
Fri, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 4vs WSW 1 Stats
Sat, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs NEW 0 Stats
SYD 1vs MCY 1 Stats
Sun, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs PER 2 Stats
BRI 1vs ADE 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs VIC 1 Stats
Sat, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs WEL 2 Stats
SYD 3vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs NEW 1 Stats
PER 3vs BRI 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI 0vs SYD 2 Stats
Sat, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 5vs MCY 2 Stats
Sun, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 4vs NEW 1 Stats
ADE 2vs PER 0 Stats
Wed, 19 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 0vs CCM 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs ADE 2 Stats
Sat, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
PER 2vs NEW 1 Stats
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 2vs CCM 0 Stats
Mon, 03 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2vs WEL 0 Stats
Wed, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
WSW 0vs BRI 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs WSW 0 Stats
ADE 0vs SYD 0 Stats
Sat, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2vs VIC 2 Stats
BRI 1vs MCY 3 Stats
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs PER 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs BRI 4 Stats
Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs WEL 1 Stats
SYD 0vs VIC 0 Stats
PER 2vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
MCY 2vs CCM 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1vs BRI 0 Stats
PER 2vs WEL 1 Stats
Sat, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs NEW 1 Stats
MCY 1vs SYD 2 Stats
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs ADE 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 3vs ADE 2 Stats
Sat, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs PER 1 Stats
WSW 1vs SYD 1 Stats
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 5vs MCY 1 Stats
NEW 1vs CCM 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Thu, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD 1vs PER 2 Stats
Fri, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs WEL 3 Stats
ADE 2vs WSW 0 Stats
Sun, 07 DecTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs BRI 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 0vs BRI 1 Stats
PER 2vs NEW 0 Stats
Sat, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs CCM 1 Stats
VIC 3vs SYD 3 Stats
Wed, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW 3vs MCY 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2vs ADE 1 Stats
Sat, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs VIC 0 Stats
PER 4vs CCM 1 Stats
Sun, 21 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs WEL 2 Stats
Wed, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs WSW 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs PER 1 Stats
SYD 0vs ADE 3 Stats
Sat, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3vs BRI 3 Stats
VIC 1vs NEW 0 Stats
Sun, 28 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs WSW 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Tue, 30 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2vs MCY 5 Stats
BRI 0vs SYD 0 Stats
Wed, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs WEL 3 Stats
Thu, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 0vs CCM 0 Stats
Fri, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1vs PER 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Sat, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs NEW 0 Stats
Sun, 04 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL 3vs BRI 0 Stats
CCM 2vs MCY 0 Stats
Mon, 05 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER 1vs ADE 2 Stats
Tue, 06 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs VIC 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Sat, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE 7vs NEW 0 Stats
CCM 1vs SYD 5 Stats
Sun, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER 3vs VIC 3 Stats
Sun, 01 FebTimes shown AEDT
MCY 2vs WSW 1 Stats
Mon, 02 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI 3vs WEL 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs BRI 2 Stats
Sat, 07 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM 2vs ADE 1 Stats
VIC 3vs MCY 0 Stats
PER 1vs SYD 3 Stats
Sun, 08 FebTimes shown AEDT
WSW 2vs WEL 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs BRI 2 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL 0vs MCY 0 Stats
NEW 1vs WSW 1 Stats
SYD 3vs VIC 3 Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs PER 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
SYD 4vs CCM 2 Stats
ADE 2vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2vs NEW 2 Stats
MCY 0vs PER 0 Stats
Wed, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 1vs VIC 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
MCY 3vs ADE 1 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs CCM 0 Stats
WSW 3vs SYD 4 Stats
PER 2vs BRI 2 Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2vs WEL 3 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs SYD 1 Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2vs ADE 0 Stats
VIC 1vs PER 1 Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs MCY 0 Stats
BRI 1vs WSW 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Thu, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs CCM 1 Stats
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW 0vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY 4vs NEW 0 Stats
PER 1vs WEL 2 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 5vs BRI 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs MCY 1 Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs NEW 2 Stats
ADE 2vs VIC 2 Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs PER 1 Stats
BRI 1vs WEL 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2vs CCM 1 Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1vs BRI 0 Stats
PER 3vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL 0vs SYD 3 Stats
NEW 0vs ADE 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6vs CCM 1 Stats
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs MCY 1 Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs ADE 1 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL 0vs VIC 3 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
NEW 0vs PER 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
VIC 0vs NEW 1 Stats
PER 0vs SYD 3 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
ADE 2vs BRI 3 Stats
CCM 1vs WSW 0 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
MCY 0vs WEL 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL 3vs CCM 2 Stats
NEW 3vs SYD 4 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
WSW 2vs ADE 1 Stats
BRI 0vs VIC 1 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
PER 3vs MCY 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 2vs NEW 1 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
WSW 1vs PER 2 Stats
ADE 4vs MCY 1 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL 1vs SYD 2 Stats
VIC 3vs CCM 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 28
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 2vs BRI 1 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
WEL 0vs MCY 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 29
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
VIC 3vs MCY 0 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 4vs ADE 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 30
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
VIC 3vs SYD 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Hyundai A - 2014-15 - Ladder
Overall standings
Team P W L +/- Pts
Melbourne Victory 27 15 4 25 53
Sydney FC 27 14 5 17 50
Adelaide United 27 14 9 15 46
Wellington Phoenix 27 14 9 10 46
Melbourne City FC 27 9 10 -5 35
Brisbane Roar 27 10 13 -1 34
Perth Glory 27 14 5 10 50
Central Coast Mariners 27 5 14 -24 23
View all
 
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