Premiership Predictions IV - The Top Four

Well, by process of elimination in reviewing the previous three parts of this series, we know who the final four are, but in what order will they finish? Pardon me while I dig the Magic Eight Ball out of the drawer of kitsch for some final consultation. "Reply hazy, try again?" Damn you to the nine circles of hell, Magic Eight Ball! Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate!

The Final Four

1. Manchester United -
Ooh, real original smartypants! Whatever. They won the whole shebang in pretty impressive fashion last year despite some injuries down the stretch and they've only added to their stable in the summer. Also, they'll have a bit of an advantage over Chelsea in that they won't lose players to the African Cup of Nations. Similarly, they won't have as many new ingredients to blend in as the other top challenger, Liverpool, will boast. The big danger is going to be whether they're spread too thin across too many competitions, but based on what they accomplished with a smaller squad last season, I don't see this affecting them too terribly much.

2. Liverpool - The Reds have had a busy summer in the transfer market and Rafa will justifiably feel that he has his strongest squad yet. The question will be how long it takes them to come together as a team. Assuming they start strong, I don't see much of a gap appearing between the top three sides. Chelsea's losses for the African Cup of Nations may prove the difference between the two sides, as will how far each advances in their respective cup competitions.

3. Chelsea - It's hard to pick against them considering how well they've performed over the last few seasons, but they haven't added much so far, though that may change by the close of the transfer window. There are two major factors working against them as far as the league is concerned. The first is the aforementioned loss of players to the African Cup of Nations. Who will score with Kalou and Drogba away? Will Schevchenko still be around to try and fill the gap? The other factor will be that I think Mourinho will focus on the only silverware he's yet to land in his time at Chelsea - the Champions' League. And what effect will Mourinho's promise to play more attractive futbol have on their results? A conundrum wrapped in a puzzle, stuffed into an enigma, buried in a mystery, and set upon a quandary.

4. Tottenham - Spurs certainly have the quality in attack to put the goals on the board. The problem will be conceding, as I don't think their defense, particularly on the wings, is the strongest. That fact alone will leave them a ways off the top three, but this could be the year they finally break the top four. Problems could arise from the fact that they tend to be a bit soft when teams come at them hard and grind them down. But the potential is certainly there for Martin Jol's side to do great things. Champions' League qualification will have the double bonus of extra funds to build the young side and probably keeping their North London rivals Arsenal out of their traditional place in the top four.

So that's the way I see it. I'll make one final post in this series later today laying out my predicted Premier League table for mid-May 2008 in its glorious entirety. Look upon my works ye mighty, and despair!

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