The Premier League season is nearly here and over the next few days I will give my predictions ahead of the new campaign. First up, let’s looks at the sides who I think are set for a relegation scrap this season.
20. Huddersfield Town
Championship Play-off winners Huddersfield enjoyed an impressive season to secure their first promotion to the Premier League, but it will be a tough challenge for their young and inexperienced squad to make the jump up to the top flight.
Their young stars dazzled last season with a number of impressive displays over the season, including Player of the Season Aaron Mooy, who has signed a permanent deal with the Terriers after a terrific loan spell.
I like what former Borussia Dortmund number two David Wagner has done with the club and now we will see what the German is really made of, as he looks to get even more out of his players and cause a few upsets this season.
They are a hard-working, determined side but sometimes that is not enough in the Premier League. Despite splashing the cash over the summer, the squad features minimal Premier League experienced players and that’s I why it think they will struggle.
I do think the Terriers will definitely give a good account of themselves but with the squad in its current shape, I just don’t think the have the quality of the other relegation candidates to secure a second season in the top-flight.
19. Swansea City
Swansea put in some impressive displays towards the end of the season to survive from the brink of relegation, but with much talk in South Wales over the future of star man Gylfi Sigudsson, I don’t think the Swans can afford to lose him.
The Icelandic international is a key part of the Swansea team having scored nine goals and bagged 13 assists and with Everton set to splash the cash to sign Sigurdsson that would be a real loss for Paul Clement’s side.
Fernando Llorente was also a key man for them last season with the former Juventus striker scoring 15 times last season, but even his future is still up in the air with champions Chelsea rumoured to be interested.
I definitely think Sigurdsson will be on the move and while I do reckon they will hang onto Llorente, he will miss Sigurdsson’s influence behind him in the number ten role to make the same impact as his first season in England.
I do think Paul Clement needs to bring in a few new faces, particularly needing improvement in defence because right now, I think the Swans could be heading back to the Championship after seven seasons in the Premier League.
18. Brighton and Hove Albion
After coming close for the past few seasons, Brighton finally achieved promotion to the Premier League for the first time back in April and I reckon the Seagulls will give it a right go in their first season back in the top-flight since 1983.
Chris Hughton deserves a lot more credit than he gets as a manager, as he guided Brighton to the Premier League after an impressive season and the former Irish international also knows the Premier League very well having also managed Newcastle and Norwich at this level.
Defender Lewis Dunk will be one to keep an eye on over the next ten months as he looks to make the next step up in his career, while Glenn Murray will be hoping to lead the way up front with his 20 last season helping them to second place in the Championship.
Player of the season Anthony Knockaert has a point to prove having not really having the chance to shine in the top-flight for Leicester a couple of seasons ago, as he scored 15 times last year to become the Championship player of the year.
They need a couple of more quality players to make sure of safety Premier League this season. It will a close fight down the bottom end of the table, but I think the Seagulls will be heading down despite putting up a good fight.
Surprise, surprise, it’s been all change at Vicarage Road this season with new signings and yet another new manager in the form of ex-Hull boss Marco Silva.
I like what Silva did at Hull in the second of last season but despite a number of memorable performances, it still wasn’t enough for the Tigers to survive. Many clubs sought to bring in Silva as their manager but the 40-year-old decided to opt for the Hornets.
They have a couple of decent players in the squad such as right-back Daryl Janmaat and new signing Will Hughes, but I think they need a few more signings to be guaranteed from not falling into a relegation dogfight.
After Odion Ighalo moved to China back in January and captain Troy Deeney falling out of favour, fans will hope that record signing Andre Gray to score the goals to help them to safety.
I predicted them to go down last season and they proved me wrong. I do think they will be involved in a fight for survival but with a passionate manager in Silva, I reckon they will just beat the drop.
Sean Dyche has done a brilliant job over the past few seasons with Burnley and deserves the plaudits coming his way. He will be hoping to keep on improving to bag the Clarets a third season in the top-flight.
I have been very impressed by Burnley will a number of impressive victories at turf Moor, but their away form last season was a big worry. It will all be about improving those performances on the road this season.
Dyche has added some experienced players to his squad over the summer bringing in Stoke pair Jon Walters and Phil Bardsley, but a big whole has been left in their defence after the departure of Michael Keane to Everton.
The Clarets did have some calamitous moments at the back last season and with Keane gone, Dyche will be hoping for Ben Mee to step up in his absence. However, I do think Dyche needs to bring in another strong defender or two to fill the void.
Despite defensive worries, I do think Burnley have enough about them to stay up this season. They have a few decent choices to start up front and I reckon Republic of Ireland winger Robbie Brady could have a very good season in the Burnley jersey.
15. Newcastle United
Newcastle bounced right back to the Premier League by winning the Championship title last season and while I think they are the best equipped of the promoted sides, I think they will need to keep an eye over their shoulder for the season ahead.
I think the Magpies look in good shape ahead of the new season with Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey and Mohammed Diame strong choices in midfield with Premier League experience.
Jamal Lascelles was an important player in defence for Rafa Benitez’s side last season and he will definitely be one to keep an eye over the next few months to see if he can make the jump up to the top-flight.
While their squad is in good shape, I think Newcastle could do with a new front man to keep them away from the drop zone. Dwight Gayle fired 23 goals to help them to promotion, but the ex-Crystal Palace man has struggled in the Premier League before.
While he will be out to prove a point, Newcastle will need more firepower up front. Even if they don’t get a new striker in, I think the current Magpies squad is just about good enough to beat the drop this season.
Come back to Balls and Brawls tomorrow for my picks on who will finish in a safe mid-table position and which sides will be pushing for a top ten finish this season.