Part three of Groan’s predictions for the season ahead sees us look at the teams challenging for the UEFA Cup slots:
10. Wigan (Last season: 14th)
When Wigan were first promoted to the Premiership, they caught everyone by surprise, before slipping back down towards the drop zone again last season. This year, with an exciting new striker in Zaki (if only on loan), they look to have plenty of goals in them. If Steve Bruce can keep them organised, they can reach midtable safety quite comfortably, and perhaps break into the top ten.
9. Middlesbrough (Last season: 13th)
Gareth Southgate looked out of his depth when he first moved into management, but he is looking more impressive by the day, and Boro seemed to be turning a corner late last season. Alves looks like he has plenty of goals in him, and I expect them to consolidate this time around. Europe might be a step too far, but they won’t be far off.
8. Everton (Last season: 5th)
It has been a slow summer for Everton, who haven’t bought anyone as yet. This is leading many to predict a massive slip for them, but with the likes of Blackburn and Man City in turmoil, their stability might just see them through. Moyes is a canny manager, and they haven’t lost the abilities that took them to fifth last season.
7. Tottenham (Last season: 11th)
Its that time of year again. Whenever August signals the start of the new season, Spurs are tipped to finally break into the top four. Despite being thirty points away last season, they are many who think this is their year. Modric, Bentley and dos Santos add creativity to the midfield, but the loss of Keane and possibly Berbatov offsets that completely. It is incredible that their main problem is in defence, but manager after manager refuses to fix it. They’ll win some big matches, but concede too many to qualify for Europe through the league.
6. Portsmouth (Last season: 8th)
Harry Redknapp is extremely underrated. Having taken a side from relegation certainties to top half finishers in a few short years is good work in itself, but adding the FA Cup last season was the icing on the cake. With Peter Crouch joining Defoe up front, they’ll be more potent than ever before, and I see no reason why they can’t keep making giant strides forwards. Next season their European qualification might be achieved via their league placing.