Manchester United tipped to defend their Premier League title

LONDON - Club-by-club guide to prospects for the 20 Premier League clubs in the 2007-08 season:

LONDON - Club-by-club guide to prospects for the 20 Premier League clubs in the 2007-08 season:

(Last season's finishing position in parentheses)


The exit of iconic club captain Thierry Henry after eight glorious seasons has been only partly offset by the arrival of Croatia striker Emerson da Silva among others. Cesc Fabregas's rejection of Real Madrid's advances is a major plus for a team still in transition and probably not quite good enough to challenge for the title just yet.


Martin O'Neill begins his second season at Villa Park after a busy summer break which has seen the departure and arrival of over a dozen players. Former West Ham United and England Under-21 skipper Nigel Reo-Coker is the most expensive arrival at £8,5 million pounds and should boost the midfield considerably. A major improvement on last season can be expected.


Birmingham bounced straight back to the top flight after a season in the second tier and Steve Bruce is optimistic that the arrival of eight new players including Egyptian midfielder Hossam Ghaly from Tottenham Hotspur for £3million will help establish the team in the division.


Blackburn have plenty of forward options following the arrival of Paraguayan Roque Santa Cruz from Bayern Munich and Maceo Ritgers from NAC Breda. Blackburn also see the return of Andre Ooijer, Steven Reid, Jason Roberts and Robbie Savage who all suffered long-term injury layoffs last season.


A new era is under way at the Reebok with Sammy Lee succeeding Sam Allardyce as manager. Last season ended without a win in six matches but a Uefa Cup campaign beckons as, probably, does another season with a Uefa Cup place the goal.


With owner Roman Abramovich having made up with manager Jose Mourinho, what can possibly stop Chelsea reclaiming the title they lost to Manchester United last season? Manchester United, for a start. However, Florent Malouda has arrived from Olympique Lyon for £13,5 million with Steve Sidwell, Claudio Pizarro, Alex and Tal Ben Haim all adding to an already powerful squad that will challenge for honours again.

DERBY COUNTY (promoted)

Back after five years, coach Billy Davies has strengthened his team with the arrival of Robert Earnshaw from Norwich City, Tyrone Mears from West Ham, Claude Davis from Sheffield United and Andy Todd from Blackburn Rovers. They are among the favourites to go straight back down.


Phil Jagielka has arrived from Sheffield United and South African midfielder Steven Pienaar from Borussia Dortmund on a season-long loan, but much of the talk around the blue half of Liverpool during the close-season has been whether Everton will move from Goodison Park or not. Whether they can break into the top four or not hasn't been quite such a lively topic of conversation, however.

FULHAM (16th)

New manager Lawrie Sanchez has signed seven players since the end of last season including Aaron Hughes and Steven Davies from Aston Villa, David Healy from Leeds United and Diomansy Kamara from West Bromwich Albion. Much more transfer activity is expected over the next month as the club bids to prevent a repeat of last year's flirt with the drop.


Striker Fernando Torres was signed from Atletico Madrid for a club record fee of £20,2 million, one of 16 new faces by the end of July and Ryan Babel from Ajax Amsterdam is another exciting arrival. A new stadium has been unveiled too - but the Reds would love nothing more than to see the arrival of the Premier League trophy back at Anfield


Take one Thai billionaire owner, one Swedish manager and assorted Brazilian, Swiss and Italian players. Simmer lightly for a month or two and then see if the ingredients combine to create a winning dish. Knowing Manchester City, probably not.


Anderson, Nani and Owen Hargreaves have all arrived at Old Trafford while Carlos Tevez looks likely to join them. Kieran Richardson has gone to Sunderland while Gabriel Heinze could also be on his way. The arrivals join an already high-quality squad that Alex Ferguson, and the bookmakers, believe is good enough to retain the title.


The arrivals of Jeremie Aliadiere from Arsenal and Luke Young from Charlton Athletic have been offset by the departure of Mark Viduka to northeast rivals Newcastle United. Hard to see Middlesbrough doing anything more than making up the numbers again.


Newcastle United have not won a domestic honour since 1955 and new manager Sam Allardyce didn't exactly fill the fans with confidence when he said he needed five years to build a trophy-challenging side.


Portsmouth have spent nearly £25 million on new players but defender Sol Campbell has criticised the club for a lack of ambition. But Portsmouth were never out of the top six places until the start of February last season and have the potential to challenge for a Uefa Cup place again.

READING (8th) Their first-ever season in the top flight ended with a highly respectable eighth-place finish and plaudits for their positive approach. They will miss Sidwell and will almost certainly find it tougher at the top second time around.

SUNDERLAND (promoted)

Manager Roy Keane performed a minor miracle last season, taking over after the team had lost their four opening games and guiding them to the second division title. Sunderland went down two years ago winning just three of their 38 matches but next season is unlikely to be as bad.


Spurs have finished fifth for the last two seasons and Martin Jol has boosted his side this summer in an attempt to break into the top four for the first time since 1990. The arrival of striker Darren Bent for a club record fee of £16,5 million from Charlton should boost an already formidable attack but Spurs need a creative midfielder to help exploit the talent up front.

WEST HAM UNITED (15th) Whether West Ham should still be in the Premier League or not is a moot point now, but they need to show a vast improvement on last season's form if they are not to be involved in another relegation battle.

WIGAN ATHLETIC (17th) Chris Hutchings has replaced Paul Jewell as manager and brought in some experienced players like Jason Koumas, Antoine Sibierski and former Chelsea defender Mario Melchiot. But another battle for survival is probably looming. - Reuters