Belfast Telegraph

Thank goodness those international friendlies are over

By Steven Beacom

Duller than Ant without Dec, Wise without Morecambe, Little without Large. You get the point.

If it hadn't been for the breathtaking brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo in the World Cup play-offs and the Irish League continuing to intrigue, football in the last fortnight would have been a complete write-off.

The Premier League's back this weekend and with Everton versus Liverpool, Cardiff against Man United and Man City facing Spurs, it should be anything but friendly.

There are no internationals until March, so club managers can focus on a title charge, avoiding relegation or like Aston Villa staying in mid-table.

At the top, we'll find out if Arsenal and Liverpool are genuine Premier League contenders, if the new bosses in Manchester, David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini, have what it takes to inspire their sides to glory and when Southampton will finally fall away, much as I'd like to see them challenge all season.

Most interesting of all though will be how everything works out at Chelsea.

The Blues fans were in dreamland when Jose Mourinho returned in the summer, but recent league performances have been the stuff of nightmares.

Roman Abramovich doesn't do patience. If Jose fails to get it right in the coming months, he'll be out quicker than it takes Chelsea supporters to say 'The Special One'.

Belfast Telegraph

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