David Healy: Chelsea will win the title...and City won’t make the top four
I have been writing this column in the Belfast Telegraph for three years, giving my title predictions at the start of each season.
So far, I have the perfect record having backed Manchester United to win the Premier League in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Given my time at the club and my admiration for Sir Alex Ferguson, I would love to be able to say that United will win it again, but this time around I don’t believe it will happen.
United aren’t just going for four in a row, they are going for title number 19 which would take them ahead of Liverpool, so you just know that Sir Alex will be desperate to be top dog more than ever.
It’s certain sparks will fly between United and Liverpool just as they did last season, and while Rafael Benitez’s side will challenge I don’t see them winning it either.
My tip this season is Chelsea.
Unlike United and Liverpool, they have retained all of their key players.
England captain John Terry is still at the Bridge despite Manchester City’s summer-long pursuit of him, Didier Drogba has signed a new contract and Nicolas Anelka is looking settled which hasn’t always been the case in his career.
Those three plus Frank Lampard and Michael Essien are massive for Chelsea and although I haven’t always been a fan of Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou, if they start the season the way they finished the last one, they will have a major say in Chelsea’s success.
They have world class players all over the place and there is also the possibility that Roman Abramovich will bring in a superstar or two before the season starts next week.
He’s already brought in Carlo Ancelotti as manager and I believe that’s a wise choice.
Ancelotti will be shrewd enough to know that his team were unlucky last season not to reach the Champions League final, and even though I heard many say it was a poor campaign, they did win the FA Cup and finished really strongly under Guus Hiddink, after the early season managerial difficulties had been sorted out.
There is a winning mentality at the Bridge and come May I fancy them to be celebrating the title.
I just feel with United losing Cristiano Ronaldo and to a lesser extent Carlos Tevez, that they have lost a lot of goals.
Ronaldo was so important to United. They are really going to miss him.
And Liverpool will miss Xabi Alonso. They’ll be up there, as will Arsenal, but for me Chelsea will pip United.
Manchester City have been spending money like it’s going out of fashion to try and break into the top four, but my feeling is that it will take time for all their new players to gel and the best they can hope for is fifth.
Whether that will keep the City owners happy with Mark Hughes, only time will tell.
I’ll fight for my place
There has been quite a bit of transfer activity at Sunderland over the summer.
With the new manager Steve Bruce coming in, that was to be expected.
Obviously the gaffer wants to strengthen the squad and make sure we aren’t fighting relegation like last season.
Forwards Darren Bent and Frasier Campbell are two of the new signings. We also have Kenwyne Jones, myself and a few other strikers at the club so there is plenty of competition in that department.
I’d like to say here and now that I am willing to stay and fight for my place at the club.
I have been training hard in the summer and playing in pre-season games and come the start of the campaign my aim is to be at peak fitness for the manager if he calls on me to play, be that from the start or coming off the bench.
I’m determined to do well for this club and believe I have a lot to offer Sunderland.
Until I’m told that I’m no longer part of the manager’s plans that will remain the case.
I have a feeling this is going to be a big season for Sunderland and I want to be involved in that and play my part for the football club.
Blues could get Spiked
It's going to be strange seeing the Irish League start tomorrow without Glenn Ferguson playing for Linfield.
I was stunned and, being a Linfield fan, have to say disappointed that he was released by manager David Jeffrey.
I'm sure though Lisburn Distillery supporters couldn't believe their luck when he joined them.
“Spike” returned to Windsor for his testimonial last weekend.
Normally in games like that players score soft penalties but true to form my old mate scored a cracker. It was typical of the man.
Life must go on for the Blues though and they'll be gunning to win the title back from Glentoran.
However, I can't help thinking that Spike might come back and haunt them this season.