Belfast Telegraph

Birmingham keeper Taylor predicts Premier League thriller

Maik Taylor believes it will be one of the most exciting Premier League title races ever.

The Northern Ireland and Birmingham City keeper is convinced champions Chelsea and Manchester United won’t get it all their own way.

“This season’s Premier League is more difficult to call than ever before,” he said.

“Chelsea and Manchester United will be the two favourites but Manchester City will be stronger than last year, Arsenal will also be strong, while Spurs and Liverpool will be in the equation too.

“Liverpool will find it the most difficult out of those six teams. Roy Hodgson has a big job on his hands.

“The champions could certainly come from outside of Manchester United and Chelsea, possibly Man City. Overall it will be tighter than usual.”

Taylor had to play second fiddle to Joe Hart at Birmingham last season and will have to battle it out this time around with Ben Foster, who has arrived from Manchester United.

“I imagine Foster will start the season as first choice so it will be up to me to push him and hopefully get in and get a few games,” said Taylor.

“If he produces the level of performance of which he is capable — similar to Hart last season — it’s going to make things extremely difficult for me. If I am not getting many games at Birmingham it’s going to be difficult with Northern Ireland but I am up for the challenge.

“If I am not producing the goods and someone is there who’s playing well regularly for their club then I’m sure Nigel Worthington would make the change,” said Taylor, who was quick to warn his young rivals that he intends being the Northern Ireland number one for a long time yet.

“I am still enjoying the game and I love being involved with Northern Ireland so retirement is a long way off yet.

“So hopefully I will keep performing at the level I know I can and help Northern Ireland qualify for Euro 2012.”

Taylor has been greatly encouraged by the World Cup performances of Slovakia and Slovenia, who qualified for South Africa via Northern Ireland’s group.

“Missing out on qualification was difficult to take but Slovenia went on and did well in England’s group and were unlucky not to qualify. We would have come through that group no problem!” he laughed.

“Slovakia qualified from our group — ahead of Poland and the Czech Republic who were favourites — and gave a good account of themselves so that should give us encouragement that we can do likewise. It gives us a boost going into the qualifiers.”

Northern Ireland are grouped with Italy, who made an early World Cup exit, in the upcoming campaign.

“As world champions, I expected Italy to do much better. But that won’t make things any easier for us having to face them,” said Taylor.

“I am sure they will make changes for the Euro qualifiers but they are such a power in world football that they will have ready-made top class replacements coming through.

“If anything it will make it more difficult because they will have younger, hungrier players coming in,” said Taylor, who backed Rob Green to bounce back from his World Cup howler and also called for goal-line technology to be introduced following the Frank Lampard incident.

He added: “I feel for Rob Green because I’ve made mistakes myself and there’s nothing you can do about it.

“The pitch is a lonely place when something like that happens but you just have to try and bounce back and I’m sure Rob will do that because he’s a top keeper and he will be stronger for it.”

Taylor continued: “I’m absolutely in favour of goal-line technology. I’m convinced after the Frank Lampard incident things will change now.

“I’m sure FIFA are a bit embarrassed by it.

“I think this is the first time Sepp Blatter has actually came out and said it needs to be reviewed.

“But for whatever reason it wasn’t a good World Cup for England.

“The World Cup looks wide open but I fancy Argentina. They take teams on, try to score goals and win games in style.

“Their game with Germany should be a cracker.”

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