Good day guys and welcome to the Division 1 preview for Season 4. The big question is can anyone stop Barcelona from making it 3 titles in a row. Bayern Munich seem to be the best bet to do this and if they had won the two head to head games against Barcelona instead of losing them then we would be talking about Bayern Munich trying to defend their title. These two teams were streets ahead of everyone else and for the other teams it seems to be a case of trying to close the gap on the big two. The last two seasons have seen Real Madrid and Juventus filling the 3rd and 4th places and one of these two teams will have the best chance of splitting the big two. After these four it is all to play for with no team standing out as possible title challengers. We also welcome Borussia Monchengladbach and Zenit St Petersburg into Division 1 for the first time. Will they be equipped to survive their first season in the big time? The other two promoted teams Tottenham Hotspur and AC Milan have been over the course before and will know what is required and with the success of last season’s promoted teams they will feel they can do just as well.
So let’s have a look at each team and what I think their chances are next season. Last season I picked four teams and their positions correctly with another seven either one or two places away. This means 55% were either correct or very close to being correct. Of course there were also a few that were way out so I guess the teams predicted to finish in the top 10 will hope they are one of the teams I predict well and the bottom 10 will hope I am way out with their prediction. Let’s get on with it and remember that this is only for fun and no one should be offended at their predicted finish.
THE SEASON 4 PREVIEW:
MANAGER: STEPHEN BEDDOWS
LAST SEASON: 2nd (Division 2)
STADIUM: SAN SIRO
KEY PLAYER: Andrea BARZAGLI – The veteran defender is going to be vital for his experience as AC Milan find themselves under a lot of pressure from the top teams in the division.
BEST SEASON: 10th (Season 1)
AC Milan are back in the big time at the first attempt thanks to a well publicised season that seen them finish runners up to Tottenham in Division 2. How will they fare? I think it is going to be a tough season for Balotelli FC with the squad looking weak even with the addition of Leighton Baines to add experience to the back four. Balotelli will score goals but if he should pick up an injury that keeps him out for 7 or 8 games then they could be in trouble. Will be difficult but I feel they can just scrape by and ill be a Division 1 club next season.
STEPHEN BEDDOWS: We expect to be in a tough fight to stay up so anything higher than 15th would be a big achievement.
STEPHEN’S TITLE TIP: JUVENTUS
PREDICTED FINISH: 16th
OPENING FIXTURE: FC SCHALKE (A)
MANAGER: MICHAEL BOWES
LAST SEASON: 8th
STADIUM: EMIRATES STADIUM
KEY PLAYER: Nemanja MATIC – The signing from Borussia Dortmund will be expected to run the midfield and most of Arsenal’s attacks should begin with him. If he clicks then so will Arsenal.
BEST SEASON: 8th (Season 1, Season 2, Season 3)
Three 8th places in 3 seasons should make Arsenal the easiest team to predict out of them all but boss Michael Bowes seems to be determined that this will be the season that Arsenal climb the table. Arsenal have spent big over the close season with players like Lacazette, Son, Thiago, Kondogbia and Matic all arriving at the club. These signings, if they can click straight away, could be the difference makers and I have to believe that this can be the season that Arsenal start to fulfil their potential.
MICHAEL BOWES: Our ambition this season will be as it always is and that is to improve our final league position and/or our points total. We will also hope to improve in the cups and get one step further and reach a Final. We, of course, will be wanting to improve the squad as the season goes on.
MICHAEL’S TITLE TIP: BAYERN MUNICH
PREDICTED FINISH: 5th
OPENING FIXTURE: BARCELONA (H)
MANAGER: THE DOCTOR
LAST SEASON: 16th
STADIUM: VICENTE CALDERON
KEY PLAYER: Jan OBLAK – Oblak is, if not already, going to be one of the top goalkeepers in the world and he is going to be vital if Atletico are to avoid another struggling season.
BEST SEASON: 6th (Season 1)
Last season was tough for Atletico Madrid but they managed to do enough to retain their 1st Division status. Atletico are no longer a team to fear and with no activity in the transfer market, this could be another struggling season for the Spanish club. No matter how hard I tried to find reasons for them to have a decent season, I couldn’t find any and come the end of the campaign I feel that Atletico will be on the way down to Division 2
THE DOCTOR: Our aim next season is not to have to sell anybody unless an amazing deal comes along that we cannot refuse. We intend to allow this team to grow together and, over time, can achieve greatness which will start this season with our first major trophy.
THE DOCTOR’S TITLE TIP: ATLETICO MADRID
PREDICTED FINISH: 17th
OPENING FIXTURE: SS LAZIO (A)
The Doctor was tested for illegal substances after his comments. The results of this test will not be revealed.
MANAGER: SCOTT McKENZIE
LAST SEASON: CHAMPIONS
STADIUM: CAMP NOU
KEY PLAYER: Lionel MESSI – This one is not rocket science. 82 goals in the 97 games he has played over the three seasons so far shows how important he is to the two times title winners.
BEST SEASON: CHAMPIONS (Season 2, Season 3)
Barcelona retained the title with a record 105 points, a total that may never be bettered. Can they make it 3 in a row? With little activity in the transfer market, Scott seems to be happy with his lot with improving the youth side of the team being the focus this season. Bayern Munich look to be the only team up to the task of challenging them for the title but I think that although they won’t achieve as many points as last season, Barcelona will still be too strong for them.
SCOTT McKENZIE: Our ambition is to keep hold of our title and to try and reach a cup final. We also want to try and improve our youth squad to try and give us a great all round squad.
SCOTT’S TITLE TIP: BARCELONA/BAYERN MUNICH (Scott couldn’t split them)
PREDICTED FINISH: CHAMPIONS
OPENING FIXTURE: ARSENAL (A)
MANAGER: GURSIMRAM BRAR
LAST SEASON: 2nd
STADIUM: ALLIANZ ARENA
KEY PLAYER: Andres INIESTA – Bayern are packed with so much talent but Iniesta is not contributing enough from midfield. If he can score as many goals as he should then Bayern could take the title.
BEST SEASON: 2nd (Season 2, Season 3)
Only the two head-to-head defeats to Barcelona prevented Bayern from becoming champions in Season 3 so they will be determined to fix that this season. They are being heavily tipped to go one better than last seasons runners-up place but they have to make sure that they don’t put so much effort into beating Barcelona that they slip up in other areas. Sadio Mane has been added to the squad to give them another option up front but in the end I think it looks like another second place for Gursimran and his German outfit
GURSIMRAN BRAR: Our ambition this season is to win the league and cup double.
GURSIMRAN’S TITLE TIP: BAYERN MUNICH
PREDICTED FINISH: 2nd
OPENING FIXTURE: ZENIT ST PETERSBURG (A)
MANAGER: LEE REYNOLDS
LAST SEASON: 6th
STADIUM: SIGNAL IDUNA PARK
KEY PLAYER: Miralem PJANIC – The new signing from Chelsea has a chance to make a big impression and linking up with Modric could make this a dream central midfield.
BEST SEASON: 6th (Season 3)
Last season Lee wanted to make sure Dortmund didn’t become known as a yo-yo team and he managed that with plenty to spare, finishing 7th. Dortmund are an entertaining attacking team and if the defence could improve then they could become a regular top 6 side. Maybe surprisingly, Dortmund did not bring anyone in that could strengthen the back line but instead brought in Pjanic and Daniel Sturridge. While the strength of the midfield should be enough to keep them in the top half of the table, the defence may mean they cannot repeat a top 6 place
LEE REYNOLDS: This season we want to repeat the qualification of a European competition
LEE’S TITLE TIP: BAYERN MUNICH
PREDICTED FINISH: 7th
OPENING FIXTURE: JUVENTUS (H)
MANAGER: ALEKS POLONCZYK
LAST SEASON: 3rd (Division 2)
KEY PLAYER: Mario MANDZUKIC – The Croatian striker is going to be the man that Borussia depend on to get them the goals that could keep them up this season.
BEST SEASON: N/A (First season in Division 1)
Borussia Monchengladbach compete in Division 1 for the first time and it is sure to be an exciting journey for the club’s fans. Manager Aleks Polonczyk has done an amazing job with the German outfit and he has shown loyalty to the squad that got them here by not adding any players during the close season. Unfortunately, the squad looks very weak and as much as I admire Aleks managerial skills, I think this might be too big a mountain that even he can climb. I think the club and fans will enjoy the occasion but at the end of the season I expect Monchengladbach to be sliding back to Division 2
ALEKS POLONCZYK: Our ambition this season is to finish above Mr Beddows’ AC Milan clowns.
ALEKS’S TITLE TIP: BARCELONA
PREDICTED FINISH: 19th
OPENING FIXTURE: TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (A)
MANAGER: JAMES McKENZIE
LAST SEASON: 13th
STADIUM: STAMFORD BRIDGE
KEY PLAYER: Marco REUS – Reus arrived from Borussia Dortmund last week and should flit between attacking midfield and striker roles. Could be the one that takes some weight of Lewandowski and helps Chelsea to a better season
BEST SEASON: 7th (Season 2)
Last season Chelsea underachieved and no one knew it more than a disappointed James McKenzie. The 13th place finish was not good enough for the manager, the players, the fans and the owner so this season could be a make or break. Once again Chelsea have made several changes to the playing staff with Marco Reus being the biggest name. They have also made good investments in Thorgan Hazard and Marco Asensio. In spite of all this I fear the pressure to do well could be too much for the team and I could be a long season for the Stamford Bridge club. For me, they will finish nearer the bottom than the top without being in danger of relegation. I hope I am proved wrong.
JAMES McKENZIE: Chelsea will be aiming for a Top 4 place as we think that Bayern won’t be able to keep up the pace this time and Real Madrid are weaker.
JAMES’S TITLE TIP: BARCELONA
PREDICTED FINISH: 15th
OPENING FIXTURE: MANCHESTER CITY (A)
MANAGER: ANDRE GUERRA
LAST SEASON: 10th
STADIUM: ESTADIO DO DRAGAO
KEY PLAYER: Hector HERRERA – Struggled last season and only played half of the games, producing just one goal and no assists but if he can produce the form he is capable of then he could be the spark Porto need.
BEST SEASON: 5th (Season 2)
After a superb debut season in the top flight, it was always going to be tougher in Season 3 and that was how it turned out as Porto struggled near the bottom in the first half of the campaign. Boss Andre Guerra, however, turned the team round and they rediscovered their good form and climbed the table, managing another top 10 finish. Lucas Lima has been added to the squad for Season 4 and Porto will again be a hard team to beat. A more steady season is likely and it will be a mid-table finish for the Portuguese club.
ANDRE GUERRA: Our ambition is to finish in the Top 4, possibly at the expense of Real Madrid or Juventus, and qualify for the Champions Cup, but that is aiming extremely high. I will be happy if we finish Top 8.
ANDRE’S TITLE TIP: BARCELONA
PREDICTED FINISH: 11th
OPENING FIXTURE: SSC NAPOLI (H)
MANAGER: SAMEER ARSHAD
LAST SEASON: 15th
STADIUM: VELTINS ARENA
KEY PLAYER: Joao MIRANDA – Will be very important in a defence that lacks depth. Has to use all his experience in organising the players around him and stay clear of injury.
BEST SEASON: 15th (Season 3)
After a fine start to the season, Schalke dropped like a stone and they ended up in a relegation battle. At the end they picked up some valuable wins and managed to finish 15th and escape the drop. This season boss Sameer Arshad has only added veteran Tomas Rosicky to the squad and for me that spells trouble. Cavani and Tevez up front are Schalke’s best hope of picking up enough wins to stay out of trouble but the distinct lack of depth throughout the team means that any injuries or suspensions will hurt and I don’t think they are going to survive this season
SAMEER ARSHAD: Our aim for this season is to try and qualify for a European competition and to try and have a good run in one of the domestic cup competitions.
SAMEER’S TITLE TIP: REAL MADRID
PREDICTED FINISH: 18th
OPENING FIXTURE: AC MILAN (H)
LAST SEASON: 4th
STADIUM: JUVENTUS STADIUM
KEY PLAYER: Paul POGBA – His work in linking the defence to the attack will be vital if Juventus are to break into the top 3. A few more goals would also make a difference.
BEST SEASON: 4th (Season 2, Season 3)
Juventus finished 4th for the second season in a row but they had to depend on a strong finish to attain that. For this season, a top 4 place might not be enough for the owner and directors of the club and they will be looking for a stronger challenge from DP and his boys. Nathanial Clyne has been brought in to strengthen the options at full back but it will take more than him for Juve to be challenging for the title. Yet another 4th place looks likely without closing the gap to the teams above them.
DP91: For season 4 we have to look at improving on our last two seasons of finishing 4th and that, of course, is finishing in the Top 3. Despite the imminent arrival of Aubameyang to improve the forward line I don’t believe we’ll have enough about us to challenge for the title just yet due to still having a number youngsters whom need time to improve & therefore not having the rounded squad to compete week in week out.
DP91’S TITLE TIP: BAYERN MUNICH
PREDICTED FINISH: 4th
OPENING FIXTURE: BORUSSIA DORTMUND (A)
MANAGER: GORDON ‘GINO’ KINNEAR
LAST SEASON: 5th
KEY PLAYER: Diego COSTA – Liverpool will look to him to provide the goals that can keep them up in the top 6. Has to show more than he did at the end of last season.
BEST SEASON: 5th (Season 3)
Liverpool exceeded all expectations a they finished 5th after only escaping relegation on the last day of the season before. The improvement in defence was the main reason for this and boss Kinnear will be looking to the defence to stay firm. The addition of Nastasic should further strengthen the back line but Mascherano, Juanfran and Luis are not getting any younger and injuries may play a part this season. Nicolai Muller has been brought in to add to the depth up front but with the extra Champions Cup games, Liverpool will struggle to repeat last years fifth place.
GORDON KINNEAR: We totally surpassed our hopes for last season by finishing 5th and to achieve that again might be asking a bit much but Top 10 is definitely very possible and if we fail to finish in the Top 10 then I would have to say we have failed. A good cup run would be welcome as we have never made an impact in any of the cups. It’s our first season in Europe and to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions Cup would satisfy our ambition.
GORDON’S TITLE TIP: BARCELONA
PREDICTED FINISH: 8th
OPENING FIXTURE: VALENCIA (A)
MANAGER: WILL TRAFFORD
LAST SEASON: 14th
STADIUM: ETIHAD STADIUM
KEY PLAYER: Pierre-Emerick AUBAMEYANG – First full season for City and he can score the goals that City will need to avoid the relegation threat of last season.
BEST SEASON: 11th (Season 1)
At one stage of the season, Manchester City looked certain to be relegated but Will Trafford turned things around and made a great escape, finally finishing 14th. For Season 4 Will has signed Juan Jesus and William Carvalho to strengthen the squad and with confidence still high, City can make a much better impression in Season 4 and I wouldn’t be surprised if a European place is the reward for all the hard work that has went into making City a better team.
WILL TRAFFORD: We aim to cement our place within the division. In all honesty, relegation may have been better for us with the fundamental changes and redevelopment that the squad requires. However, after the greatest comeback in City’s history we will look to carry the form on and finish in the Top 10
WILL’S TITLE TIP: BAYERN MUNICH
PREDICTED FINISH: 9th
OPENING FIXTURE: CHELSEA (H)
MANAGER: GARY NAYLOR
LAST SEASON: 11th
STADIUM: PARC DES PRINCES
KEY PLAYER: Zlatan IBRAHIMOVIC – When is Zlatan not the key player? Even at 35yo he will be the one that every opposition team worry about.
BEST SEASON: 11th (Season 3)
PSG’s immediate return to Division 1 went reasonably well although they tapered off towards the end of the season and just failed to make the top 10. 11th was still good enough to earn a place in the Euro Shield and it will be interesting to see how they balance the two. The Ibrahimovic/Benzema strike force is one of the best in the league but the depth is non-existent. Surprisingly PSG have yet to add to the squad and unless they do so then they may struggle. They are a hard side to predict for the season ahead but lower mid table wont be far away.
GARY NAYLOR: Our ambition is to finish in the Top 4. It’s a very tough league but it’s time we started competing.
GARY’S TITLE TIP: BARCELONA
PREDICTED FINISH: 14th
OPENING FIXTURE: REAL MADRID (H)
MANAGER: ROY KEANE
LAST SEASON: 3rd
STADIUM: SANTIAGO BERNABEU
KEY PLAYER: Thomas MULLER – 28 goals in 33 games says it all and he will need to do it all again if Real want to challenge for the title.
BEST SEASON: 2nd (Season 1)
Although Real Madrid finished 3rd last season, they were a whole 24 points behind Bayern Munich in 2nd. Real went through a poor patch that seen them drop a lot of points and if they can avoid the same sort of spell then they could get a lot closer to the top two. The addition of Joshua Kimmich is a great move by Roy Keane but although I think that Real can get a lot closer to the clubs above them, I doubt that they can overcome a 24 point difference.
ROY KEANE: We want to win back our World Club Championship trophy and win that Division 1 title. We went for the cups last season and we reached 4 finals although we only won 2 of them. We sacrificed league games before any cup ties but we know where we went wrong. It will be a lot tighter this season, I can promise you that.
ROY’S TITLE TIP: REAL MADRID
PREDICTED FINISH: 3rd
OPENING FIXTURE: PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN (A)
MANAGER: FRED DODGER
LAST SEASON: 9th
STADIUM: STADIO OLIMPICO
KEY PLAYER: Lucas BIGLIA – Can influence the players around him to give their all and supply the strikers as Lazio try and show last season was no fluke
BEST SEASON: 9th (Season 3)
SS Lazio had a fantastic debut season in Division 1. Fred Dodger worked miracles with one of the weakest squads in the league and I doubt anyone would have predicted Lazio’s 9th place finish. Fred has added four players to his first team squad including Roncaglia and Rotan but it still looks one of the weakest on paper. Fred is going to have to work his magic again and while I doubt he can have the same success, I doubt Lazio will ever be in bother.
FRED DODGER: It’s hard for us to set an aim but I would like to think that we can make it into Europe again via the league
FRED’S TITLE TIP: REAL MADRID
PREDICTED FINISH: 13th
OPENING FIXTURE: ATLETICO MADRID (H)
MANAGER: ROB RYAN
LAST SEASON: 7th
STADIUM: STADIO SAN PAOLO
KEY PLAYER: Gonzalo HIGUAIN – Will want to improve on his 10 goals from last season and will look to Hamsik to provide the ammunition
BEST SEASON: 7th (Season 3)
Napoli surprised a lot of people, myself included, with a season that seen them finish 7th and win the World Club Championship. Rob Ryan has done a fantastic job with the players at his disposal and Napoli will now be getting the respect they deserve. Rob has added Jose Fonte and Aleksander Kolorov to strengthen the defence and veteran Sergio Garcia to back up the strikers. There is no reason that Rob’s style of management won’t continue to be successful and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another cup in the trophy cabinet. For the league I see continued improvement and a top 6 finish.
ROB RYAN: Napoli will be hoping to build on last season’s 7th place finish and World Club Cup victory. Whereas qualifying for a European competition is now a must (finishing 5th – 10th place) we are expecting a sustained campaign and to push for a Top 4 place. Last year’s cup runs, excluding the WCC, were somewhat of a disappointment so reaching the quarter finals across the board should be a minimum requirement for these also. With one eye on the future we also hope to improve our youth set up and challenge to the last 8 in the Youth Cup.
ROB’S TITLE TIP: BARCELONA
PREDICTED FINISH: 6th
OPENING FIXTURE: FC PORTO (A)
MANAGER: DAVID THE FOX PIERO
LAST SEASON: 7th
STADIUM: WHITE HART LANE
KEY PLAYER: Hugo LLORIS – The French goalkeeper will have to be at the top of his game to ensure Tottenham stay clear of the relegation fight.
BEST SEASON: 19th (Season 1)
Tottenham Hotspur returned to Division 1 after two seasons absence by winning a tight race for the 2nd Division title. They look to have the players in place already that can keep their Division 1 status and the return of Danny Rose from AC Milan further strengthens the team. Of the four promoted teams, Tottenham seem to have the strongest squad and this will be reflected in their league campaign. A mid-table finish is likely although don’t be surprised to see them up with the leading sides early on.
DAVID THE FOX PIERO: Our ambition is an obvious one and that is not to get relegated.
DAVID’S TITLE TIP: REAL MADRID
PREDICTED FINISH: 12th
OPENING FIXTURE: BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH (H)
MANAGER: DAVID SENIOR
LAST SEASON: 12th
KEY PLAYER: Alvaro MORATA – Will provide his fair share of assists and goals as Valencia try for a top ten finish. Best all round player in the team.
BEST SEASON: 7th (Season 1)
Valencia seem destined to be a mid-table team forever although last season they would have been disappointed at failing to secure a top ten place after it had looked likely halfway through the season. Boss David Senior has not made many waves in the transfer market with only Chris Kramer being added to the first team squad. This could mean that David is giving his squad a vote of confidence and is happy that they can make an impact. I think Valencia can scrape into the top 10 this season and also have a good chance of retaining the Euro Shield.
DAVID SENIOR: Another season of consolidation in the league is the aim at Valencia with avoiding a relegation fight the primary goal. Beyond that, finishing higher than we did last season combined with a decent run in one or both of the cup competitions are secondary expectations. Winning last season’s Euro Shield was a welcome bonus and reaching the latter stages again this time around should be an achievable ambition.
DAVID’S TITLE TIP: BARCELONA
PREDICTED FINISH: 10th
OPENING FIXTURE: LIVERPOOL (H)
MANAGER: LIBAAN HASSAN
LAST SEASON: 7th (Division 2, play off winners)
KEY PLAYER: Ezequiel GARAY – Will be vital in the heart of a defence that will see plenty of action in Season 4. Will have to win a huge percentage of cross balls into the Zenit box.
BEST SEASON: N/A (First season in Division 1)
Zenit make their top flight debut after being the surprise winners of the Division 2 play-offs. Their seventh place finish in Division 2 would suggest that they would be odd on favourites to go back down again and I agree with that suggestion. The squad looks very weak on paper and I feel that promotion has come to early for the Russian side. Manager Libaan Nassan has added Max Gradel to the squad and although that does strengthen the midfield, I just don’t see where the wins are coming from. The promoted sides were full of surprises last season but this would be an even greater one if Zenit managed to stay up
LIBAAN HASSAN: Our ambition is to see how far up the table we can reach but the priority is to avoid relegation. We are not particularly expecting or aiming for the title but we will dealing with every game that comes our way, one match at a time and will make the most of each one
LIBAAN’S TITLE TIP: Unsure, but someone will unseat Barcelona.
PREDICTED FINISH: 20th
OPENING FIXTURE: BAYERN MUNICH (H)
A summary of the title tips:
BARCELONA …………. 37.5%
BAYERN MUNICH ……. 27.5%
REAL MADRID ……….. 20%
ATLETICO MADRID …. 5%
JUVENTUS …………… 5%
So that is the preview for Season 4 and remember it is all just a bit of fun and it is not to be taken seriously nor should anyone be upset of offended by any of the comments. The Manchester City key player Aubameyang, I believe, is moving to Juventus but I can’t be arsed changing it. I will also point out that there may be other deals involving players mentioned already agreed but I can not be expected to know this.
All that remains is that I wish everyone luck for the new season and I hope you enjoyed reading the preview