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Assessing the English sides’ chances in the Champions League

After the hectic domestic festive season fixture list, the focus on Champions League football is set to return, with the knockout stages to be played next month.

England have four representatives in the final 16 teams, with Manchester United, City, Arsenal and Chelsea all eyeing up a place at this year’s Champions League final in Lisbon.

The Premier League sides have been given stern challenges in the next stage, but what are their chances of progression?

Chelsea vs Galatasaray

Jose Mourinho has experience of lifting the Champions League crown with Porto and Inter, and will be charged with bringing Europe’s top trophy to west London this season.

Didier Drogba

The Blues have been handed the task of 180 minutes against Turkish champions Galatasaray, with a number of familiar faces set to feature for the opposition.

Didier Drogba will return to face his former club, while ex-Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is at the helm of the eastern European outfit. With a former Mourinho favourite in the form of Wesley Sneijder also in Gala’s ranks, it should be a test for the London side.

However, despite Galatasaray’s progression at the expense of Juventus in the group stages, Chelsea will fancy their chances of making the quarter-finals.

Arsenal vs Bayern Munich

Defeat to Napoli in their final group stage fixture has come back to haunt Arsenal, with the Gunners facing European champions Bayern in the next round. That said, Arsenal fans will have rushed to buy Champions League tickets when the draw was made, as the tie should be of the highest order.

Pep Guardiola’s star-studded squad will be motivated to retain their crown, and eliminated the north Londoners on the way to the title last term.

Arsene Wenger will be buoyed on by his side’s win at the Allianz Arena in the tie last season, and will look to improve on home soil this time round.

In what is set to be an explosive encounter, the Emirates Stadium side will need to be at their best to progress.

Manchester City vs Barcelona

A real glamour tie, this one pits a new force in European football against one of the perennial mainstays.

Yaya Touré

The sheer quality on both sides will make this a top-notch encounter, with Lionel Messi and co’s visit to fortress Etihad sure to be an eye-catching clash.

Yaya Toure will feature against his former club, while City’s credentials will be thoroughly put to the test at Camp Nou.

The winner of this tie will be confident of making it to the latter reaches of the tournament, and the clash could go either way.

Manchester United vs Olympiakos

The easiest of the four ties was handed to Manchester United, who face Greek side Olympiakos over two legs.

With domestic form the cause of agony for David Moyes, the Scottish manager will hope for a comprehensive progression through to the quarter-finals of the European tournament.

The opposition have one deadly striker in their midst in the form of Kostas Mitroglou, who has the ability to end United’s dream on the continent.

Despite a hostile environment in the away leg, anything other than a United progression would be something of a shock here.

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Do Manchester City have the best strikers in the Premier League?

New Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is excited about the club’s new strike force. He was asked whether he thought other clubs in the league would be envious of these riches and he said ‘Yes, I think so, it’s very strong…we have four very good strikers and that’s what you need if you play in the Premier League and Champions League as a competitive team’. The new boys Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo will join Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko at the club which now once again has four striker to utilise, a key aspect of their charge to the 2011/12 Premier League title. So, is this the best striking group in the league?

Well, it probably is. Of course, one of the reasons for that is that not many teams are going to be playing with more than one striker at a time which means they don’t need to stockpile them in quite the same way. Only Chelsea could really get in to the discussion over the best group of forwards with City at the moment. Lukaku, Torres, Schurrle and Ba are not far off. In fact, in future, it could become just as good if Lukaku develops as expected. The difference between the two units at the moment is Sergio Aguero. Assuming he can re-find the form that fired City to the title rather than his injury plagued season last time out, he is better than any of the other strikers on the table. At full tilt he is as good as any in the league, including Van Persie and Suarez. By and large, the rest are pretty similar. For the youth of Jovetic see Schurrle. For the power of Dzeko see Lukaku and for the intelligence and work of Negredo see Torres. But it’s Aguero that gives City that extra quality.

Stevan Jovetic

The only other club who boast four strikers that they could start are Man United, but at the moment their group isn’t quite at City’s level. Although van Persie is the best striker in the league, and a fit and in form Wayne Rooney is in the top five, the drop off to Hernandez and Welbeck is much greater than City would suffer if Aguero and his partner were injured.

The big question for City to answer is how they are going to be able to find game time for all these players, but as Pellegrini says, they have two major competitions to try and win, and for that, they will need to keep their forwards fresh. Realistically, Dzeko and Negredo are competing for the same spot as the pivot up front with Aguero and Jovetic in the deeper role with roaming license. Both have the capability to play on the left if needed, although this is a catastrophic waste of Aguero’s talents, it does give them another option.

Last season City’s title defence suffered because of a lack of consistent goal output. They’ve spent over £40m in order to correct that. Now, if one or two of them are struggling for form, they have other quality players to turn to to carry the load. Unlike last season they won’t need to play Aguero in to the ground and they can use Dzeko as an impact sub if that is best for the club. Manuel Pellegrini now has the luxury of a deep forward group which, with the headline act of a back to his best Aguero, looks to be the best in the league.

Could Manchester City regret selling Carlos Tevez?

Man City have agreed to sell Carlos Tevez to Juventus for about £9m. The interesting thing is that all the reporting of the deal is focusing on how City are justifying such a small transfer fee, a loss of £16m on what they paid, because they save £17m on wages and bonuses.

City need to be compliant with UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play rules. It’s also why they have backed out of the Edinson Cavani negotiations as the price climbs up to £50m. All very responsible, but all caused by strange decisions in the past in the markets. City have essentially had to sell Tevez and not replace him with Cavani because of deals like spending £34m on Fernandinho. £24m on Lescott. £16m on Javi Garcia. They’ve backed themselves in to a corner and now not only do they no longer have Tevez, there isn’t any sign of a replacement on the immediate horizon.

That City have sold Tevez isn’t a massive shock. After going AWOL in the title-winning season his time was always going to be limited. However, despite this, he was a consistent performer last season. Never quite reaching the amazing levels of his 2010/11 campaign, but a reliable presence nonetheless. What is surprising though, is that he has been let go at a time when the game of musical strikers is well under way around Europe. In the spring City were linked with Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani. Barring a dramatic chain of events, they’ll get neither. They won’t get Robert Lewandowski and they won’t get Luis Suarez. They didn’t get involved in the bidding for Gonzalo Higuain and Real Madrid haven’t given any indication they would sell Karim Benzema.

Carlos Tevez

Now, in Sergio Aguero they have a truly world-class striker already. Edin Dzeko cost £24m and has shown that he can score goals. After that though, with the departures of Mario Balotelli and Tevez, the four strong forward line is down to two. They have the highly regarded John Guidetti waiting in the wings but do they want to rely on him? City want to win the Premier League and the Champions League, they can’t do that with two forwards. They couldn’t do it with four, let alone when shorn of two of those.

There are still a few options for them to consider. If they wanted to replace Tevez’s deeper creative game, Fiorentina’s Steven Jovetic offers similar qualities, albeit at £20m+. As they seem to be missing out on Isco, they could involve themselves in the bidding for Christian Eriksen of Ajax or perhaps Schalke’s Julian Draxler. Again though, both would carry significant costs. If they are looking for a pure goal scorer, they can look at Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo or perhaps even David Villa. They may even be tempted to have a look at Christian Benteke.

By selling Tevez, City have gotten rid of an off field headache for themselves, but an on field headache for opponents. By selling him, and in all likelihood missing out on Isco to Real Madrid, they are going to have a creativity hole to fill. As things stand, their quite shallow squad has been made thinner. At the moment, if Aguero is starting with David Silva, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri behind him, the next man up is Scott Sinclair.

Man United handed tough opening to title defence

New Manchester United manager David Moyes will have mixed feelings as he reads through today’s newly released Premier League fixture list for 2013/14. On the one hand, he will be excited to get started but on the other, he will see that he faces Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City in his first five games. Although he’s not really under pressure, because United have committed so fully to him, it’s a tough start and questions will be asked if after those five games they already have a couple of losses.

Things don’t start easily, with a trip to Swansea on opening day, which will surely be selected for television. Although United would expect to win, Swansea have shown they are hard to beat at home. It’s the rest of August that could be tough for Moyes though.

David Moyes

His first game at Old Trafford sees him host Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Chelsea are looking like being United’s main title challengers this season, barring some dramatic moves from Man City, and playing them early is not ideal. Moyes will still be getting his message across, still teaching his game plans in a new dressing room for the first time in 11 years. Mourinho on the other hand, has changed dressing rooms four times during that period. He may be able to get his message across quicker. Last season Chelsea showed that they could be a match for United. The FA Cup game at Old Trafford saw them run roughshod through United in the second half as a tease of what could be possible. Of all the teams in the country to play in his first home game, Moyes would probably have picked Chelsea last.

However, he will have overwhelming crowd support and if he wins it will be a fabulous start. From Chelsea he then takes his team to Anfield for the always vociferous game with Liverpool. For Moyes, this is a double-edged rivalry. As an ex-Everton manager currently at Man United, he couldn’t get a hotter reception than he will at Anfield. Liverpool have done well at home to United over recent years and the team will be flowing with adrenaline cheered on by a boisterous crowd. Again, the result of this could go either way for Moyes. If he was to lose this on the back of a loss to Chelsea the alarm bells will be ringing. However, should he beat Jose Mourinho and then go to Anfield and win his legitimacy will be sealed. He will have shown he deserves the job.

A routine home win over Crystal Palace should follow before what has become the hardest game in the league over the last couple of years; Manchester City at the Etihad. City will also have a new manager who will be under pressure to win. Unless Moyes loses to both Chelsea and Liverpool in all likelihood Pellegrini will be under more of a spotlight. It’s a big early momentum decider for both men. A win would give them both breathing room and an advantage in the title race.

If David Moyes can get out of these five games unbeaten then he will have firmly established himself as the boss. If they lose a couple, or even all three of these tough games, the spectre of Sir Alex Ferguson will loom large. However, after this tough start the fixtures ease significantly for a considerable period.

Elsewhere on opening day the newly promoted teams have very tough starts. Hull face a trip to Chelsea for Jose Mourinho’s first game, Crystal Palace host Spurs and Cardiff travel to West Ham. Arsenal and Man City host Villa and Newcastle respectively and will be expecting to win.

Will Isco choose Manchester City over Real Madrid?

Malaga’s 21-year-old attacking midfielder Isco is one of the most-wanted young players in Europe. His blend of guile, technique and swiftness is a captivating mix for teams facing increasingly rigid and structured defences in the Champions League and need someone like Isco who can give his attacking side a different method of breaking through. With this is mind, the battle lines seem to be being drawn between Manchester City and Real Madrid. Both teams would have different attractions for him and both are legitimate suitors. He seems willing to consider both, so who might he choose and why?

On the surface Manchester City have some advantages. First, and most talked about, is the presence of new manager Manuel Pellegrini. It was under Pellgerini that Isco transformed himself from dominating Valencia B team player to a La Liga star. When Santi Cazorla left Malaga last summer, Pellegrini trusted the then 20 year old Isco to take over from him as the team’s main playmaker. He rewarded him with 12 goals and five assists. He personally credits Pellegrini for his rapid ascension to star status. However, there is a danger that this link is being overplayed.

Isco

For a player to change club based solely on the manager is very risky. Short of joining Arsenal or Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United, there is no guarantee that the manager who is there when the player signs will still be there at the end of a four or five year contract. This is very true of City who have, for various reasons, sacked two managers in the last few years. Obviously Real Madrid aren’t exactly a managerial paradise but he wouldn’t be moving there because of one. He may consider it but it is unlikely to be the foundation of a decision.

The bigger advantage to joining City will be that he is far more likely to be guaranteed first team football, which is very important in World Cup year. Spain have the best squad in world football so it will be hard enough for him to get a place even if he starts every game, never mind if he is rotated. Despite their wealth, City are not yet in a position where spending £30m on a player can be justified if he’s sat on the bench. Real have the likes of Benzema and Modric who cost over that and aren’t sure-fire picks.

Above the fee, City also have less competition for a first team place. Silva and Navas are probably sure of their starts but unless they sign Edinson Cavani with a plan to move Aguero back in to attacking midfield, there is another spot to be won. Isco could come in to the number 10 role at City and make it his own. At Real Madrid he already has Mesut Ozil and Luka Modric for competition and they are trying to sign Gareth Bale. Cristiano Ronaldo’s spot is set in stone and Gareth Bale’s would be if he was signed for £85m. It would mean four players, including Angel Di Maria and maybe even Kaka if he stays, are trying to fit in to one spot.

Isco wouldn’t be the first young Spanish player Real have signed and benched. Callejon, De Leon, Canales and Raul Albiol have all come in and not made the team. Isco cannot afford the same fate.

The challenge for City though, is that Real Madrid are Real Madrid. Despite all the history of benched young Spaniards the challenge of becoming a star in Madrid could be too much of a temptation for Isco. The white shirt has a certain prestige and if he is full of self belief, the prospect of making himself successful there will have a real pull.

City have the advantage of first-team football and a platform for him to win a World Cup spot but if Real Madrid give him the chance to play it could be too much of a temptation to pass up.

Manchester City want Blaise Matuidi, but he’d be perfect for Arsenal

PSG midfield destroyer Blaise Matuidi has just a year left on his contract, which is of great interest to Manchester City who are rumoured to be interested in him as they transition away from Roberto Mancini’s 4-4-2 to Manuel Pellegrini’s 4-2-3-1. Matuidi could possibly partner Yaya Toure deep in midfield in this new formation. However, if he does become available, he looks like an interesting option for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

Aaron Ramsey played well as the pure defensive shield as Wenger tweaked his system over the second half of last season and this new role allowed him to afford the defence good protection leading to them being the second tightest unit in the league. He is a good worker and interceptor of the ball and improved steadily in the role. However, unlike Marouane Fellaini whose rampaging menace would be near enough neutered playing this role at Arsenal, it is something Matuidi is amongst the best in Europe at doing. If Arsenal bought Fellaini and restricted him to being a pure shield, a simple and limited role, they would be wasting their time spending so much. However, with Matuidi the upgrade as this pure defensive minded shield would be big, big enough to justify the outlay.

Blaise Matuidi

If you don’t know much about Matuidi, just know this. PSG bought him to replace Claude Makelele. It sums his game up and shows what he would offer Arsenal. Wenger is teaching Ramsey to play that role and what is required is superb positioning and sensing of danger, tackling skill, intercepting ability and the awareness to select the correct distribution option. Ramsey is doing decently at getting stuck in but his distribution isn’t ideal for the job. Matuidi already has it all. He’s also a huge presence on the field with his leadership and reliability. Arsenal could do with a few more players that can be relied on to perform at the same level every week. Tactically it would also allow Wenger to continue to use Jack Wilshere further forwards where he seems to see his future.

The doubt in all of this is whether or not PSG would let him leave. Although he only has a year on his contract he is a key player for them. He has played 80 games in his two seasons in Paris and despite their infatuation with star power whoever ends up managing them, maybe Andre Villas-Boas, will be well aware of his importance. You can have all the attackers you like but unless you have someone with the discipline and sense of responsibility to work for the team and position themselves effectively then the team can’t win. He’s probably worth about £10-12m given his contract situation but it’s hard to see how PSG would let him leave. If they do though, Arsenal might hold an advantage over Man City.

At Arsenal Matuidi would be a guaranteed starter. At City, he wouldn’t have the same security. City have just spent £34m on Fernandinho to be their play maker. Manuel Pellegrini is an advocate of the 4-2-3-1, which would likely see Fernandinho partner Toure in the two, particularly if rumours linking the club to Isco come true. At Arsenal, his only competition would be Aaron Ramsey and he is much better at the role they would compete for.

Manchester United, City and Chelsea’s hopes of landing Robert Lewandowski increased

Borussia Dortmund have this morning announced that contrary to assumption, Robert Lewandowski will not be sold to Bayern Munich this summer. Sporting Director Michael Zorc is quoted by German tabloid Kicker as saying ‘We have communicated to the player and his advisers that we will not agree to a transfer to FC Bayern this summer.’

Undoubtedly this stance was always what Dortmund wanted but will have been heightened after Bayern stole Mario Götze by activating the release clause in his contract. Lewandowski has intimated that he wants a new challenge and as he only has one year left on his contract he has forced Dortmund in to a position where they would have to sell him or face losing a £30m asset for free next summer. They would therefore surely be willing to agree to sell him to the Premier League rather than their main domestic rivals. Man United have long been linked with him, Chelsea desperately need a striker and Man City may feel it too good an opportunity to miss. So could he end up in England, and if so, where?

Robert Lewandowski

Chelsea would seem to be the most obvious landing spot for Lewandowski. Although they are thought to be deep in negotiations with Edinson Cavani of Napoli, Lewandowski is a player whose destructive capability Jose Mourinho has witnessed first hand. It was the Pole’s four goals against his Real Madrid side that elevated him in to the real upper echelon on a world stage. Cavani and Lewandowski are similar players. Both of them have wonderful technique, good pace and strength and are deadly and consistent finishers. The advantages of going for Lewandowski are the price, thought to be at most £30m rather than £52m, and the fact that he speaks fluent English and has played in a similarly physically demanding league with great success. He is used to the system and showed at Dortmund how good he can be with three attacking midfielders behind him which is exactly what Chelsea have. Chelsea also have the added bait of Romelu Lukaku who Dortmund are known to admire.

Man United is on the surface a less obvious fit but it makes a whole heap of sense. David Moyes has historically preferred a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 system and if United do allow Wayne Rooney to leave they would need a world-class option to pair with Robin van Persie. Both he and Lewandowski would be comfortable roaming around out of the box if required and having to account for both of them would give most defences fits. Lewandowski is a very hard worker, which is a quality David Moyes admires and prises, and the lure of moving to the English champions should be strong for Lewandwoski.

Man City are the outsiders but shouldn’t be counted out. New manager Manuel Pellegrini is being given the playing staff to operate his preferred 4-2-3-1 but there is still room for another attacker. If they decide not to move for Isco they may well go for Lewandowski. That would allow Sergio Aguero to drop in to the number 10 role where he played at times last year and where he could be very dangerous running from deep. Lewandowski has the technical skill to work with the three men behind and the finishing ability to make the most of the chances they would create for him.

All three of the teams could afford the price and all three could very much use Lewandowksi in their sides. He would offer qualities that none of them have and allow others to be better maximised. Dortmund will not sell Lewandowski to Bayern and rather than losing him to them next summer for free they would be better trying to sell him now. The big three Premier League clubs should have the advantage over Monaco or PSG and with Real Madrid focusing their attention on Luis Suarez, we could be set for a top three battle to sign Robert Lewandowski.

Manchester City to sign Brazilian midfielder – in a statment of intent

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph Manchester City could be on the verge of completing their year-long pursuit of Shakhtar Donetsk central midfielder Fernandinho quickly after sealing the signing of Jesus Navas. If the deal goes through, it will be a critical statement of intent and ambition from Manchester City in a transfer window in which they are in danger of being marginalised by the likes of Monaco, Real Madrid and Chelsea in the spending stakes.

If they get him, coupled with Navas, it will give their attacking play a fresh new impetus and off the field will show that they still have the ambition and wherewithal to compete for the biggest names. There are serious questions to be asked about the fees they’d have laid out to get them, but on the field they would be upgrades.

Fernandinho is a central midfielder by preference, although he can, if needed, play deeper in a 4-2-3-1 as the playmaker in the Schweinsteiger/Xavi role. What Fernandinho has that none of the other City midfielders have is a full passing range and an ability to set a quick tempo in the passing game, roving around the pitch looking for the ball and looking to set attacks in motion.

Fernandinho

James Milner, Gareth Barry and Javi Garcia all offer hard work and endeavour but precious little quality. Yaya Toure and Jack Rodwell are box-to-box players capable of getting the odd goal and making tackles but don’t have the variety of passing available to them that Fernandinho has. He would bring something genuinely different to a City midfield that looked one paced last season and overly reliant on the attackers producing a moment of magic. Fernandinho even has a highlight reel of long-range goals. So there is no question he would be a good signing football wise, and the same can be said of Jesus Navas. But with City, there are always issues with finance.

UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play rules come in to force this summer which means that clubs have to be careful what they spend, and should be tougher when negotiating to buy players. Of course, if you are buying from a club that doesn’t need to sell or are bidding against other big teams, the price will go up. The likes of Edinson Cavani and Gareth Bale are examples of this. The price can go sky high because the selling clubs are either relatively wealthy or have many clubs bidding. But, this isn’t the case with Fernandinho or Navas. Sevilla have said that City were the only club bidding on Jesus Navas, and they were surprised at how much they got for him; £22m in the end. Not only that, but Sevilla have financial troubles so surely could be been brought down a bit. In the case of Fernandinho, Shakhtar are a wealthy club but have been open that they would let Fernandinho go this summer. The Brazilian has a £42.5m release clause. The Telegraph believe a compromise fee has been reached but if this turns out to be anything over £20m it is far too much. As with Navas, they are the only bidders and Fernandinho has said he wants to play for them.

The final puzzle about these moves, is the age of the players. Navas is 27, Fernandinho is 28. City are spending what is expected to be around £45m on these two players but may only get four or five years service from them. This will be the most they ever cost, and they will depreciate very quickly. City already have a lot of expensively bought players who have lost their value, which looks horrible on their Fair Play balance sheet. These moves make football sense, but no financial sense.

Manchester City to add Spanish wingers after Pellegrini’s arrival?

Last season one of the recurring weaknesses of Manchester City’s attack was the lack of width, pace and variety. This was compounded by some errant finishing but often the out of form strikers would have little opportunity to get a few shots on goal. This was because their attacking patterns were too one-dimensional. If they couldn’t rapidly pass their way through the middle of the opposition they were left without a Plan B. Although full backs Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy provided some attacking width they don’t possess the kind of guile or creativity they needed out wide.

Roberto Mancini’s first choice team often featured David Silva and Samir Nasri as the supposed width but they were usually given license to meander infield. Both of them have the natural compulsion to play in behind a striker and occasionally drift wide, rather than being out wide all of the time. With them drifting in, Carlos Tevez drifting back from his forward spot and with Yaya Toure getting forward from midfield, the sight of four or five City players within the width of the penalty box, but just outside, was not uncommon.

With this in mind, they are being strongly linked to Spanish winger Jesus Navas and versatile attacking midfielder Isco, believed to be main targets for expected new manager Manuel Pellegrini. They are logical connections to make, with Isco having emerged as such a desirable prospect under Pellegrini at Malaga and ,Navas a consistent menace for Sevilla who have run in to financial difficulties and may be willing to sell their prised local boy.

Isco

Isco is very much reminiscent of Santi Cazorla of Arsenal, his ex-teammate. Indeed, when Cazorla left last summer, Isco assumed his vacated central position and took on the mantle of the main playmaker for the Malaga side, which despite financial troubles reached the Champions League quarter finals and the top six of La Liga. Isco is two footed, has excellent vision, glides around the field and this season has increased his goal tally to nine, which is pretty similar to Cazorla, and more than possible new team mate David Silva. His main asset, as you would expect from a young Spaniard, is exemplary technique and football intelligence. Like Juan Mata, he has an impish creativity but also has a bustling and direct style, which makes him a dangerous runner with the ball. The question really, is fitting him in at City.

Isco certainly has different tools to what City currently have. His powerful dribbling and improving goal getting give him an edge over Nasri and Silva. He is capable of making things happen without the need of a team-mate’s help; at times City play as if everything needs to click in to gear with everyone for it to work. He wouldn’t offer width, but he would bring much needed directness, inventiveness and pace in possession. Plus, he is on record with his admiration for the Premier League and has worked with the new probable new City boss, so persuading him should be easy enough.

Jesus Navas

Jesus Navas on the other hand, would offer width. He is a bit of an anachronism in Spain because he is more like an old-fashioned winger. He is very fast with the ball at his feet and a very skilful dribbler. He is a creator of chaos and a creator of goals. He won’t score many, none in the league this season, but he will create them. If anything, the English game should suit him more than the Spanish game. The English propensity for wide-open, fast-paced football with big spaces to roam around in should be an ideal environment for him. He is a pure right winger who would stay out wide and provide not only creativity but a constant out ball, an outlet to switch the play to.

The big questions with Navas have never been on the pitch though, it is with the homesickness that has blighted him. The joke in Spain is that he gets homesick in games outside Seville, so how is he going to cope in England? He doesn’t speak the language, and unless he brings his entire family over his adjustment to life in Manchester will be difficult. It might be reason enough for him to turn down such a move, preferring to stay in Spain.

Isco and Jesus Navas would combine to offer Pellegrini the width, pace and variety that they lacked last year. They would bring with them Plans B and C for City and surely supply enough chances for Aguero to find his shooting boots again. City can afford them both, even if the deal gets up towards £50m, but they need to invest time and effort in settling them in, particularly with Navas. If they do, it could be the jolt they need to compete for the league again next year.

Manchester United without Sir Alex or Wayne Rooney, Chelsea with Jose Mourinho – next season is set to be a cracker

As the 2012/13 Premier League season lurches towards its underwhelming end, the realisation for many a fan is that it left us with precious little memories, compared to other seasons – notably the most sensational ending in the competition’s 21-year history last term.

As Sergio Aguero slammed home the winner that gave Manchester City the Premier League over fierce local rivals Manchester United with the last kick of the game against Queen Park Rangers last season, Martin Tyler screamed: “I swear you will never see anything like this again.”

Tyler’s now iconic sound bite may have had some truth to it, certainly this season at least, he was right.

Sergio Aguero

As the season sleepwalks into its final day, there is only the tedious race for fourth place that is still to play for amongst London trio Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The champions United won the division as far back at April 22. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side took advantage of a lacklustre competition and they marched to their 13th Premier League title in an efficient, if unspectacular, manner.

Two of the three relegated teams’ fate were sealed a week later when Queens Park Rangers played out a dour 0-0 with Reading before Wigan Athletic joined them on Tuesday following a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal.

Indeed the most exciting events to happen in the league this season were announcements and decisions that will not come into focus until next season.

Happily next season is already shaping up to be mouth-watering, with a whole of changes sweeping throughout the league, giving it a fresh feel for the summer of 2013.

To begin with, four of the top six teams this season will be starting the 2013/14 campaign with new managers at the helm.

Manchester United will be without Alex Ferguson for the first time in 26 years, with his replacement David Moyes leaving Everton, where he served for over a decade himself.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ferguson’s absence from English football is a concept millions of fans around the country have never known and Moyes’ adaptation to the country’s biggest club will be the most fascinating plot next season.

Everton chairman Bill Kenwright admitted that he will not be hasty in appointing Moyes’ successor, with the most reliable reports linking the Blues with Wigan’s Roberto Martinez, Porto coach Vitor Pereira and Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup.

Rafael Benitez will depart Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho seemingly set for a second stint at Stamford Bridge. The return of the ‘Special One’ is enough to excite every Chelsea fan and most neutrals. Love him or loathe him, Mourinho is pure box office and his return to England is sure to stir up feuds, drama and entertainment.

Man City are looking for a new manager with Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini touted as the favourite to take over from the axed Roberto Mancini. Incidentally, the Italian was given his P45 just 366 days after he ended his side’s 44-year wait for a league title in the top division.

Pellegrini’s presence in English football would provide another interesting sub-plot to next season’s 38 act drama. The Chilean has won widespread plaudits for his work with the Andalusians this season, after guiding them to a Champions League quarter-final in their first season in the competition, despite working against a backdrop of financial meltdown at the club.

Away from the dug-out, the division will be without two players who will have played 1456 top-flight games between them by Sunday evening. Jamie Carragher will retire from Liverpool after 16 years of sterling service for the Reds, while Paul Scholes looks set to make the last of 718 appearances for United when they play West Bromwich Albion.

Between them they have won five FA Cups, three Champions Leagues, five League Cups, a UEFA Cup, a Super Cup and two World Club Championships. Scholes leaves United with 11 Premier Leagues and both players say goodbye to the game as archetypal one-club legends for their respective teams.

Wayne Rooney’s future is also subject to speculation with Ferguson admitting that the England international had asked for a transfer request a few weeks back. Rooney has been linked with moves abroad to Paris Saint-Germain amongst others, but there have also been reports suggesting that the former Everton forward could move to Chelsea.

Wayne Rooney

A move to Stamford Bridge would be another incredible development in United’s recent evolution, and perhaps it may seem incomprehensible that Rooney could turn out for the Blues next season. However, stranger things have happened in football, and Man Utd’s decision-makers have never been shy of selling a star player when they think his talent may be on the wane.

Next season will also have the fixture that pits Cardiff City against Swansea City, a game which will only add more spice to a division that already boasts the Merseyside, Manchester, north London and Tyne-Wear derbies.

Equate in all this with the fact that the transfer window is not yet even open and you get the feeling that next season could be one of the most intriguing all of time.

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