Early Edition Contributing Writer

Lines on the fields are being painted, boots are being laced and players are donning their uniforms. After a grueling summer that included both the European and Olympic Championships, the players are back for more and will be competing in domestic soccer leagues all across Europe.

The top leagues of England, Spain, Germany and France have all kicked off with Italy and others soon to follow. Despite the quality all these leagues display, there is no competition more intense, dazzling or rigorous than England’s Premier League. The Premiership is back with no shortage of talking points: Can Manchester City repeat its title exploits? How will Arsenal perform after another summer of selling its best players? Will anyone top Fernando Torres’ famous miss of last season? These questions are few of many.

Last year’s Premier League winner, Manchester City, won the title in unprecedented fashion. Needing a win in the final match against the Queens Park Rangers, City scored two goals in the last five minutes overtaking crosstown rivals Manchester United for the title.

Once again, the title is shaping up to be a two-horse race with both City and United looking strong. City, who spent exorbitant amounts of money on players in years prior, has had an unusually quiet summer in the transfer market. Still, the blue side of Manchester returns its potent forward line of Sergio Agüero, Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko, and Mario Balotelli, while relying on the talent of David Silva.

The defense is spectacular as well, boasting the rock-solid center back pairing of last season’s best defender Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott to accompany England National Team goalkeeper Joe Hart. Indeed, Roberto Mancini’s men look impressive, but his managing counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson at United has revamped his squad over the summer to challenge the champions.

The 24 million Euro deal that sent prolific Dutch goal scorer, Robin Van Persie (RVP), to United from Arsenal is now sending shock waves through the rest of the league as clubs prepare, perhaps in vain, to defend a sumptuous strike partnership of RVP and English star Wayne Rooney. Ferguson’s other notable acquisition, Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa, adds needed clout to United’s midfield, which lacked a cutting edge last season. He will join evergreen duo Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes along with wingmen Ashley Young and Nani who are all back in red this season.

Another reason for optimism among the Red Devils is the return of stalwart defender Nemanja Vidic after rupturing his cruciate ligament the previous season. Veteran defender Rio Ferdinand also reappears along with a class of young talent that includes England National Team players Danny Welbeck, Phil Jones, Tom Cleverley and Brazilian twins Fabio and Rafael.

However, the two Manchester clubs are not without competition from elsewhere in England, as London supports a trio of outside contenders. To everyone’s surprise, Chelsea fluked their way to win the 2011-2012 Champions League—the lucrative and elite competition involving clubs from across Europe—despite finishing sixth in the league. Manager Roberto di Matteo will look to maintain his success at the helm by adding expensive wunderkind attackers Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Marko Marin to his ranks. Also, English veterans John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Ashley Cole return along with young midfield stars Mata and Ramires. Despite those improvements, Chelsea may struggle to replace the goals scored by outgoing striker Didier Drogba. The burden will fall on Fernando Torres whose tenure at Chelsea has been marked with precious few goals. Yet hope springs eternal for the Spanish striker as he looks to improve his fortunes for this season.

In addition to Chelsea, London contains the perennial contender Arsenal who is fresh off another summer of negative change. Manager Arsene Wenger must count on new boys Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski and remaining stars Thomas Vermaelen and Jack Wilshere to fill the voids left by the departures of RVP and Barcelona-bound Alex Song. They will face a stiff challenge from North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur who boast Welsh wing-wizard Gareth Bale and Dutch maestro Rafael Van der Vaart. Still, Tottenham’s charge may be impeded by the imminent departure of Croatian midfield metronome Luka Modric to Real Madrid. However, Spurs remain active in the transfer market under new manager Andre Villas-Boas as he seeks further additions to the arrivals of striker Emmanuel Adebayor, Icelandic playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen.

Liverpool, the underachieving tradition of power, also seems reinvigorated by new boss Brendan Rogers and the addition of Italian striker Fabio Borini to partner controversial Uruguayan star Luis Suárez up front. However, the gap may be too difficult to bridge for the side that finished eighth in 2011. Newcastle also poses a small threat with strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse leading the line.
The summer soon concludes and the new season will shortly be in full-swing; endless drama and excitement await this year’s version of the Premier League.

Questions? Email Nathan at

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