The English Premier League kicks-off on 17 August, and we'll take a close look at all the 20 teams in our 'Countdown to EPL' series.
In the first part, we analyse the three newcomers — Crystal Palace, Cardiff City and Hull City.
Nickname: The Bluebirds
Home: Cardiff City Stadium
Cardiff took the Championship by storm last season, to become the second Welsh team in the Premier League (after Swansea). They're an entertaining batch of players — young and old, the perfect mix of experience and energetic youth. Also, if they're in dire need of reinforcements in January, owner Vincent Tan will surely provide all the support necessary to manager Malcky Mackay.
Cardiff are easily the strongest contenders to stay up from the promoted teams, and if they do, you'll find out they're quite a likeable team — which have no qualms in attacking without fear. Big teams cannot take these guys for granted. And of course, there's the Welsh derby to look forward to.
Star players: Quite a few of them in fact. Craig Bellamy still has the odd turn of pace and can beat a man with ease when on song, and young South Korean Kim Bo-Kyung was excellent to watch. Add to that club record signing Andreas Cornelius, who scored 18 times last season for FC Copenhagen. Skipper Mark Hudson is also solid at the back.
Verdict: Staying up.
Nickname: The Tigers
Home: The KC Stadium
Jimmy Bullard's celebration, imitating former Hull manager Phil Brown's team talk which he gave on the pitch, is one lasting memory of Hull City. This season though, Steve Bruce brings them into the Premier League on the back of a fantastic run-in in last season's Championship — where they won eight of 12 matches.
The most intriguing part of watching Hull this season is whether they'll stick with Bruce's defensive 3-5-2 formation. He certainly proved a point by using it regularly and earning promotion from the Championship, but the EPL is a different ball game. The 3-5-2, near defunct in England at least, will make it interesting for those who've never seen it used so often. Defense is their strong point, so expect close 1-0s and 2-1s when Hull take to the pitch.
Star players: Steve Harper and Allan McGregor as two new keepers and will vie for the starting position. Apart from the two goalies, Maynor Figueroa's presence in the backline will be vital to Hull's survival.
Verdict: Will be relegated. They're too defensive and need to quickly find a top striker.
Nickname: The Eagles
Home: Selhurst Park
Another London club. More London derbies. Last season, Queens Park Rangers were the other minnows from London, and Crystal Palace replace them after winning promotion via a playoff win against Watford. And along with Palace, comes their outspoken manager Ian Holloway. Expect lots of words from him, and most will make it football's quotes of the week — every week.
Apart from the playoff win, Palace don't come into the league in top form. They won just one of their last ten matches and they're absolutely shambolic away from home (won 6, drawn 7, lost 10, scored just 21 goals last season).
Holloway's Blackpool were brilliant to watch, so expect some direct football — at least at home.
Star players: Striker Glenn Murray is their undoubted star. He hammered 31 goals last season, and Palace's next top goalscorer was Wilifried Zaha (8) — who now finds himself the centre of attention at Manchester United. Palace have already broken their transfer record by signing Dwight Gayle from Peterborough but even good signings may not be enough to ensure Premier League status. It'll also be good to see 40-year-old warhorse Kevin Phillips in action again.
Verdict: It'll be hard to stay up, especially given their away form.
Published Date: Aug 05, 2013 16:42 PM | Updated Date: Aug 05, 2013 16:47 PM