It's time for a quick preview of the new Premier League season which starts on Saturday for most but doesn't really start until Monday.
Let's start with the key fixtures this season. Please note these dates can change.
Sep. 12th - Away to Everton - This has become a very tricky test and going to Goodison and coming away with 3 points could prove crucial in the title race as not everyone will be able to manage that feat. It's is also a crucial game because we need to be in good form heading into the following game.
Sep. 19th - Home to Liverpool - A must win for the fans who can't stand the scousers. I doubt the Pool will be challenging for a title this season but if we have hopes of winning the title we need to beat teams in the 4-8 range. Plus any dropped points at home can be very damaging.
Nov. 10th - Away to City - No explanation needed on this one.
Nov 13th - Away to Villa - part of a tricky stretch away from home. Villa have given us a little trouble lately and always make us work very hard for all three points.
Dec 11th & Dec. 18th - Home to Arsenal - Away to Chelsea - Let's count this as one big key fixture since they are so close together and these are likely our two biggest rivals for the title. This crucial pre-Christmas portion of the schedule won't decide the league but it is important to be in good form at the turn of the year and in a good position from which to attack the top of the table. 4 points from these two fixture is vital.
Mar 5th - Away to Liverpool - Always a massive fixture and let's face it winning at Anfield just feels so damn good. Not as good as when they had a good team but still pretty good.
Apr 23rd, Apr 30rd, and May 7th - Home to Everton, Away to Arsenal, Home to Chelsea - Is there any doubt about where the title will be won? As the schedule stands now this is going to be where the title is won or lost. Anything less than 7 points won't do. We close with the two Blacks, pool and burn, so this is THE crucial moment in the season. Oh and hopefully we will also have some Champions League games in this stretch as well. Talk about the season resting on a fortnight's worth of games.
So those are the key fixtures as far as I can see. Not sure who made the fixture list but putting those Arsenal and Chelsea fixtures so close together is either very interesting or very distressing. I can't decide which. I also left out the home match with City simply because there are only so many matches I can highlight as key. Let's call that one important. But being at Old Trafford means we should feel confident of getting all three points.
Now for the key players this season.
GK - VDS - This is an easy choice. VDS showed in the community shield that he still has the reflexes and shot stopping ability. Every once in a while, and it is rare, he looks a little lost on a high ball. That's the best I could do to come up with an negative about the man. He needs to remain fairly healthy and between the sticks.
Defender - Vida - Simply put he is the rock or the foundation that our success has been built on recently. If healthy for the majority of the season our defense will be tight and goals will be hard to come by for our opponents. He is the platform on which our attacking play is built. With Rio seemingly unable to stay healthy for long periods it is up to Vidic to keep Johnny Evans, Wes Brown or Chris Smalling calm and focused. Oh and he will be looking to chip in a few more goals this season as well.
Midfield - Valencia - This one was very tough. Scholes can be key and Carrick needs to be better this season. If he is we have an even better shot at some trophies. Nani's development continues and he is an important player. And of course there is Fletcher and Giggs. But for me the provider for Rooney's great goal scoring season was Valencia. his rise has been impressive and he will be looking to ad goals this season as well. With Chicharito and Rooney thriving on good service Valencia down the wing, usually thanks to a raking cross field ball from Scholes, will be key to our season.
Forwards - Berbatov - Rooney is just too obvious. We know he has to be good but I think we also know he will be. But he might not hit the same heights he reached last term in the goal scoring department. So Berba must be better. We will need goals from Berba as well as his great link play. The man can be an absolute genius and this is the season to really show that. I think the competition from Hernandez as well as their dovetailing talents when they are on the pitch together will help Berba raise his game.
Prediction: I think the league will come down to the last day of the season and I can't see us dropping points at home to Blackpool. Having Chelsea and Everton at home at the end of the season rather than away is also a slight help to us. I see United pipping Chelsea by a point or two just at the end.