ANYONE who has been following the site will know Chelsea are my picks to win the Premier League but I expect it to be another close-run race.
Last season it was thrilling three-way fight between Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool before the Etihad outlasted their rivals to take the glory.
Arsenal set the early pace but Man United were never in the hunt and boss Davie Moyes lost his job and the club ended up not even making into Europe – and as Liverpool proved last season that isn't necessarily a bad thing when you're talking about the Europa League.
The Premier League lead changed 25 times last season and it promises to be another fascinating battle for the title and Champions League places.
Louis van Gaal should return Man United to where they belong but unless he strengthens again before the window shuts I can't see the Old Trafford men finishing head of the pack.
United kick off the Premier League season at home to Swansea at lunchtime and should win but a defence that needed strengthened has been weakened by the departures of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra while new boy Luke Shaw is injured.
Chelsea on the other hand have addressed their main problem area by signing Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid – as well as bringing back Didier Drogba – and he's been joined by left-back Filipe Luis and keeper Thibaut Courtois. All won the title with Atletico and could be celebrating again as Jose Mourinho looks to stamp his authority in the second season of his return to Stamford Bridge.
The Blues finished just four points off the top last term after a late collapse but Costa can fire them to glory in the way Fernando Torres couldn't.
Man City are likely to be their closest challengers and boss Manuel Pellegrini hasn't tinkered too much with a winning formula, signing Porto's Fernando for £12m and Malaga's Wilfredo Caballero for £6m. But his hands are tied slightly by the financial fair play restrictions which explained the capture of Frank Lampard. City are second favourites at 13-5 at Paddy Power and Coral and that's where they should finish.
If I'm right that will leave Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool fighting for the remaining two Champions League spots. The Gunners have shown their intention by splashing out £50m with Alexis Sanchez the big-name capture from Barcelona.
Arsene Wenger's men have looked good pre-season and after their trophy drought was ended last season the pressure on the French boss to deliver has subsided. On thing he always does is qualify for the Champions League and third place will do it. Arsenal are a biggest 13-2 at Coral and Ladbrokes for the title.
Liverpool had to lose Luis Suarez after one bite too many and they've spent the £75m from Barcelona wisely – but the way he played last season and linked with Daniel Sturridge probably made Suarez irreplaceable.
Boss Brendan Rodgers has captured the likes of Southampton trio Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren as well as Benfica's Lazar Markovic although Lallana and Markovic will miss Sunday's opener with the Saints.
So the Reds won't be far away but could rue having to let Suarez go and bookies agree with Liverpool out to 12-1 with the likes of McBookie.
Looking at the current squads I'd put Liverpool ahead of Man United unless van Gaal brings in some big-name defenders. United are 5-1 with most bookies and after the big five the lowest-priced side are Mauricio Pochettini's Spurs at 66-1 across the board.
At the other end of the table the market has been rocked by Crystal Palace losing boss Tony Pulis. That meant the sack race was won before it started and well done to anyone who backed the ex-Stoke gaffer at 40-1 before news broke of his bust-up with the board.
Pulis kept Palace up last season and without him they could struggle. They are now 2-1 second favourites behind Burnley to go down.
I'd reserve judgment on the Selhurst Park men until a new boss is appointed but I agree about Burnley. They are 8-13 at Ladbrokes and Paddy Power for the chop and I can't see them surviving. A better price is 11-5 at Ladbrokes to finish bottom.
West Brom could be in trouble if Alan Irvine doesn't make a fast start and QPR are 21-10 at Paddy Power to return to the Championship.
For Premier League top scorer I'm backing Costa at 7-1 with Betfred and each-way could be taken for a top-four place.
Man United's Robin van Persie, who will miss out against Swansea, is 5-1 favourite with McBookie and others ahead of 6-1 Sturridge who could miss his buddie Suarez.
Bookies will have taken one look at the opening Premier League fixtures and launched a pick-axe in the direction of the computer that picked them.
The big five have been handed games they’ll fancy winning and big hitters will put all of them on an accumulator. One factor in favour of the bookies is the fact matches are spread over three days starting with Man Utd at home to Swansea at lunchtime today and Chelsea travelling to promoted Burnley on Monday.
When you pick five there is always a chance of one letting you down but I can’t resist this line at a best 9-2 with William Hill and McBookie.
The other matches are Arsenal at home to Palace and tomorrow Liverpool against Southampton tomorrow and Man City at Newcastle. Arsenal could hurt a Palace side without Pulis while Liverpool face an all-new Saints.
City on paper face the toughest test at a Newcastle outfit also much-changed but I expect the champions to make a winning start.
It’s United who get us under way at 12.45pm on Saturday against a Swansea side who have lost three of their first-choice back five over the summer in keeper Michel Vorm, left-back Ben Davies and centre-half Chico Flores.
Pre-season friendlies don’t mean much but Louis Gaal notched up victories over Real Madrid, Roma and Liverpool with United scoring three goals in each game.
Elsewhere best bets could be Stoke who are a best 20-21 with BetVictor at home to Aston Villa. The Britannia is one of the
toughest places to visit and with Villa threatening to be no better than last season struggle I’ll be on the home.
Chelsea win title
Costa ew top scorer
Burnley finish bottom
Day 1 tips
(9-2, William Hill, McBookie)
Rooney to score first
(7-2, Paddy Power, Ladbrokes)