Now that the Premier League is now more competitive than ever before, predicting the candidates for relegations is no easy task. The three teams promoted from the Championship have a certain unpredictability factor, and this was evident last season when Swansea and Norwich finished in very respectable mid-table positions. The teams that struggled last campaign have been dipping into the transfer market to attempt to ensure that they do not fight in the relegation battle again. Alas, three teams will certainly be resigned to the English football second tier come the end of the season.
Despite several new editions to Sam Allardyce's side, the Hammers have been fairly inconsistent during pre-season as they attempt to find their strongest squad. They have won only twice during the ten games in July and early August, but have been somewhat handicapped by only playing fixtures away from home. Last season, they dominated the Championship's top two for the majority of the season, until a run of five consecutive draws in March saw them drop out of the automatic promotion positions. Having won the Play-Off final in scrappy circumstances, Allardyce will be on a mission to prove that his team can cope with England's elite, and also play exciting football in the process (he has been criticised by his own fans for his tactical style)
Prediction - SURVIVAL
Reading shocked everyone in the nPower Championship to win the league last season, winning 15 of their last 18 games which lifted them from mid-table all the way up into pole position. Since their promotion, they have managed to secure some decent signings, including Fulham's scoring sensation of last year Pavel Pogrebnyak, aswell as the versatile former Newcastle midfielder Danny Guthrie (both of them on a free transfer). However, football fans around the country may question what Reading will turn up in the Premier League. Will it be the one we witnessed during the first half of last season, who looked more like Championship relegation contenders than champions? Or will it be the resurgent Royals who dominated the league since March?
Prediction - RELEGATION (19th)
The Saints have changed drastically as a team since they last graced the Premier League during 2004/2005 season. Since then, they have hit rock bottom by slipping miserably into English football's third tier, but thanks to manager Nigel Adkins, they have changed their fortunes around dramatically. Adkins has managed to build a squad that was capable of successive promotions in 2011 and 2012, and has strengthened the core of the side along the way. With menacing forwards such as Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Billy Sharp (all of whom blitzed Championship defences last season), they will certainly put up a fight to stay in the top division. Star player Rickie Lambert will be pivotal to the Saint's season as he looks to match last seasons goal tally of 25 while also weighing in with crucial assists.
Prediction - SURVIVAL
It would be fair to say that the Latics had a considerably poor 2011/2012 season, and only a late burst in form saw them escape from the Premier League's trap door when they won four of their last five games. With Roberto Martinez at the helm, Wigan have a strong and experienced manager that will help guide them through the season, but the manager hasn't appeared to made any major additions to the Greater Manchester based side. With Hugo Rodallega moving to Fulham and Victor Moses looking certain to depart the club, the pressure will be on Franco Di Santo to provide the goals (unless a striker is acquired in the near future).
Prediction - RELEGATION (20th)
Despite finishing in 12th place last season, Norwich will be wary of the second season syndrome myth which has plagued many promoted clubs over the years. With manager Paul Lambert departing the club for Premier League rivals Aston Villa after the end of last season, the pre-season schedule would have been somewhat disrupted and major new signings have been at a minimum. Last season, the Canaries had the joint fourth worst defensive record in the league, conceding 66 goals (only the teams relegated that season conceded more). For Norwich to not be involved in the relegation scrap, they must tighten the defence and hope that Grant Holt can continue his sublime scoring form of last season. Without these factors swinging in their favour, it could be a nervy season for City fans...
Prediction - RELEGATION (18th)