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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 August, 2004, 06:32 GMT 07:32 UK
Lawrenson runs the rule


By Mark Lawrenson
BBC Sport football expert

ARSENAL

If they keep Patrick Vieira I think they will finish as champions again and they remain the team to beat.

I expect Jose Antonio Reyes to have a good season - he was superb in the Community Shield - and they have plenty of good, energetic young players.

I do think, however, that Man Utd and Chelsea will push them much further than last season and it will be much tougher if they lose Vieira.

Last year's position: Champions

Lawro's verdict: Favourites

ASTON VILLA

Villa are looking to continue the improvement that started last season and appear to have bought well over the summer with the cash available.

David O'Leary is slightly fortunate in that he has a batch of three or four really good players who are starting to come through to the first team.

When that happens it really makes a big difference and Villa will be looking for a top-six finish.

Last year's position: 6th

Lawro's verdict: Another good season

BIRMINGHAM

Birmingham boss Steve Bruce has looked to boost his attacking options with the signings of Liverpool's Emile Heskey and Jesper Gronkjaer from Chelsea.

Blues did not score enough goals last season and Bruce will be hoping his new attacking options help cure this.

Muzzy Izzet is another good purchase and I think they must be looking to beat Aston Villa to finish as the top team in Birmingham.

Last year's position: 10th

Lawro's verdict: Mid-table

BLACKBURN ROVERS

Blackburn cannot have as bad a season as last year, when they never really seemed to get started.

They have made a good signing in Dominic Matteo and will have Barry Ferguson back as well, which will make a big difference.

I see an improvement for Graeme Souness' team this season and I expect a serious upturn in their home form, which was disastrous last campaign.

Last year's position: 15th

Lawro's verdict: Mid-table

BOLTON

Bolton are an established team in the Premiership these days and well respected by the other sides.

Sam Allardyce has once again gone for experience over the summer, bringing in the likes of Fernando Hierro, Gary Speed and Les Ferdinand.

But I think that goalscoring will remain one of their major problems, although they will be a difficult opponent when they play at home.

Last year's position: 8th

Lawro's verdict: Mid-table

CHARLTON

Charlton should be looking to achieve their highest ever Premiership finish and I'm not sure that their summer shopping has finished yet.

We know they are a well run club with a good manager and I think they have spent the money wisely that they received for Scott Parker.

What Charlton must look to do this season is ensure they do not fade over the second half of the campaign.

Last year's position: 7th

Lawro's verdict: Time for top eight

CHELSEA

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has sorted out the wheat from the chaff and the team will be better than last season.

Mourinho has made some good signings and will have them playing a pressing game with outstanding individuals to win them games.

They have strength right through the centre of the team and will push Arsenal and Manchester United all the way on all fronts.

Last year's position: 2nd

Lawro's verdict: Pushing all the way

CRYSTAL PALACE

I'm predicting relegation here - purely and simply because a massive gulf exists between the Premiership and the Coca Cola Championship.

I know they have a very good manager in Iain Dowie and had a fantastic second half to last season.

But it is difficult to get the players in to bridge the gap and I cannot see beyond the drop for Palace at the end of a long, hard season.

Last year's position: 6th in Division One (play-off winners)

Lawro's verdict: Relegation

EVERTON

Everton could well finish down amongst the dead men - probably not relegation but as near as possible without actually going down.

The club is in a mess and I don't think Wayne Rooney will sign a new contract until the boardroom problems are sorted out.

The manager has no money to spend and the whole club is in a state. If the board don't sort out their differences soon it will be a long, hard season.

Last year's position: 17th

Lawro's verdict: A real struggle

FULHAM

Fulham surprised a lot of people last season - myself included - but I think they will find it a bit more difficult this time around.

When they lost Louis Saha to Man Utd last season they had a momentum that carried them through the last few months of the campaign.

Even though they are back at Craven Cottage this will be a tough second season in management for Chris Coleman.

Last year's position: 9th

Lawro's verdict: Lower mid-table

LIVERPOOL

My immediate thoughts are that Liverpool will finish fourth, pushing to break into the top three.

Rafael Benitez has started clearing out all the rubbish and if he brings players in from La Liga I expect them to be real quality.

I like the look of Benitez, who will restore the pressing game that Liverpool need and get them playing 15 yards higher up the pitch.

Last year's position: 4th

Lawro's verdict: Improvement, pushing the top three

MANCHESTER CITY

It remains to be seen whether Manchester City will still have Nicolas Anelka by the end of August.

Despite bringing in Danny Mills I still don't think they have sorted out their defensive problems and they really need to improve their home form.

I still have worries that City will only just manage to finish outside the bottom three - and if that happens what next for Kevin Keegan?

Last year's position: 16th

Lawro's verdict: Lower mid-table

MANCHESTER UNITED

They will be hoping that Patrick Vieira leaves Arsenal and I think they have made a very good signing in Alan Smith.

Smith, along with a fully-fit Louis Saha and Ruud van Nistelrooy will cause teams a lot of problems and score an awful lot of goals.

Definitely a team who will finish in the top three and a side with the financial clout to really push hard for the title.

Last year's position: 3rd

Lawro's verdict: Real contenders

MIDDLESBROUGH

With the money they have spent and the wages they are paying they have to be looking for a Uefa Cup place at least.

On a good day they look like a very good side, but on a bad day I have worries about their team spirit given some of the players they have.

But they do have some very good players and I think that their aim for the season should be to try and finish above their biggest rivals - Newcastle.

Last year's position: 11th

Lawro's verdict: European place

NEWCASTLE

I worry about Newcastle following the announcement that Sir Bobby Robson will not be having his contract renewed.

It makes the situation very difficult. For instance who is signing the players that the club brings in between now and next summer?

I'm not sure about Patrick Kluivert - has he come to play on the pitch or the quayside and what sort of effect will his arrival have on Alan Shearer?

There are a lot of unanswered questions at Newcastle, although I think both James Milner and Nicky Butt are good signings.

Last year's position: 5th

Lawro's verdict: Slip from top five

NORWICH CITY

Norwich have made one or two decent signings but I think defensively they will have problems against the calibre of opposition they will encounter.

Darren Huckerby was their best player last season and as we know he remains unproven in the Premiership.

Norwich are a well-run club with realistic expectations and I think they will make sure that if they go down they have not broke the bank doing so.

Last year's position: Division One champions

Lawro's verdict: Relegation

PORTSMOUTH

Interesting times at Portsmouth, especially with the very public spat between boss Harry Redknapp and chairman Milan Mandaric.

But that seems to have been sorted out and Pompey are looking to bring quality to the club, signing proven Premiership players.

I think they have enough about them to stay up, but I don't think they will finish much above the drop zone.

Last year's position: 13th

Lawro's verdict: Bottom end but safe

SOUTHAMPTON

I think this will be a tough season for Southampton, especially as I'm not convinced James Beattie will be at the club when the transfer window closes.

Saints seemed to have slipped a little last season and it is important for them that Kevin Phillips and Beattie, if he stays, play well in tandem.

If the two front men hit form, then I don't think they will have any problems but it could be a long season for them.

Last year's position: 12th

Lawro's verdict: Lower mid-table

TOTTENHAM

It will be an interesting season for Spurs with a completely new management set-up at the club.

They have started to sign midfield players, which they desperately need, and I think they have to harbour hopes of at least a top-10 finish.

With the players that they have at the club they have an outside chance of a Uefa Cup place and I don't see major problems for them this season.

Last year's position: 14th

Lawro's verdict: Top 10 at least

WEST BROM

Of the three clubs coming up into the Premiership I think they have the best chance of survival because they will scrap for every point.

Gary Megson's team went down from the Premiership two years ago after struggling to score goals and I think they may have similar problems.

But they will identify the bottom seven or eight clubs as their big games and really go all-out to win them.

Last year's position: Division One runners-up

Lawro's verdict: Relegation - but only just





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