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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 August 2005, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
Lawro's predictions

The Premiership season gets under way on Saturday.

I will be giving my weekly predictions every week, starting from next Thursday.

But for this first week, I am giving my tip as to how each club will fare over the course of the whole campaign.


By Mark Lawrenson
BBC Sport football expert

ARSENAL

Last year's position: 2nd

Lawro's verdict: 2nd

The Gunners remain a class act, although they will miss Patrick Vieira - it would be impossible not to.

The defence is good, and there are never any worries up front if Thierry Henry's fit. Alexander Hleb seems to be a good signing but they need Sol Campbell playing and they do still lack an absolutely top-class goalkeeper.

The only problem for Arsenal is Chelsea. As good as the Gunners are, it's all about winning when you do not play well - and that is something the Blues did better than Arsenal last season.

ASTON VILLA

Last year's position: 10th

Lawro's verdict: 12th

Villa's defence remains a big worry for me. They shipped 52 goals last season and were particularly vulnerable away from home.

Kevin Phillips is a good signing and having Gavin McCann fit again will make a difference.

The fans will probably have an eye on European qualification but - although they can look good against teams outside the top six - they are not good enough to grab that prize.

BIRMINGHAM

Last year's position: 12th

Lawro's verdict: 11th

I would expect them to have a sharper cutting edge than last season, when they only managed 40 goals.

Walter Pandiani, Mikael Forssell Jermaine Pennant and Emile Heskey should prove a handful for most defences.

Medhi Nafti's injury is a blow, but any Steve Bruce team is likely to be hard to beat and I tip them to shock a few this season.

BLACKBURN ROVERS

Last year's position: 15th

Lawro's verdict: 14th

Craig Bellamy has got to be a key man for Blackburn and if anyone can get the best out of him, Mark Hughes can.

Rovers only scored 32 last season and that is quite simply not enough, so Bellamy has a crucial role to play.

Ryan Nelsen is good at the back and Blackburn are a much-improved team from the one which looked like relegation certainties at the start of last season.

BOLTON

Last year's position: 6th

Lawro's verdict: 10th

This could be the most difficult Premiership season for Bolton since they returned to the top flight for the 2001-02 campaign.

After last year's amazing effort fans' expectations will be that much higher, but Bolton have struggled to make the signings to build the team which can improve them.

Key men like Jay-Jay Okocha are a year older, but Sam Allardyce's side remains tricky to play against and 10th would still be an excellent finish.

CHARLTON

Last year's position: 11th

Lawro's verdict: 13th

The Addicks really need to address their defensive problems. They let in 58 goals last season which is far too many.

Danny Murphy is the key man for them - although it will be interesting to see how new signing Darren Bent fares. He has the pace and ability, but he has to apply himself if he wants to succeed at the higher level.

And of course, Alan Curbishley will want Charlton to be mentally tougher. They have fallen apart in the closing stages of the season so often now, it is no longer funny.

CHELSEA

Last year's position: Champions

Lawro's verdict: 1st

Chelsea were 10-15% better than everyone else last season. And they look even stronger this time around.

Asier del Horno's signing means William Gallas will not have to play left-back, while Shaun Wright-Phillips adds another wide option and he is only going to get better this season.

Hernan Crespo is back and he will be desperate to prove himself for Jose Mourinho. And the Chelsea mentality is incredibly tough. I cannot see anybody finishing above them.

EVERTON

Last year's position: 4th

Lawro's verdict: 9th

Everton were fantastic last season, and I cannot see them reaching the dizzy heights of fourth this time around.

But they remain a strong team. Defensively, they are outstanding, and Simon Davies could be a great signing if he stays fit. Phil Neville is a solid professional, while Per Kroldup has come from Serie A and there are few weak defenders there.

They managed an awful lot of 1-0 wins last year and they may not be able to repeat that this term. But I still think 9th is a fine achievement.

FULHAM

Last year's position: 13th

Lawro's verdict: 17th

I have big worries about Fulham. They shipped a whopping 60 goals last season and now they have lost Edwin van der Sar, who must have saved a few.

Andy Cole has also gone, and I do not feel Chris Coleman has got much with which to work.

New striker Heidar Helguson is unproven in the Premiership and if they keep selling, even 17th may be out of their reach.

LIVERPOOL

Last year's position: 5th

Lawro's verdict: 4th

I cannot see Liverpool breaking into the top three this season, but I expect them to push the top trio a little bit harder.

The European Cup win glossed over some real deficiencies in the team, and I still think the Reds remain rather iffy defensively.

But Steven Gerrard's decision to stay was obviously a massive boost for them and if he stays fit, along with Jamie Carragher and Xabi Alonso, they should be able to press the top teams.

MANCHESTER CITY

Last year's position: 8th

Lawro's verdict: 7th

I like the look of City this season. Stuart Pearce seems to be doing a fantastic job and they had a strong end to the 2004-05 campaign.

He has got Robbie Fowler fit and hungry and Darius Vassell seems to thrive under pressure. With Andy Cole also there, I can see a lot of goals in this team.

The defence is good, and I would expect them to go one better than last season when they only just missed out on a European place.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Last year's position: 3rd

Lawro's verdict: 3rd

I see them pushing Arsenal close, but a lot still depends on Ruud van Nistelrooy recapturing his best form.

I still worry about the way they struggled to break certain teams down last season - and the midfield is clearly not the force area it was five years ago.

However, Edwin van der Sar is an excellent signing and I do not expect them to finish as far behind Chelsea as they did last season, when a huge 18 points separated the teams.

MIDDLESBROUGH

Last year's position: 7th

Lawro's verdict: 6th

Having Gaizka Mendieta back and fully fit will be a huge boost for Steve McClaren - almost like having a new player.

There are goals in this team. If Viduka or Hasselbaink is injured, new signing Yakubu can come in and his physical presence always worries defences.

Stewart Downing will hopefully build on his promising campaign in 2004-05 and I see them getting sixth.

NEWCASTLE

Last year's position: 14th

Lawro's verdict: 8th

I am expecting a much better season from the Magpies, although they are not without their problems.

They still have issues to resolve at the back and they were poor away from home last season, something which will have to be solved.

But I think Scott Parker and Emre are excellent signings, and Graeme Souness has got rid of Laurent Robert, whose inconsistent form meant he flitted between being an asset and a liability last season.

PORTSMOUTH

Last year's position: 16th

Lawro's verdict: 15th

Portsmouth know the importance of winning the matches against the teams who are at the wrong end of the table.

I expect this to be a difficult season, however, and with the departure of Yakubu, I do have some worries about their lack of firepower.

But Fratton Park remains a difficult place to go and play and unless there is a calamity, I think they will do enough to stay up.

SUNDERLAND

Last year's position: Championship champions

Lawro's verdict: 20th (relegated)

Apologies to Sunderland fans, but I do not see your team staying up.

Mick McCarthy did brilliantly last season, but he has been unable to bring in many players during the summer.

The Ipswich goalkeeper Kelvin Davis is a decent signing, but I do not see Jon Stead getting enough goals to keep them afloat.

TOTTENHAM

Last year's position: 9th

Lawro's verdict: 5th

After many seasons of unfulfilled potential, I think Spurs might get it right during this campaign.

Edgar Davids is the headline-grabbing signing and I am sure Martin Jol will get the best out of him.

But they have width with Wayne Routledge and Andy Reid, a sound goalkeeper in Paul Robinson and I think they will qualify for Europe.

WEST BROM

Last year's position: 17th

Lawro's verdict: 16th

They will be much better for the dramatic relegation escape on the final day of last season.

It took Bryan Robson a while to get them going, but they got tougher. The key for them is to beat the teams in and around them in the league and I fancy them to do this.

They need Kanu to play more of a part this season, but I like the look of Rob Earnshaw. He has great movement, and I expect him to get more goals this season, possibly as a supersub.

WEST HAM

Last year's position: 6th in the Championship (play-off winners)

Lawro's verdict: 19th (relegated)

I fear they may fall into the same trap that Norwich did last season, by letting opposition teams play too much.

I can see them playing attractive football, but if they gift too much space to the other team, they will pay for it.

I'm not sure new signings Danny Gabbidon and James Collins will provide enough solidity in defence. I see them having a soft centre.

WIGAN

Last year's position: 2nd in the Championship

Lawro's verdict: 18th (relegated)

They have struggled to attract players during the summer and that could prove to be a fatal blow to Paul Jewell's hopes.

It will be interesting to see how Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington fare, as they both have pace and strength, and they could certainly trouble a few defences.

But they still need more signings. If Wigan are in the hunt come January, then maybe chairman Dave Whelan will open the purse-strings - and that could prove key to their hopes.





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