With the World Cup behind us, focus is beginning to shift back to club football. The new Premier League season is less than a month away, with the opening match between Manchester United and Leicester City scheduled for Friday, 10th August.
Cardiff City, Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers will be looking forward to playing top-flight football again after being promoted from the Championship last season. We take a look at how each of them is likely to fare in the new season.
The return of Wolverhampton Wanderers to the Premier League was marked by claims of lack of a level playing field by other Championship clubs. This stemmed from the club’s ownership by the Chinese conglomerate Fosun International, who also happen to own a stake in football super-agent Jorge Mendes’ Gestifute Agency. As a result of this unique connection, Wolves were able to secure key deals for players like Rúben Neves and manager Nuno Espírito Santo, who were critical to their promotion charge.
On the football pitch, however, Wolves were emphatic as they won the Championship by a margin of nine points. With even more money to invest and a highly-rated manager, they will fancy their chances of staying up.
Cardiff City will have to learn from the shambles of their previous season in the Premier League if they are to avoid the fate of a direct return to the Championship again. The Bluebird’s first top-flight season in 2013/14 was overshadowed by a controversial change of their kit colour, a mid-season dismissal of their manager and an owner who hogged the limelight at every opportunity.
Chairman Vincent Tan appointed serial promotion-winner Neil Warnock as manager in 2016. The move came up trumps as the club finally secured a return to the top division with an impressive second-place finish, above favourites such as Fulham and Aston Villa. Of the three promoted sides, Cardiff might have the longest shot at retaining their Premier League status come the end of the season. They will be counting on the experience of Warnock to wade them through the unpredictable waters of football at the highest level in England.
Fulham stumbled towards the end of their Championship campaign, which meant that they failed to secure an automatic promotion spot. They did manage to beat Derby County and Aston Villa in the play-offs to seal their return to the Premier League, nonetheless.
Their young winger Ryan Sessegnon was named Championship Player of the Year after another outstanding season. Sessegnon is coveted by some of the top clubs in the world, but he seems set to remain at Craven Cottage for at least one more season, after he renewed his contract earlier this summer. Alongside captain Tom Cairney, Sessegnon will be critical to Fulham’s hopes of survival. Manager Slavisa Jokanović is also quite highly rated, and it should bode well for the club if he can live up to expectations.
How do you think the new boys will fare? You can start checking out our early Premier League odds here.