English Premier League season starts today, the top five

LONDON, England (AFP) – With the new Premier League season kicking off on Saturday, here are fact files on the five leading contenders to win the English title.


Manager: Manuel Pellegrini (CHI)

2013-14 position: 1st; FA Cup: quarter-finals; League Cup: winners; Champions League; last 16

Transfers in: Eliaquim Mangala (Porto, £32 million), Fernando (Porto, £12m), Willy Caballero (Malaga, £6m), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Frank Lampard (New York City, Loan)

Transfers out: Javi Garcia (Zenit St Petersburg, £12m) Jack Rodwell (Sunderland, £10m), Gareth Barry (Everton, £1m), Costel Pantilimon (Sunderland, Free), Joleon Lescott (West Brom, Free), Alex Henshall (Ipswich, Free), Ellis Plummer (St Mirren, Free), Reece Wabara (Doncaster, Free), Marcos Lopes (Lille, Loan), Emyr Huws (Wigan Loan), Greg Leigh (Crewe, Loan), Jason Denayer (Celtic, Loan)

With City’s domestic supremacy reasserted with a second league title in three years, the focus of Manuel Pellegrini and his players turns to conquering Europe for the first time.

After another premature exit from the Champions League last season in the last 16 against Barcelona -City would dearly love a sustained challenge for the continent’s top trophy and, with that desire for immediate success in mind, Pellegrini opted for experience when he signed old hands Fernando, Bacary Sagna, Frank Lampard and Willy Caballero to augment an already powerful squad.


Manager: Brendan Rodgers (NIR)

2013-14 position: 2nd; FA Cup: fifth round; League Cup: third round

Transfers in: Adam Lallana (Southampton, £25m), Dejan Lovren (Southampton, £20m), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, £20m), Divock Origi (Lille, £10m), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, £9.75m), Rickie Lambert (Southampton, £4m), Lawrence Vigouroux, Kevin Stewart (Both Tottenham, Free), Javier Manquillo (Atletico Madrid, Loan)

Transfers out: Luis Suarez (Barcelona, £75m) Conor Coady (Huddersfield, £375,000), Pepe Reina (Bayern Munich, Undisclosed), Villyan Bijev (Slavia Sofia, Free), Jakub Sokolik (Yeovil, Free), Luis Alberto (Malaga, Loan), Iago Aspas (Sevilla, Loan), Andre Wisdom (West Brom, Loan), Brad Smith (Swindon, Loan)

Just three months after their hopes of winning the English title for the first time in 24 years slipped away in heartbreaking fashion, the Reds return for a defining season in the team’s development under Brendan Rodgers.

How Liverpool respond to the sale of star striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona will determine whether last year’s impressive progress comes to a grinding halt and Rodgers has splashed out close to £100 million to replace the Uruguayan and add depth to a squad that must cope with the twin demands of domestic and European campaigns.


Manager: Jose Mourinho (POR)

2013-14 position: 3rd; FA Cup: last 16; League Cup: quarter-finals; Champions League: semi-finals

Transfers in: Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid, £32m), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona, £27m), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid, £15.8m), Mario Pasalic (Hajduk Split, £2.4m), and Didier Drogba (Galatasaray, Free).

Transfers out: David Luiz (Paris Saint-Germain, £50m), Romelu Lukaku (Everton, £28m), Demba Ba (Besiktas, £4.7m), Patrick van Aanholt (Sunderland, undisclosed), Ashley Cole (Roma, Free), Sam Hutchinson (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Frank Lampard (New York City, Free), Tomas Kalas (Cologne, Loan), Wallace (Vitesse Arnhem, Loan), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Loan), Bertrand Traore (Vitesse, Loan), Mario Pasalic (Elche, Loan), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton, Loan), Gael Kakuta (Rayo Vallecano, Loan), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough, Loan), Christian Atsu (Everton, Loan), Marko Marin (Fiorentina, Loan)

After finishing last season without a major trophy, Jose Mourinho has invested heavily in a revamped squad that will be expected to bring home significant silverware in the second season of his second coming at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho has a knack for winning big prizes in his second full season at each of his clubs, landing the Champions League at both Porto and Inter Milan in year two and the Spanish title at Real Madrid. To do the same in west London, he has opted for a Spanish flavour, with Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas the headline signings.


Manager: Arsene Wenger (FRA)

2013-14 position: 4th; FA Cup: winners; League Cup: fourth round; Champions League: last 16

Transfers in: Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona, £30m), Calum Chambers (Southampton, £16m); Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle, £12m); David Ospina (Nice, £3m), Elias Chatzitheodoridis (Mas Kallitheakos, Undisclosed), Hugo Keto (HJK Helsinki, Undisclosed), Ben Sheaf (West Ham, Undisclosed)

Transfers out: Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona, £15m), Johan Djourou (Hamburg, £2.5m), Thomas Eisfeld (Fulham, Unidsclosed), Zak Ansah (Charlton, Free), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea, Free), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City, Free), Chuks Aneke (Zulte Waregem, Free), Wellington Silva (UD Almeria, Loan), Carl Jenkinson (West Ham, Loan), Benik Afobe (Milton Keynes Dons, Loan)

Revitalised by their FA Cup final triumph last season, a cathartic victory over Hull that ended the club’s nine-year trophy drought, Arsene Wenger’s side head into the new campaign brim full of belief that they can win the Premier League for the first time since 2004.

For the Gunners to achieve that lofty ambition, Wenger will need midfield dynamo Aaron Ramsey to stay fit for the entire season, while also drawing consistently strong performances from his two key signings Chile winger Alexis Sanchez and France right-back Mathieu Debuchy.


Manager: Louis van Gaal (NED)

2013-14 position: 7th; FA Cup: third round; League Cup: semi-finals; Champions League: quarter-finals

Transfers in: Luke Shaw (Southampton, £30m rising to £31m), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £28.8m), Vanja Milinkovic (FK Vojvodina, Undisclosed)

Transfers out: Alexander Buttner (Dynamo Moscow, £5.6m), Patrice Evra (Juventus, £1.5m), Bebe (Benfica, £2.25m), Jack Barmby (Leicester, Free), Federico Macheda (Cardiff, Free), Nemanja Vidic (Inter Milan, Free), Louis Rowley (Leicester, Free), Rio Ferdinand (QPR, Free), Vanja Milinkovic (FK Vojvodina, Loan), Angelo Henriquez (Dynamo Zagreb, Loan)

The painful memories of David Moyes’ ill-fated season in charge have been swept away as the fallen giants begin the road back to relevancy under Dutch coach Louis van Gaal.

A campaign branded ‘ReUnited14’ by the club’s marketing gurus should benefit from United’s relatively undemanding fixture list in the opening weeks, when a long winning run would buy time for van Gaal to institute the changes needed to ensure at least a top-four finish and ideally a title challenge.

Saturday (8:00 am)

Arsenal v Crystal Palace (10:30 am), Leicester City v Everton, Manchester United v Swansea City (1145 GMT), Queens Park Rangers v Hull City, Stoke City v Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland, West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur


Liverpool v Southampton, Newcastle United v Manchester City


Burnley v Chelsea

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