Yank chiming in here - I’ve watched the Tournament of Champions Series in the US the past 2 years, have steadily increased my following of the major leagues in Europe over the past several years - especially the EPL (thank you, FOX Sports). Anyway, I’ll just make the following comments:
EPL - I think there are about 4 teams that will view for the Premiership title - Chelsea, Arnsenal, Man Utd., and Liverpool). Chelsea is loaded and I predict they are the odds on favorite to win the title. Dogba and Kezman appear to be exicitng additions up front (especially Drogba; however, I think Kezman, at the end of the year, could very well have the better season). I also think Robben will have a good season as well (I was impressed with his play in the Champions Tournament). I wasn’t overly impressed with the two new Portuguese defenders - Ferriera and Carvalho (?) - but Maurinho had them at Porto and should be able to use them effectively, nonetheless.
Arsenal is still Arsenal, although if Viera leaves that will have some impact on their ability to feed Henry and Bergkamp consistently. But I don’t think it will adversely affect Arsenal too much.
Liverpool appears to be much improved - I agree with an earlier poster that Cisse will make the team much more exciting. I also liked what I saw in Amana-Pongole, although he appears to still be a bit unpolished. But the potential is definitely there.
Man Utd. appears to been on the downturn. Ruud will still be Ruud, but where’s the other firepower in the lineup? Sure, they have Smith (from Leeds), but I haven’t been overly impressed so far. Giggs is still effective on the left, but after that? Forlan’s too inconsistent; Ronaldo, although at times spectacular, is still a bit raw. Scholes and Keane are getting older, and the defense just doesn’t seem that effective (to be sure, I really think O’Shea is good and I absolutely love Ferdinand, but who else do they have that stands out?). Howard is a good goal keeper, but I fear he’s going to have a more difficult season this year than last.
As for up and coming teams in the EPL - I think Newcastle will be better this year, as will Middlesbrough. I aslo think Fulham and Southampton are sleepers as well (just a hunch - I was impressed with Beattie and Niemi at Southampton the few times I saw them play).
With respects to Champion’s League play - I give Porto little chance to repeat and will not be surprised if an English team makes it to the finals (especially Chelsea).