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Football season is here again

A new season in Europe kicks off!

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PREMIERSHIP

WINNER

MANCHESTER CITY

Look no further. They have the most lethal combo of strikers in Kun Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli, a steady defence and the confidence of knowing that they belong to the big league (oil money or not). Whether Roberto Mancini can manage his resources and tap the best out of his incredibly talented squad must be the only point worth pondering. If they play to form, should retain the title by a mile and more.

CLOSE SECOND


MANCHESTER UNITED

The Old Trafford faithfuls will scoff at their club being 'relegated'to dark horse status but that's still a compliment considering that there is little to choose between them, Chelsea and even Arsenal. All EPL heavyweights have greatly refurbished their squads but what tilts the balance in Sir Alex's favour is the coup he pulled off with Robin van Persie. Can't wait to see the Dutchman work in tandem with Rooney and Kagwa. The last one, mind you, is much, much more than just a shirt-seller.

WATCH OUT FOR


SERGIO AGUERO

Born:

June 2, 1988 I

Position:


Forward

Club:


Manchester City This could be Kun Aguero's season. The man who won it for City last year looks in prime form. He showcased his intention in the Community Shield clash against Chelsea and after a year in the world's toughest league, looks all set to instill fear in opposition defenders. He nailed 30 goals last season. And since the supply line includes some of the world's best, expect this clinical finisher to add to that tally.

NEW TALENT


EDEN HAZARD

Born:

January 7, 1991

Position:


Midfielder

Club:


Chelsea FC Everyone knew that he has silken skill, pace and creativity. But question is, will he be able to find his feet in the meanest of all leagues? Chelsea paid £32 million for the Lille midfielder and if his first match in new club is any indication (Community Shield clash against Manchester City), the lad is worth every penny that Roman Abramovich has had to shell out. After the match, Hazard told reporters that the physicality of EPL suits him. Chelsea will sure hope it does.

LA LIGA


WINNER

REAL MADRID

Though Barca fans may think otherwise, point is, Jose Mourinho and his squad are ahead of their arch-rivals in every department in fresh season. The manager is coming into his own, has a stronger squad at his disposal and the players look fitter and hungrier. On the other hand, Tito Vilanova has a pair of very large boots to fill. The only thorn in Real's path? A certain gentleman called Leo Messi. He can change all calculations, obviously.

CLOSE SECOND


BARCELONA

It's frustrating to predict anything when it comes to La Liga, simply because it gives a new dimension to the phrase 'two-horse race'. Barca, in any other league, would be the overwhelming favourites. The indifferent form of Xavi, the heavy workload of Messi, David Villa's return and an unproven manager are the areas where their arch-rivals are ahead of them. But for the rest of the league hopefuls, they pack just too much power.

KEY PLAYER


CRISTIANO RONALDO

Born:

February 5, 1985

Position:


Winger

Club:


Real Madrid Last season, Ronaldo finished 4 goals behind Lionel Messi's record of 50. He shared the pitch with two strikers who scored over 20 league goals in last campaign. With the likes of Angel di Maria (15 assists in 16 starts) and Mesut Oezil (16 assists) feeding him, Ronaldo - who enjoys a greater freedom in his side compared to Messi who takes up a more central position - may overtake his arch rival.

NEW TALENT


IKER MUNIAIN

Born:

December 19, 1992

Position:


Forward

Club:


Athletic Bilbao It is trouble enough when media starts touting a 19-year-old as the next best thing. And it is positively catastrophic when he is compared to Lionel Messi. Fans and even cynical scribes say he could be a future Ballon d'Or winner. Athletic Bilbao's youngest-capped player is already nearing 100 appearances. The youngster has pace and imagination. He is also a very hard working player. He was outstanding in the Europa League against teams like Manchester United. The youngster has potential.

SERIE A
WINNER JUVENTUS

The 28th league title (and as unbeaten, too) has given the Old Lady of Turin so much belief that they have marched ahead and upgraded the squad with some smart moves. They acquired Lucio on a free transfer while Martin Caceres made his loan from Sevilla permanent for 8 million. In came Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla as also Paul Pogba. And Juve are sure as hell homing in on Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente. Coach Conte's ban, if upheld, may upset the applecart though.

CLOSE SECOND


NAPOLI

Napoli enjoyed a satisfying 2011-12 campaign. But their dark-horse status is more due to the misery that AC Milan and Inter are going through. Milan sold off their prized assets to restore balance of accounts and Inter look a shadow of the side that Mourinho built. However, Walter Mazzarri's 3-4-3 system thrilled Napoli fans and critics alike. Ezequiel Lavezzi is off to bigspending PSG (no surprises there) but they still retain Cavani and Marek Hamsik. Add to that Mazzarri's acumen and they may just spring a surprise.

KEY PLAYER


EDINSON CAVANI

Born:

February 14, 1987

Position:


Forward

Club:


Napoli He missed a few penalties. But who hasn't ? The Uruguyan recently ended his courtship with Chelsea and decided to stay back at Napoli. Back-to-back seasons of 25 goals and more never come easy and the skilled sniper will once again be the lynchpin of Napoli's attack. Not for Cavani the fancy step-overs and bicycle kicks. He just puts the ball in the net.

NEW TALENT


CIRO IMMOBILE

Born:

February 20, 1990 I

Position:


Striker

Club:


Pescara (on loan from Juventus/Genoa) It's a league where Andrea Pirlo still holds sway and Alessandro del Piero played until last season. The 22-year-talent is a breath of fresh air. A member of Juve's youth product, Ciro has shown signs of greatness playing for Serie B side Pescara where he went on loan. The tall striker is sure to play topflight league this season with either his parent club or Genoa, who have a co-ownership deal with Juve. He has racked up 17 Serie B goals in 22 games and has the team in fourth place. Some are already comparing him to Del Piero. While that's a tall order, he is among the hottest strikers in Italy right now.

BUNDESLIGA


WINNER

BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Not by much, though. Ever since their second consecutive league triumph, the gap between them and Bayern Munich is slowly narrowing down. A lot will depend on whether Marco Reus can prove a successful replacement for Shinji Kagwa. The bench is weak too, but one can never write off the yellow brigade.

CLOSE SECOND


WOLFSBURG

Felix Magath is one of the shrewdest brains in Germany. And also one of the strictest disciplinarians. After returning to the club with whom he last won the Bundesliga title, Magath has made some significant signings. Pogatetz (from Hannover) and Naldo (from Werder Bremen), Vaclav Pilar and Brazilian recruit Fagner are interesting choices. Ivica Olic has also joined and the club has the firepower to challenge any of the sides in German League.

KEY PLAYER


CLAUDIO PIZARRO

Born:

October 3, 1978

Position:


Forward I

Club:


Bayern Munich Not a spring chicken, he has answered Bayern Munich's call after the club spent an entire summer looking for forwards. Mario Gomez goes fishing at times in the middle of the pitch which is where Pizarro's consistency should serve the German powerhouse well. The 33 year old was involved in 47% of the goals for Bremen last season, and would hope to be a focal point for Bayern's attacks.

NEW TALENT


RICARDO RODRIGUEZ

Born:

August 25, 1992

Position:


Left-back I

Club:


Wolfsburg It's always risky to nominate a defender as the one to watch out for but Felix Magath, the Wolfsburg manager, knows his business. The 19-year-old defender was a part of the Switzerland U-17 World Cup squad that won the trophy in 2009 and also in London Olympic squad. He is one of the brightest talents in Swiss football. Rodriguez's strengths are crossing skills and long balls but passing is still a bit raw. But Magath rates him highly.

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