Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

Premier League: Our predictions, your predictions — Update

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UPDATE: Now with added rollcall of shame! Click here for full details of just how badly our panel did

The new Premier League season is upon us and this year we at the Reuters Soccer Blog have decided to stick our necks out as never before.

Instead of the usual season previews, picking one of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool to win the league and the new arrivals to struggle, we’re doing this the hard way and giving our predictions on a match by match basis.

So without further ado, here are the predictions from a random group of Reuters bloggers. Couldn’t agree more? Couldn’t agree less? Give us your predictions too and see if you can do better than our own modest efforts. We may even keep a running score…

Tosic back with a bang for Serbia, can he break through at United?

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Serbia winger Zoran Tosic has boosted his chances of playing more first team football for club and country after scoring his first two international goals in a 3-1 friendly win over South Africa in Pretoria.

The 22-year old has made only a couple of competitive first team appearances for Manchester United since his move from Serbian champions Partizan Belgrade in January and was consequently dropped by Serbia coach Radomir Antic for their 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

The goals will come for Owen, so should an England recall

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Michael Owen missed four glorious chances in Manchester United’s 2-0 friendly win over Valencia but the very fact that he was there to miss them signals a real chance of the former Liverpool reviving his career for club and country.

Owen’s failure to find the net was described as a wasted opportunity by some, given that England coach Fabio Capello was there watching him, but consider … playing for Newcastle at the end of last season, when did he look in with a chance of scoring even one?

from Changing China:

China’s infertile ground for (some) Western sports

Soccer is in a tight spot in China -- literally. Huge crowds roar for Manchester United but the national team is a laughing stock at 108th in FIFA world rankings. Poor coaching, lack of grassroots development, even corruption and violence are variously cited as reasons for the sport's demise. But the real reason may be more basic: the fact of physical space, or the lack thereof, in China.

If geography is a determinant of economic development, then it is fair to extrapolate that urban geography underpins the development of sports. And here's the rub for soccer, not to mention American football and baseball. With few parks, small concrete schoolyards and a dearth of quiet streets, urban China offers little of the space needed for the sprawling play that defines those sports. Soccer has deep roots in China, but playing space has been squeezed as cities sprawl and swallow land in big gulps.

The strange case of Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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Inter Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the ultimate soccer enigma.

He scores goals for fun when playing Bologna, Chievo and Palermo but often goes missing against AC Milan, Manchester United or Liverpool (which is why he is never in the running for the top awards despite the incredulity of Inter fans).

The tall-yet-skilful attacker has been racking up Serie A titles but the Champions League seems a distant prospect and with all due respect to Sweden, he is not likely to win any honours in international football.

Owen, a busted flush or another inspirational Ferguson signing

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Most Manchester United fans will not have been excited when they heard of the club’s plans to sign Michael Owen. The experienced England striker certainly did not fit the usual profile of Alex Ferguson’s signings, at too old and far too injury-prone.

But could Owen prove to be another one of Ferguson’s transfer masterstrokes to rank alongside the likes of Eric Cantona and Henrik Larsson?

Can Owen revive career at Manchester United?

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On the face of it, replacing world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo with an injury-prone forward whose side just got relegated does not seem like a great bit of business.

The British media is certain that Michael Owen, a free agent after leaving Newcastle United, is on the verge of joining Manchester United if he passes a stringent medical.

Real Madrid seal Ronaldo deal

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Finally, Real Madrid can say that Cristiano Ronaldo is their player after the club reached agreement with the Portuguese over personal terms (which are presumably pretty generous).

The announcement is there on the Real website, with the news that Ronaldo will be presented at the Bernabeu on July 6. Expect an announcement with the razzmatazz to rival the Beckham presentation…

from Left field:

Cristiano Ronaldo and why art, not the artist, is what matters

SOCCER-ENGLAND/RONALDOCristiano Ronaldo's obsession with scoring an unforgettable goal in the Champions League final makes perfect sense now the world knows he always intended to leave Manchester United afterwards for Real Madrid.

Reaction in England to his departure was captured in a Guardian headline: "United fans will miss outrageous talent but not a charmless man". Ronaldo, it was said, possessed sumptuous talent coupled with obnoxious self-regard.

First round of the title battle: United v Arsenal, Aug 29

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The new Premier League season kicks off on August 15 and the first real eye-catching fixture is at Old Trafford a fortnight later when Arsenal visit champions Manchester United for the first twist in the title race.

United manager Alex Ferguson will clash with new Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti at Stamford Bridge on November 7, two weeks after visiting rivals Liverpool at Anfield.

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