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The 6 ‘other’ Premier League clubs eyeing European football

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Six Premier League clubs could battle it out for top-half finishes this season, but how many of them think European qualification is possible?

The new league campaign gets going this weekend, and after a much-needed break following back-to-back seasons in the pandemic, the anticipation is building once again.

While the usual ‘big six’ will be expected to be around the top of the table come May, a smattering of other teams will also fancy their chances of having good seasons.

The six sides in question are Leicester, Everton, West Ham, Leeds, Aston Villa and Wolves – here’s how fans of the six clubs feel the season may play out…

 

Leicester

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 3, 2021: Leicester City's Youri Tielemans during the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Leicester City FC at Turf Moor. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

FAN: James Sharpe (@TheSharpeEnd)

What do you expect from your club this season and where will you finish?

For them to compete, once again, for the Champions League places.

If the last few years are anything to go by, Leicester will fly out of the blocks, be in the top four all season and somehow find a way to tumble out at the last and most painful moment.

I expect them to be in the mix again. They have, at the time of writing, held on to all their stars and have recruited well in areas they needed depth.

The key will be keeping their players fit.

Anything new at your club we should know about?

There’s a new striker in town. Patson Daka has joined from Salzburg for £22 million and if you blink, you’ll miss him.

His style will remind you of the Jamie Vardy of old, hounding after lost balls in the channels, harassing and harrying defenders.

He’s rapid, runs tirelessly and scored his first goal in a friendly against QPR. Leicester see him as the long-term successor for Vardy, who turns 35 in January.

Daka is joined among the new recruits by Ryan Bertrand, who Leicester signed on a free, and £18 million midfielder Boubakary Soumare from French champions Lille.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 1, 2019: Leicester City's Jamie Vardy during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Everton FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

One piece of advice for fans visiting your stadium?

Try not to taunt Vardy or sing songs about his wife. He’ll only score and then celebrate in front of you.

I know the temptation must be overwhelming but opposition fans fall into this trap all the time and then come to regret it.

One thing you’d change at your club if you could?

I’d like Leicester to get to the stage where they don’t need to sell a big player every summer. It’s happened ever since they won the title: N’Golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater, Riyad Mahrez, Harry Maguire, Ben Chilwell.

Selling stars for hefty fees and using those funds to invest and build has been a big part of Leicester’s development plan over recent years, but if they are to establish themselves as a bona fide ‘big club’, they have to show they don’t need to sell.

They have managed to keep hold of everyone, although rumours of Arsenal’s interest in Maddison are not going away any time soon.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, August 9, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético Osasuna at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Thoughts on Liverpool and where we will finish this season?

I get the sense this is a crunch season for Jurgen Klopp’s side. It’s no secret that it’s an ageing squad in need of a refresh.

They’ve lost an influential figure in Gini Wijnaldum with questions still over how Liverpool will replace him. Then there’s the cloud of Jordan Henderson’s contract situation hanging over everything.

Yet there are also big positive signs in the return of Virgil van Dijk – what an impact his comeback will have – as well as Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

Despite all their setbacks, despite all the doubters, they still managed to clinch a top-four place (at the expense, sigh, of Leicester) at the end of the season.

I’ll put them down for fourth this time around.

 

Everton

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 7, 2021: Everton's manager Rafael Benítez (L) and James Rodríguez during a pre-season friendly match between Manchester United FC and Everton FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

FAN: Matt Jones (@MattJFootball)

What do you expect from your club this season and where will you finish?

Not much. A load of key players have only just come back and one is still away, while the managerial appointment was deeply unpopular.

Everton made three signings for a total of £2 million and one of them isn’t a right-back.

A large amount of the deadwood that’s been here for years is still here. Oh, and they got absolutely pumped by Man United in their last pre-season game.

They will finish between 10th and 14th.

Anything new at your club we should know about?

Think you’ve probably heard of our new manager…

One piece of advice for fans visiting your stadium?

Go if you can. There aren’t many years left of Goodison Park!

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 7, 2021: Everton's Andros Townsend during a pre-season friendly match between Manchester United FC and Everton FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

One thing you’d change at your club if you could?

There’s far too much to get into here in regards to actual football stuff, so I’ll go down a different route.

Chang has had its day as an in-stadium ale. Let’s have something a bit better for Goodison’s last hurrah.

Thoughts on Liverpool and where we will finish this season?

Liverpool will likely be very good again, as they have been for ages.

They will be part of a top four that will be miles ahead of the rest of the division.

 

West Ham

2F4G61K London Stadium, London, UK. 21st Mar, 2021. English Premier League Football, West Ham United versus Arsenal; Jarrod Bowen of West Ham United celebrates his goal for 2-0 in the 17th minute Credit: Action Plus Sports/Alamy Live News

FAN: James Jones (@ByJamesJones)

What do you expect from your club this season and where will you finish?

Over the years I’ve taught myself to keep expectations to a minimum when going into a new season.

However, after the success of last season, when we shocked the world (not an exaggeration) by finishing sixth, it’s difficult not to be a bit excited for where this coming season might take us.

Of course, we don’t expect to emulate or better a sixth-placed finish, but the only thing us Hammers fans want is a solid season where we compete for a top-10 finish. Anything else is a bonus, I think.

My worry is that historically we tend to follow up a good Premier League season with a bad one. Trust me, our inconsistency on that front is actually impressively consistent.

That said, everything rests on the business we do this summer.

We desperately need another midfielder, at least one striker but preferably two, and a centre-back. If we don’t strengthen in those areas, it’s going to be a very long season ahead, I fear.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 31, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) and West Ham United's manager David Moyes during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Anything new at your club we should know about?

We’re a top-six club and compete in the Europa League – we’ve not been able to say that since 1999, so we’re going to dine out on that for as long as we possibly can, even if it is just for one season.

It’s something Spurs can’t say this season as well, which makes it even better!

One piece of advice for fans visiting your stadium?

I’m not going to bring out the ‘bring your binoculars’ gag out because, well, I’ve always thought it was rubbish banter.

One thing you should bring is comfortable footwear, though, because the walk to and from the London Stadium from Stratford station is a pretty long one!

One thing you’d change at your club if you could?

The ownership, obviously. David Sullivan and David Gold may have ‘saved’ us over a decade ago, but they’ve now outstayed their welcome.

The quicker they sell the club the happier we’ll all be in east London.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, August 9, 2021: Liverpool's captain Roberto Firmino (L) celebrates after scoring the third goal, his second, with team-mate Ibrahima Konaté during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético Osasuna at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Thoughts on Liverpool and where we will finish this season?

I’m a bit of a strange West Ham fan in that I’ve got a soft spot for Liverpool, thanks to what happened in Istanbul.

It was such an inspiring night and something I’ll never forget watching. Steven Gerrard has always been a hero of mine as well, despite breaking my heart in 2006, so I’ve always wanted Liverpool to do well.

This season I think you’ll be back fighting for the title, but only if you can avoid another injury crisis in defence.

I’d be shocked if Liverpool aren’t fighting for the title all season and I really, really hope you win it!

 

Leeds

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 12, 2020: Leeds United's Patrick Bamford celebrates after scoring the second equalising goal to level the score 2-2 during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 4-3. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

FAN: Joe Urquhart (@JoeUrquhart_)

What do you expect from your club this season and where will you finish?

There are a few murmurs about Europe but I think ending up around the top 10 again would be seen as successful.

We have seen what happened to Sheffield United in their second campaign after promotion and there are plenty of people at Elland Road fully aware of that.

Anything new at your club we should know about?

The most obvious would be the acquisition of Barcelona full-back Junior Firpo.

At an upfront fee of £13 million, with add ons, it looks like a real steal for someone who suits Bielsa-ball down to the ground.

Left-back has been a real problem position for Bielsa since he has been in charge and the departure of Gjanni Alioski meant a new man was needed to help plug the gap with Stuart Dallas, who just plays wherever he is told.

He is one player that the fans are really excited about.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Monday, April 19, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané during the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. (Pic by Propaganda)

One piece of advice for fans visiting your stadium?

If you’re driving over then I’d suggesting coming early as parking can be a little tricky. If you’re travelling through from the city centre after a train journey then I would also plan ahead.

Elland Road is a little further out than people think after a pre-match pint or two. The best plan is probably a taxi.

One thing you’d change at your club if you could?

It’s in the pipeline already, but Elland Road really does need expanding and updating now the club is back in the Premier League.

The demand for tickets is reaching silly heights and is only going to get bigger the longer they remain in the top flight (and hopefully start looking upwards).

There are tentative plans to make the ground a 50,000 capacity, which is much-needed.

I hope that brings with it some thought about travel to and from the stadium on matchdays for supporters.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, August 9, 2021: Liverpool's Takumi Minamino celebrates after scoring the first goal during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético Osasuna at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Thoughts on Liverpool and where we will finish this season?

I can’t say I have followed your summer that closely but I would imagine after last season a top-four finish and fighting for a trophy would represent another solid season.

Either the Champions League (as always) or FA Cup, possibly.

I wouldn’t put it past you to challenge for the title, but I think Man City and Chelsea may be the ones to watch this year.

Feel free to absolutely prove me wrong.

 

Aston Villa

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 10, 2021: Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Aston Villa FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

FAN: Crippy Cooke (@CrippyCooke)

What do you expect from your club this season and where will you finish?

I’m very pleased with the signings we’ve made this summer (Buendia, Young, Bailey, Ings) and believe we can push for a strong top-half finish in the Premier League.

Our issue last season was an overreliance on our starting XI as our squad lacked depth, but Dean Smith has since bolstered our attack, so we should be aiming to disrupt the top six.

I predict we will finish seventh or eighth.

Anything new at your club we should know about?

We’ve got fairly new owners who took over the club in 2018/19 and have a high-profile chief executive in Christian Purslow, who joined in 2018 and who Liverpool fans should recognise.

Our owners are extremely wealthy and our CEO is very knowledgeable, so the plan isn’t to tread water in the Premier League.

The project is to return to Europe.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 4, 2020: A general view of the exterior of Villa Park pictured ahead of the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

One piece of advice for fans visiting your stadium?

I’ll give you three pieces of advice.

Firstly, be prepared for an intimidating atmosphere. Fans are optimistic going into this campaign and there’s a high level of expectation after how well we did last season, so our supporters won’t be too jovial with the opposition.

Secondly, take pictures of the occasion. Villa Park is a beautiful stadium that once had an award-winning groundskeeper in charge, so it’s quite a sight in person.

Finally, Villa pride themselves on being an inclusive club that stamps out discrimination in all forms, so report anything if you witness it.

One thing you’d change at your club if you could?

Aston Villa’s recruitment has been excellent in the last 18 months and performances on the pitch prove the club is going in the right direction, but one area I want to see improvement in is ensuring there’s a pathway to the first team for academy players.

There’s some real talent in Villa’s youth ranks that deserve more opportunities, so it would be nice if Smith would trust the kids more.

He’s aware of their ability but has been reticent to throw them in the deep end until now.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, August 9, 2021: Players and supporters stand for a moment's applause to remember former Liverpool and Club Atlético Osasuna player Michael Robinson before a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético Osasuna at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Thoughts on Liverpool and where we will finish this season?

Liverpool should be in a better place this season as they finished the last campaign strongly and haven’t lost anyone too important over the summer.

They haven’t spent a lot on new recruits but didn’t need to make widespread changes to the squad, so having continuity will be a big benefit.

Getting players back from injury will be huge, too.

I think Man City will win the Premier League title, but Liverpool should run them fairly close.

 

Wolves

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 29, 2019: Wolverhampton Wanderers' Pedro Neto during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

FAN: Sam Cook (@77ClubPodcast)

What do you expect from your club this season and where will you finish?

It’s been one of those transfer windows for Wolves.

I think most fans would agree we’ve never really got near the standards in terms of recruiting compared to the summer of 2018 – our first window back in the Premier League.

Fans are vying for another European tour, but a mid-table finish is probably what the average fan is expecting/hoping for, depending on whether their glass is half full or half empty.

A run to a domestic cup final would be satisfactory and would most likely allow a passage into Europe, albeit through the back door.

Anything new at your club we should know about?

Nuno switched Wolverhampton for north London during the summer.

It always amazes me how a manager can be deemed not good enough for one club, but just what another (above them) are looking for.

We’ve swapped Nuno for Bruno Lage – hopefully he’s given some funds and keeps hold of key players, otherwise I feel he’s been set up for failure. Time will tell.

He’s won leagues in Portugal, but the Mander Centre is a far cry from the Mediterranean.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, March 15, 2021: Liverpool players line-up before the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

One piece of advice for fans visiting your stadium?

We like to make everyone feel really welcome in Wolverhampton – that’s why you’ll be expected to do your drinking and eating in Birmingham and hop on the 15-minute train to the revamped Wolverhampton Train Station.

There are ticket barriers now, just in case you wondered.

One thing you’d change at your club if you could?

Not too many complaints from me, but then again, I’m a season ticket holder. I’m not sure whether the perfect ticket scenario exists, but I’d like that to be looked at.

I like how Liverpool do things actually – either committing to all cup games for the season or sitting it out. It’s a good way to get people to games, through a ballot.

Wolves don’t play as many cup games as Liverpool – the Europa League season aside – so I guess the potential commitment financially wouldn’t play on people’s minds so much.

It’s food for thought.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, August 9, 2021: Liverpool's captain Roberto Firmino leads his side out before a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Club Atlético Osasuna at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Thoughts on Liverpool and where we will finish this season?

I think second place for the Reds.

Man City’s movements in the transfer market can’t be matched by anyone out there. It just goes to show, if you work hard on the training ground, try to split off from UEFA and have a big enough chequebook, then things will work out in the end.

I do believe Liverpool will end the season with a trophy, though, maybe two. I’ll say a domestic cup double and a Champions League semi-final.


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