We at SI Kids are getting really excited for the start of the English Premier League season Saturday morning. After an absolutely wild ending last year between the two Manchester teams, we can't wait to see who will rise to the top of the table this campaign. Here are the story lines we'll be keeping an eye on as we follow the best soccer league in the world from August until its conclusion in May.
1. The Battle For Manchester
Manchester United has been the most dominant team in English soccer over the past decade, but last season Manchester City won its first English Premier League (EPL) title since 1968. Man City clinched on the last game of the season with a dramatic goal in injury time. Led by stars like Man U’s Wayne Rooney and Man City’s Mario Balotelli, the local rivalry is now on a par with Duke–North Carolina and Jets–Giants. Manchester City won both times the two teams met in Premier League matches last season, so you can be sure that United will be out for redemption when they meet on December 8 and April 6. But unlike last season, this year Manchester United will have the services of one of the world's most talented players, Dutchman Robin Van Persie, who United purchased from Arsenal this week.
Liverpool is one of the most popular soccer teams in the world (LeBron James is a minority owner), but the Reds haven’t won an EPL title since 1990 and finished a disappointing eighth in 2011–12. Liverpool has a new manager in Brendan Rodgers, and midfielder Steven Gerrard is healthy again after suffering multiple injuries last season. Rodgers’s style is based on a lot of ball movement, and Liverpool must adapt to it to have any hope of rising in the standings.
3. Surprise Squads
After years of finishing near the bottom, Newcastle and Everton shocked fans by finishing fifth and seventh respectively in 2011–12. There are plenty of reasons to expect that success to continue this season. Newcastle has two strikers from Senegal, Demba Ba and Papiss Demba, who combined for 29 goals last season and should improve in their second seasons with the club. Everton’s success is due largely to the steady play of American goaltender Tim Howard, who joined the team in 2006.