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Rediff.com  » Sports » EPL: Take a look at what makes Chelsea contenders and more...

EPL: Take a look at what makes Chelsea contenders and more...

August 15, 2014 22:16 IST

EPL: Take a look at what makes Chelsea contenders and more...

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Chelsea have two of the best three goalkeepers in the world, which will help make them serious contenders to win the Premier League this season, their manager Jose Mourinho told a news conference on Friday.

Ahead of Monday's opening game away to newly promoted Burnley, he refused to say whether long-serving Czech Republic international Petr Cech would remain his number one goalkeeper or whether Belgian Thibaut Courtois, who has returned to the club after three seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid, would replace him.

"Chelsea has two of the three best [goalkeepers] in the world and this is something unique," Mourinho said.

He believes that the ability to rotate them if necessary without sacrificing any defensive solidity, plus the acquisition of players like Brazilian Filipe Luis and Spanish internationals Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, as well as the return of striker Didier Drogba, will make the London side stronger than last season when they finished third.

"Last season we were not feeling as though we were a title contender but in fact we finished very close to the title," Mourinho said.

"We didn’t feel as one of the favourites for the Champions League and we played a semi-final, so we did well.

"This season obviously we bought some key players, we believe and we are feeling that the new players have brought the squad and team into another dimension.

"I have to respect the opponents and efforts the other teams made to improve their already top teams, but we all feel we are title contenders."

Mourinho, who returned to Stamford Bridge after leaving Real Madrid in 2013, has a remarkable record in his second season with previous clubs, winning the championship each time with Porto (2004), Chelsea (2006), Inter Milan (2010) and Real Madrid (2012).

Porto and Inter also won the Champions League the same season.

Next: Kompany not worried about relapse


Image: Chelsea's goalkeeper Petr Cech (centre)
Photographs: Sergio Perez/Reuters

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Man City skipper Kompany not worried about relapse

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Champions Manchester City will avoid the hangover that hampered their previous Premier League title defence, captain Vincent Kompany said on Friday on the eve of the new season.

When Sergio Aguero's dramatic late winner, with virtually the last kick of the game against Queens Park Rangers, snatched the 2011-12 title from Manchester United's grasp, many thought City would romp home again the following year.

As it turned out, they did not reach the same heights and trailed in a distant second behind United in 2012-13, and also lost the FA Cup final to Wigan Athletic, before manager Roberto Mancini was replaced by Manuel Pellegrini.

This time, having claimed last season's title by out-lasting Liverpool and Chelsea in the run-in, Kompany expects things to be different.

"I can tell you that mentally we are roaring for the new season," said the 28-year-old Belgian, who is not guaranteed to start at Newcastle United because of a late return to training following the World Cup.

"All of us are ready," he told the club's website. "We are hungry for competition. Physically, there is a question mark. We (the World Cup players) have not had a single minute in a friendly.

"Really, our fitness will be put to the test in the Newcastle game. If we get through this what a great message it will be to the rest of the league of our resilience to continue on what we built last year.

"Our goal is to win the Premier League again. We've worked really hard to get to this level, so we're going to make sure we maintain that. We want to keep the badge on the side of our shirts for a bit longer."

With Chelsea and Arsenal having strengthened, and with Louis van Gaal in charge at Manchester United, City will face fierce competition to retain the title and will be wary of a tough opening sequence of fixtures.

"I feel there are a lot of red flags, alarm signals from last time, we have to be really careful not to fall into complacency. I'm pretty confident that's not going to happen," said Kompany, who signed a new long-term contract this week.

"It's never a good thing to start the season with that many hard fixtures when players have not had a full pre-season.

"But sometimes you become stronger in adversity and I'm fully confident our team can do that and if we can, it will make it so much better - so much more enjoyable."

City have reined in their spending, although they have bolstered their defensive ranks with the likes of Bacary Sagna from Arsenal, Eliaquim Mangala from Porto and Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero.

Former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard has also joined on loan from MLS side New York and Kompany has been impressed with the veteran's sharpness.

Next: Rodgers says Liverpool will benefit from new belief 


Image: Vincent Kompany of Manchester City lifts the Premier League trophy in May
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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Rodgers says Liverpool will benefit from new belief

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Liverpool can take confidence from last season into the new campaign starting this weekend despite missing out on a first English championship for 24 years, manager Brendan Rodgers said on Friday.

With three games to play last April, the Merseyside club were hot favourites to win the title for the first time since 1990.

Then they lost at home to Chelsea and only drew at Crystal Palace after leading 3-0, allowing Manchester City to come through and finish top by two points.

There was a further blow when top scorer Luis Suarez left for Barcelona, causing some critics to suggest Liverpool will not make the top four this season.

Rodgers said he was surprised by that, saying "People will rightly look to Manchester City and Chelsea but we are here to challenge."

He said that the big improvement last season after finishing seventh in his first season as manager will help this time, claiming: "What happened last year counts for nothing but the one thing that will carry on from that is the belief.

"We're entering now into a real long, hard season but a really exciting season because of the talent and the development of this group of players.

"Our aim is to be competitive. Like the top teams we want to win a trophy but it's [also] about sustaining Champions League football. One you arrive in fourth [position] you want to look beyond that and that would be our aim this season."

Liverpool are still hoping to sign "one or two more" players, Rodgers said.

They are understood to have agreed a fee for the Sevilla left-back Alberto Moreno.

He will not be available for Sunday's opening league game at home to Southampton, the club from whom Liverpool have signed three players in the transfer window.

One of them, England midfielder Adam Lallana, is injured but the others, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren, are both available.

Next: Magath explains Fulham overhaul


Image: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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Magath explains Fulham overhaul in open letter

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Fulham manager Felix Magath wrote an open letter to supporters on Friday, explaining why he made so many changes to the squad following relegation from the Premier League.

The London club went down to the Championship after 13 years at the top level, despite hiring the experienced German for the final 11 games, of which they won only three.

Fulham were beaten 2-1 in their opener at Ipswich last Saturday.

In his letter, Magath said: "The performance was very encouraging. Ten of our starting 11 were new to the team and we finished the match with an average age of 21."

He added that it was necessary to make wholesale changes after relegation, promoting youngsters from the club's academy and releasing several senior players.

"The reason for the release of so many was that I felt that the squad was an ageing one that urgently needed to be freshened up with younger, hungrier and more ambitious players.

"I do feel that we as a club should not be frightened of change and that we need to look forward with a much younger team.

"I would like to stress that our aim is to develop a squad that can not only perform well and achieve our goal in the Championship, but grow into a strong Premier League team with a promising future."

Fulham face London rivals Millwall in their first home game on Saturday.


Image: Manager of Fulham Felix Magath
Photographs: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

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