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Friday Feedback: Your Very Important 7500 to Holte Season Preview

SO KON PO, HONG KONG - JULY 30: Shay Given of Aston Villa lies on the picth during the Asia Trophy Final match against Chelsea at the Hong Kong Stadium on July 30, 2011 in So Kon Po, Hong Kong.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
SO KON PO, HONG KONG - JULY 30: Shay Given of Aston Villa lies on the picth during the Asia Trophy Final match against Chelsea at the Hong Kong Stadium on July 30, 2011 in So Kon Po, Hong Kong. (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
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Aston Villa

Where will Aston Villa finish in the league?

Gareth: Eighth. This is me being optimistic.
Kirsten: 11th, to take the average of everyone else
Aaron: Somewhere between 8th and 14th.
Robert: It's either going to shock us (6th) or be sub-mediocre (14th). I don't see the team hitting the middle.

How will Aston Villa perform in the FA Cup?

Gareth: Quarterfinals. Maybe semifinals, if the draw goes our way.
Kirsten: Quarterfinals -- and we won't play Blackburn
Aaron: I think the cups are both going to be a priority for Villa, so anything short of the quarterfinals would surprise me, assuming we don't have to play Manchester City early on or something like that.
Robert: Quarterfinals, and then a loss to Blackburn. Or maybe surprise entrant Rapid Vienna.

How will Aston Villa perform in the League Cup?

Gareth: Finalists. If McLeish knows anything, it's how to win B-minus trophies. If this squad knows anything, it's how to choke away a good opportunity.
Kirsten: Semi-finals. McLeish will try his hardest to win the trophy two seasons in a row, but we'll manage to pull an Arsenal
Aaron: Same as with the FA Cup, but I think Villa have to be considered one of the favorites in this one.
Robert: I've gotta go with Gareth here, I think we make the finals. But I can see them actually winning it. I assume this is out best chance of European play in 2012-13.

Who will be Aston Villa's player of the year?

Gareth: Darren Bent, crushing my personal favourite Jean Makoun under the sheer weight of his goals.
Kirsten: Barry Bannan!
Aaron: Officially? Darren Bent. Realistically? Makoun, if everything goes how I think it will.
Robert: Darren Bent, after he scores 22 goals.

Which new player will be more important? Shay Given or Charles N'Zogbia?

Gareth: I love Charlie Insomnia, but if last season was any indication, we rely on good goalkeeping. As does McLeish.
Kirsten: Blazing Roaches. Given is needed, certainly, but without good wingers this team is not going to score. Which would make it difficult to win.
Aaron: N'Zogbia, simply because wing play is going to be so important to this team. Given is a great signing, but keepers are just have far less of an impact on the game.
Robert: Given. N'Zogbia could be the difference between being a great team and a mediocre team, but without someone of Given's quality, this could be a relegation-level team.

Who (or what) will be Aston Villa's biggest disappointment this year?

Gareth: I don't want to say Stephen Warnock, because I like him. For some reason. It'll be Stephen Ireland.
Kirsten: The problem with "biggest disappointment" is having the high expectations in the first place. I don't have high expectations for many of these players. Petrov has declined, I seriously doubt Ireland will have that one good season again, Warnock just needs to be sufficient for him to meet my expectations. Therefore (and please don't hurt me), I'd say Marc Albrighton, because I have high hopes of him continuing to improve.
Aaron: To me or to the club? Stephen Warnock is bad and my expectations are so low that I don't see how he could possibly disappoint me. But McLeish seems to expect him to perform well, so that's going to be unpleasant for him. I'll go with Petrov because I think his decline is apparent, but since that means more Bannan I am kind of okay with that.
Robert: Our wingback play. I can see Warnock and Young bombing forward too often and leaving gaping holes in what will be an otherwise improved defense.

Will Alex McLeish still be manager by the end of the season?

Gareth: Yeah. Say what you want about Randy Lerner, but when he sticks out his neck like this, he'll stand by his man. In the (crosses fingers) unlikely event of relegation (uncrosses fingers), all bets are off.
Kirsten: Who else is there?!? I don't even want to think about it.
Aaron: Assuming we don't go down, yeah. And I have a really, really hard time seeing that happen.
Robert: If he can sail through the first ten matches or so, I think he'll stick. If Villa start spiraling downward out of the gate, I can see the calls for his head being too much for Lerner to ignore.

Are Aston Villa really done buying players, or will they pick up someone by the end of the transfer window?

Gareth: I wouldn't be surprised if McLeish picked up a defender out of the bargain bin that is the Championship. Maybe even from his old club.
Kirsten: Well, it seems Hitzlsperger is still on the table, which will make many squeal in glee.
Aaron: I would be kind of surprised if there's not another signing or two, probably another defender and hopefully a holding midfielder. They won't be sexy though, unless we can trick City into loaning us Milner.
Robert: There will be another signing, but I don't think it will be anything of major significance.

Premier League

Who will win the Premier League?

Gareth: Manchester United. They got better over the summer, and Chelsea didn't. It could be City's year, but it probably isn't.
Kirsten: I said Chelsea on a podcast, but I was really just hoping to provoke disagreement. I love Villas-Boas but he needs a less-aging squad. I think it'll be United again.
Aaron: Manchester City. I know I should be skeptical until they actually win it once, but they just look so good this pre-season. And I know it's just pre-season and I shouldn't take it seriously, but there's a cohesiveness to their play I haven't seen from them before.
Robert: I kind of wish it would be Arsenal, but I've got to go with Manchester United.
Who will qualify for the Champions League?
Gareth: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Liverpool. Unless Wenger makes a big splash with his Fabregas and/or Nasri money, I can't see Arsenal as automatic for the Champions League spots anymore.
Kirsten: Same as Gareth. Unless Suarez breaks or doesn't click with Carroll, in which case, Arsenal have a chance.
Aaron: United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal. Liverpool slipping in ahead of Arsenal wouldn't shock me. Anything else would.
Robert: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, and Arsenal.

Who will be relegated?

Gareth: Blackburn Rovers, Norwich City and QPR. The misfortune of losing Paul Lambert (who I quite like as a manager) and Canadian International Simeon Jackson (which is his full name) is offset by the relegation of a pair of dislikeable ownership groups, along with human gremlin Neil Warnock.
Kirsten: Blackburn (please God Blackburn, although we'd still get them in a cup). Norwich, because I don't think they're prepared enough. And QPR, because I think they're focused on things beyond the field, and they've yet to nail down Adel Taarabt. Any club ever associated with Roberto Martinez will stay up, meaning Swansea and Wigan are safe.
Aaron: Blackburn, Swansea, Norwich. Wolves and Wigan in the mix too, unfortunately. I suppose QPR could be a candidate, but I'd honestly expect them to finish top half more than I'd expect them to go down.
Robert: Wolves, Blackburn, Swansea. (Side note: I have no idea why, but I desperately want to see Swansea do well)
Who will win the FA Cup?

Gareth: Liverpool. They've got to win something at some point, and I'm pretty sure there's some hex keeping them from winning the league. And by hex, I mean "the curse of not being good enough."
Kirsten: Bolton. They're fourth right now, so it seems do-able.
Aaron: One of the teams in the Champions League mix (the Big 5 if you will) or possibly Spurs. But in knockouts, who the hell knows?
Robert: Manchester City. They're too good for me to say they won't win anything. They can have this.

Who will win the League Cup?

Gareth: Fulham. Because somebody's gotta do it, even if that somebody employs my least favourite footballer.
Kirsten: Brighton. Because why on earth not?
Aaron: Either United or a team like Villa.
Robert: Aston Villa. Though won't we all be shocked when Birmingham City win it and promptly get relegated to League One.

Which manager will be the first to lose his job?

Gareth: Steve Kean. Because Blackburn is a circus. Also, you can trade out "Steve Kean" and "Blackburn" for "Alan Pardew" and "Newcastle" and the point remains valid.
Kirsten: Arsene Wenger. Talk about a death spiral. (I wonder if Arsenal fans will get that I'm just baiting them with this answer?)
Aaron: Steve Kean. Because Blackburn is a circus.
Robert: Owen Coyle. Would it surprise anyone if Bolton went into some sort of weird death spiral? I mean, aside from the fact that everyone would be surprised to be actually thinking about Bolton.

Who will be the PFA Player and Young Player of the Year?

Gareth: Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero, although I would love to see Aguero go on a tear and win both awards.
Kirsten: Edin Džeko because if someone on Manchester City is going to do well, I want it to be him. And I'm disappointed that Kun went there, so I refuse to name him as the young player of the year. I'm going with Aaron Ramsey, because with Cesc leaving, he'll step up admirably.
Aaron: Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero. I expect Rooney to go absolutely nuts this year as he gets more comfortable in his new-ish role.
Robert: If it weren't for the fact that I don't expect Villa to do too much, I'd say Darren Bent for the PFA Player. I think he's going to score as if it is going out of style. But being part of Villa will hold him back. So I'll say Rooney and Jack Wilshere with the first repeat winner of the young player award since Rooney.

The Rest of the World

Who will win the Champions League?
Gareth: Last year, I said it was too soon for Mourinho. Not this year. Real Madrid wins it.
Kirsten: Barcelona :(
Aaron: Until given reason to think otherwise, Barca have to be the favorites. But Madrid would be far from shocking.
Robert: I just can't envision anyone beating Barcelona.

Who will win the Europa League?

Gareth: It'll be Athletic Bilbao or some Champions League dropout or something.
Kirsten: Napoli! No, just kidding, I think once they drop, they won't care anymore. I can see Roma doing it because their new owner has a point to prove. And they're going to be good, but not good enough to win Serie A.
Aaron: Of the teams that are in it now, probably Spurs. But like Gareth said it will probably be a team that falls out of the Champions League.
Robert: I'll go with Spurs, even once we consider the Champions League teams that fall into the pool.

Who will win the European Golden Boot?

Gareth: Cristiano Ronaldo, whether we like it or not.
Kirsten:Sigh. Ronaldo.
Aaron: Ronaldo, and I don't like it one bit.
Robert: If it has any chance of coming from England, it'll be Rooney, but I've gotta go with Ronaldo as well.

Who will win the Ballon d'Or?

Gareth: Lionel Messi will win this award until he retires. Lionel Messi could be injured for a whole year and I'd still give him the award.
Kirsten: I swear to god FIFA are creating new awards just to fill Messi's home. The European Footballer of the Year? Let's just name that The Messi.
Aaron: If it's not Messi, he can have the Ballon d'Aaron
Robert: Messi.

What do you think will be the biggest transfer before the end of the transfer window?

Gareth: It'll be in North London, I bet. Between the Arsenal fire-sale and Modric's eventual transfer to Chelsea, there's going to be a bunch of money Wenger and Redknapp can throw around in the desperate hope of becoming the other London club in the Champions League.
Kirsten: Anywhere? If Eto'o goes to Anzhi that would be huge. He could single-footedly take on the rest of the Russian Premier League.
Aaron: I think Sneijder ends up going to United, and I think that's a far bigger deal for both them and Inter.
Robert: Oh boy, I feel out of my depth here. Let me take a random guess and say that Neymar comes to Europe and ends up being the piece that wins whatever team he joins the title. Chances of this happening? Slim-to-none.

What non-English team are you most interested in following this season?

Gareth: I want to say Bilbao because of their Under-21s and ‘El Loco' Bielsa, but I'm fascinated by the new money at Malaga and Paris Saint-Germain.
Kirsten: Oh come on now. Clearly this would be Napoli. It's like riding a roller coaster, except the ride lasts two hours and usually involves alcohol. But if we're talking new teams, I'm enjoying being a Bundesliga whore (Dortmund? Mainz? Why not both!) and I want to watch PSG because they'll either be fantastic or a flop.
Aaron: I am making a concerted effort to become more invested in the Bundesliga and I have decided to allow Wolfsburg to be my guide. So there's that. And also PSG, because they might make Ligue 1 fun again.
Robert: Part of me wants to say Napoli, just so I can figure out what in the world Kirsten is always rambling on about. But realistically, if I dive into any other team this year, it'll probably be to watch Barcelona. I've never watched a game of theirs and thought "Well that was a waste of 2 hours."

 Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!