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With the new Premier League season set to get underway,

It is time to look at the teams taking part and gauge their chances for the season ahead.

Premier League 2014/15 Preview - Part 2Thus, we bring you a four-part preview of every team in the top division of English football, from new boys QPR all the way up to reigning champions Manchester City.

15. Aston Villa

Will this be season of improvement for Aston Villa?

It was a season that promised significant improvement, but once again Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa side flirted with relegation. There seemed to be no real development under the younger players, and the fact that Christian Benteke had injury problems simply compounded their misery. Now, a new season presents a new dawn perhaps, and improvement surely needs to be shown this time around for the under-pressure manager to keep his job.

The summer additions of Kieran Richardson, Philippe Senderos and Joe Cole will surely add a wealth of experience, but questions remain whether there actually will be an increase in on-the-pitch ability, with no stand-out signings seemingly on the horizon. As we know, few teams can counter-attack as efficiently and Aston Villa when in form, but defensively Paul Lambert has once again failed to make significant improvements, seemingly overlooking glaring weaknesses in the squad.

One feels that Aston Villa can be expected to battle it out at the bottom of the table again, with this season perhaps being the one to pull them all the way down to the Championship, as their previous flirtations with relegation ominously forewarned.

14. Sunderland

More drama and excitement for Gus Poyet and his men?

Gus Poyet won the eternal trust and support of the Sunderland supporters with the ‘great escape’ last season, when relegation looked a foregone conclusion before an unexpected run of form saw the Black Cats ensure their participation in this upcoming season of the Premier League. However, everyone connected with the club will surely be hoping that things are not left as late as they were last time around, and improvement is imperative in the ever-evolving top division of English football.

It has been a very active transfer window thus far, with a lot of deadwood being off loaded, symbolically severing the final ties to the Paolo Di Canio era, while quality talent has been brought into the squad, most notably left-back Patrick van Aanholt and midfielder Jordi Gomez. Definitive steps have been taken to address weaknesses, and this could stand them in good stead as the new season draws nearer with signs still pointing to even further reinforcement before the transfer window slams shut. However, the saga surrounding striker Connor Wickham needs to be resolved sooner rather than later, before the team begins to suffer from it.

There is a sense of optimism among fans, and understandably so. There has been minimal upheaval over the off-season compared to last time around, and one feels that Sunderland are, at this stage at least, not looking to be in any apparent danger of relegation.

13. West Ham United

Will there be any celebration this season for West Ham?

Some things never change, does it? Andy Carroll is once again injured, while discontent with manager Sam Allardyce reigns supreme among fans of the Hammers. It all seems so similar to last season, when West Ham were never quite convincing enough to be completely left out of the relegation picture. One gets the impression that anything less than significant improvement over last season will be seen as failure, and very possibly cost Sam Allardyce his job. Indeed, many have wondered of the Englishman was going to make it to the start of the season, such is the uncertainty surrounding his job status.

It has to be said that the club has made some very good acquisitions in the transfer market, though, with Ecuadorian striker Enner Valencia having shown his worth at international level, and midfielder Diego Poyet having impressed immensely over the past season with Charlton Athletic. Numerous players, such as Matthew Taylor and George McCartney, have been released, which seems to signal intent of improving the overall quality of the squad before the start of the season. Whether this actually ends up being the case still remains to be seen as the clock counts down to kickoff.

There remains a nagging feeling that West Ham will be in a constant battle at the bottom of the table, and while they certainly have to tools to stay up and do the minimum required, one cannot help but feel that it might not be enough to appease the fans who spend their money on season tickets year in, year out.

12. Swansea City

New season, new potential pitfalls for Swansea City.

It was quite an odd past season for the Welsh club, experiencing perhaps their first real difficulties since gaining promotion to the Premier League in the first place. At one stage, it seemed that relegation was a real threat, but in the end then-interim manager Garry Monk did enough to see his men home to relative safety after Michael Laudrup, who brought so much success to the Liberty Stadium in the season prior, was relieved of his duties due to the club being in a precarious situation.

Heading into the coming season, numerous high-profile departures have put the club in a position of rebuilding, with goalkeeper Michel Vorm, left-back Ben Davies and striker Michu having all been crucial in the success of the club over the past few seasons. The return of Gylfi Sigurdsson is a major coup, though, and the additions of Lukasz Fabianski and Bafetimbi Gomis promise to keep the Swans competitive. The question now becomes whether the team can gel as a unit before it is too late, for too many changes can upset the dynamic of a side completely.

It would be a stretch to say that Swansea City will be completely safe from relegation, but one also cannot see them being one of the pre-season favourites to go down. Much will depend on whether they get off to a good start to the new season, and if new signings integrate themselves quickly to a new environment.

11. Crystal Palace

Will Crystal Palace continue to surprise?

The moment one realises that Crystal Palace actually managed to finish 11th , one comes to appreciate just how close the relegation battle was last season. However, give credit where credit is due, because Tony Pulis and his Crystal Palace side were absolutely fantastic at what they did; not giving an inch. The club looked doomed under Ian Holloway, and many felt that Tony Pulis had taken on the impossible task, but they managed to prove all their doubters wrong in emphatic fashion.

There is definite cause for optimism ahead of the new season, with the shrewd signings of striker Fraizer Campbell and centre-back Brede Hangeland set to improve the squad, and starting eleven, for that matter, even more. Numerous players have either been released or sold, which makes a few more signings before the start of the season possible due to a significantly decreased wage bill. Expect Crystal Palace to once again be defensively sound and resilient, with every side travelling to Selhurst Park guaranteed to have a tough time breaking them down. Although the potential for collapse is there, one feels that Crystal Palace will back themselves to survive another season in the Premier League. It all depends on whether the players continue to buy into the safety first philosophy of Tony Pulis.

More Premier League 2014-15 previews in the series
Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4

Originally published at inthestandsport.com

Post written by Marco Conradie, Twitter: @MarcoConradie10
for InTheStandSport, Blog: inthestandsport.com, Twitter: @InTheStandSport

Note: The views expressed within this blog post are those of the contributing author, and may not necessarily reflect those of MatchDayApp Limited, its representatives or associated partners.

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