Can 2015 live up to 2014?

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Here’s just a quick post looking ahead to what is happening in the world of the football in 2015, and reminiscing about what happened in what is now last year…

Something which will remain the same as the year changes is the race for the Premier League title, with Chelsea currently leading the chasing pack which could end up coming down to just the two Manchester clubs. I can’t see anyone else but the Blues winning it, and perhaps by some significant margin. The most interesting race could be that for fourth place. Will Arsenal finish there as always, or could we be on for a shock, with West Ham and Southampton both up there in the first half of the campaign? The relegation battle always intrigues me, seeing who could join Reading in the Championship next season. Crystal Palace, Burnley and Leicester are in the bottom three before today’s fixtures, but I’m sure we’ll see plenty of managerial sackings between now and May which will shape the battle for survival.

As for the national team, England have started the Euro 2016 qualifiers well, albeit in a fairly easy group. We’ve got six more qualifying fixtures in 2015, as well as friendlies against Italy, the Republic of Ireland and France. Could it be one of the last years where we see the Three Lions play home games at Wembley?

How far can Gareth Southgate's England Under 21 side go at the European Championships?
How far can Gareth Southgate’s England Under 21 side go at the European Championships?

There may be no major tournaments for the men’s seniors, but the Under-21s and women are both in competitive action abroad. Gareth Southgate’s youngsters are off to the Czech Republic for the European Championships, with first team players Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw, Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley all expected to travel as the young lions go all out for the win. The women’s team play in the World Cup in Canada in the summer, and hopes fairly high (higher than the men’s team anyway), but a 3-0 loss at Wembley in November, proved that Mark Sampson’s team are far from world champions – the draw has been quite kind to them though.

In terms of world football, the World Cup, perhaps the best ever, lit up 2014, but it could be the opposite this year, with the FIFA Congress in May. It could well, rubber-stamp 78 year old Sepp Blatter’s march to a fifth term as president, an inevitability that will be mourned by those who want more integrity at FIFA. The embarrassment of awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar will drag on, with more debates about alleged corruption and quarrels over when the event should be, in the winter or sweltering summer.

One thing is for sure - the battle between Messi and Ronaldo will continue
One thing is for sure – the battle between Messi and Ronaldo will continue

Closer to home, English teams will again have little hope in the Champions League against Europe’s super powers, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Real Madrid win it again. The Europa League could provide more hope though, with Tottenham seeming to really go for it this year. But then again, maybe not. Finally, after Cristiano Ronaldo won the 2014 battle (FIFA will officially decide on the 12th), the Real Madrid forward and Lionel Messi will continue to fight it out for the title of world’s best player. Same old, same old. Or could another contender emerge?

Expect the unexpected. 20 years ago, 1995 was supposed to be a boring year year, but there were bungs, a kung-fu kick on a stroppy fan, lachrymose players confessing to taking drugs, and Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League. Anything can happen in the craziest of sports.

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