Blue will rule

Blue will rule

It's not often you hear Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler proclaiming blue is the colour.

But, in an exclusive interview with The New Paper yesterday, the former Reds striker - who is still revered by the Anfield faithful as "God" - tipped Manchester City and Chelsea as the two teams most likely to lift the Premier League trophy next May.

When asked who he felt were the frontrunners for the title, Fowler said: "You've got to look at the usual suspects, haven't you? Manchester City and Chelsea will be right up there.

"City, of course, are champions, so they'll be considered the favourites.

"And Chelsea showed last year what they could do as well, and I'm sure they'll be looking to go two places better."

The team from the blue half of Manchester won their second Premier League title in three years last term, but have not sat still.

Manuel Pellegrini has bolstered his squad by signing Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero, Arsenal right back Bacary Sagna, Porto midfielder Fernando Reges and, in one of the surprises of the transfer window so far, ex-Chelsea man Frank Lampard on loan.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have signalled their intent on improving their third-placed finish by splashing some serious cash.

Jose Mourinho moved swiftly to sign Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas for £33 million ($70m) and the Atletico Madrid duo of striker Diego Costa (£38m) left back Felipe Luis (£20m).

The Special One also welcomed back Belgian shot-stopper Thibaut Courtouis after two fine seasons on loan at Atletico, and the youngster looks set to usurp Petr Cech as Chelsea's No. 1 this season.

But, while he acknowledged their strength in depth could give City and Chelsea the edge over their rivals, Fowler said the topsy-turvy nature of last season showed that there is every chance a team decked out in red could crash the party.

"Last season was probably one of the best seasons of the Premier League we've seen, it was so open," said the 39-year-old.

"There are a few others teams who could do well, too. You have Arsenal, who didn't have a striker other than Olivier Giroud last year, but now they've signed Alexis Sanchez.

"Liverpool will get better. And you can never rule out Manchester United."

When it came to talking about Liverpool's fierce rivals, Fowler chose to be diplomatic.

Under new manager Louis van Gaal, the Red Devils beat Liverpool 3-1 to win the International Champions Cup in Miami on Monday.

But Fowler backed Reds manager Brendan Rodgers' comments recently, which suggested former Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Holland coach van Gaal could be "surprised" by the level of competition in the Premier League.

Said the former England striker: "What I can say about United is that they've have been a great team for many years but, like any situation where there's a new manager coming in, it's never easy.

"Next season will be tough for them, like it will be for many other teams as well.

"It's been so far, so good for them in pre-season... But pre-season games are different from Premier League ones, and you can only really tell how well they'll do when the league kicks off."

Interestingly, while he said van Gaal could use his man-management skills to lift United's underperforming stars, Fowler bristled when it was suggested the Dutchman had already rejuvenated Red Devils talisman Wayne Rooney.

Rooney came in for heavy criticism in United's seventh-placed finish in the league and England's group-stage exit at the World Cup in Brazil in June.

But the striker has excelled in United's unbeaten pre-season matches.

Said Fowler: "I think people who criticise him and say he looks unmotivated or whatever, are far off the mark.

"It's disrespectful and unfair to him. I know Wayne Rooney, and he's a fantastic player. Great players don't suddenly become motivated because of a new manager coming in."

msazali@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Aug 9, 2014.
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