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Add to this mix the always-compelling ego of Alan Pardew bubbling away in the dugout, and you can see why Palace are worth keeping an eye on. The football's not bad either.

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Quick, tricky wingers remain the most exciting sight the game has to offer, and in Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie -- assuming neither gets sold -- Palace are able to offer two of the Premier League's most exciting, though certainly not most reliable. Much of the preseason excitement has centered around the arrival of French international Yohan Cabaye, who should add another dimension of class and creativity to an already hard-working midfield.

There are, however, question marks about the rest of the team's spine. Palace lack a proven forward: last season's top scorer, Dwight Gayle, only managed 10 across all competitions, and nobody scored more than seven in the league. They'll be hoping new signing Connor Wickham adds some punch up top. While Scott Dann, last season's player of the year, has extended his contract, he could do with a reliable partner at center back.

Further back still, there is a three-way competition for the goalkeeper's spot, and the venerable Julian Speroni could find himself displaced by either Wales international Wayne Hennessey or new arrival Alex McCarthy.

Still, whatever happens, Palace tend to be fun, and over the last two seasons they've developed an engaging habit of avoiding relegation in surprising comfort while inconveniencing Liverpool in the process. More of that, and everybody will be happy. Except Liverpool. Pardew may be a bit of a buffoon, but he's a buffoon who played for Palace for four years, genuinely seems to like the club, and generally seems to be liked by the club's fans.

So fundamentally, everything's shiny down at Selhurst Park.

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More than half of the Premier League falls into the aspirational category "avoid relegation as impressively as possible," and Crystal Palace are no exception. But despite making appalling starts to both of the last two seasons -- starts that necessitated a mid-campaign managerial change -- they ended up finishing first 11th, then 10th. This suggests that if they can manage to avoid chaos and have a calm, sensible season, they might be able to target the heady heights of ninth.

Maybe even eighth. At the lower end, Palace should have enough about them to avoid relegation. At the more ambitious end of the scale, however, much depends on the goalscoring question. At the time of writing, the only forward to have arrived at Selhurst Park is Chelsea prospect Patrick Bamford on a season-long loan, and while he impressed with Middlesbrough in last season's Championship race, he's still just 21, and his Premier League chops are untested.

If he fires, or if another forward arrives, then Palace might be able to improve on last year's showing. But the lower end of mid-table seems the most sensible prediction.

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It's hard to look past Cabaye, who was the creative heart of Pardew's occasionally quite decent Newcastle team and has just returned to the Premier League after a year-and-a-half on the fringes of Paris Saint-Germain's squad. Before he left, plenty felt he was capable of doing a job at the heart of a few of the Premier League's bigger sides; now that he's back, and still only 29, plenty are wondering what he's doing at little ol' Palace.

Some people just really like Alan Pardew, apparently. More normal people like well-taken set pieces, imaginative passing and the occasional gorgeous strike, and that's what Cabaye brings. He's lovely. What does Alan Pardew drink? He drinks Cristal Palace, of course!

And he drinks it straight from the bottle. No messing. A quick glance at the history books will show Everton as one of the grand old teams of the English game, with as many league titles to their name as Chelsea and Manchester City combined. However, a trophy drought now about to stretch into a 21st year has seen their reputation diminish -- to outsiders at least -- to that of Premier League also-rans, albeit one with a proud tradition, an atmospheric stadium and a loyal fanbase.

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Without the revenue to match the current top six, Everton rely on bringing through young, homegrown players. That also means they face an annual battle to keep their best stars out of the clutches of wealthier rivals, a constant source of despair for supporters who recall the days when Everton were among the best in the land. Despite those challenges, Spanish manager Roberto Martinez has built on the work of his predecessor David Moyes and has a young and dynamic squad at his disposal who seek to play attractive football.

A thrilling fifth place finish in his first season has been offset by a disappointing 11th place finish last time out, but the hope is that last season was a mere blip and Martinez can steer the side on an upward curve again in -- if he can keep his squad intact. Martinez has just about maintained the faith of the fans despite last year's below-par season, mainly because of his excellent first campaign in charge.

However, with no World Cup or Europa League to blame this time around, the Spaniard will have few excuses if the team continues to under-perform. We all love the style of play he is trying to employ at Goodison Park, but if it fails to produce results then he may find himself under severe pressure.

The situation is different off the pitch. Evertonians lost patience with the board a long time ago. They appreciate that chairman Bill Kenwright -- a lifelong Everton fan -- has his heart in the right place and that there are plenty of disreputable owners scattered across the English leagues. But a failure to significantly improve off-field financial performance and a succession of aborted ground moves over the past decade means the fans are desperate for change at the top.

Everton have hovered just outside the Champions League places for a while now and although cracking the top four is definitely a target, the spending of the biggest clubs makes it look increasingly like a pipe dream. Therefore, many Evertonians are switching their attention to winning some silverware. We are in the midst of the longest trophy drought in the club's year history, so even a League Cup will be celebrated wildly. Beating Liverpool at least once would be nice too -- Everton haven't won a Merseyside derby home or away since The reality is the top four looks sewn up, with even the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool unlikely to breach the Champions League places.

But there is no reason why Everton can't reach a Wembley final. The squad, on its day, is good enough to beat anyone in the division. However, any cup-winning side from outside the elite needs a healthy dose of good fortune along the way, something that doesn't happen very often.

Evertonians love to see local talent come through the youth ranks -- they have taken great pleasure at seeing Liverpool-born Ross Barkley emerge not just as a first-team regular, but a full England international. The year-old insists he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level despite a below-par season last time out in the wake of his World Cup heroics. The Pina Colada -- big in the 80s, but now desperately out of fashion. It will still give you a headache in the morning, though. Last season marked Leicester City's long-awaited return to the top flight, with the Foxes having earned promotion back to the Premier League for the first time in a decade.

Midway through the season it looked like they were heading straight back down to the Championship, though manager Nigel Pearson oversaw a remarkable late rally of surprisingly entertaining football to ensure another year competing with the very best in the country. When on form they looked a genuinely exciting team, with their intricate attacking play sometimes fooling the very best defenses.


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Alas, it's often said that second seasons are the hardest, and it's veteran Claudio Ranieri who has been given the tough task of trying to lead Leicester to survival again this campaign. That's because Pearson was sacked in July on the back of a string of misdemeanors, including a verbal attack on a journalist and a physical one on Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur.

It is a bold move from the club's hierarchy, who are replacing Pearson's proven results with a man who has a rather patchy managerial record. But, if they want a change of ambience, Ranieri is certainly the right man. The affable Italian could hardly be less like his authoritarian predecessor, and the Foxes' press conferences will certainly make for less cringeworthy viewing this year.

However, Leicester fans will be praying that they haven't thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and that the players will respond to Ranieri's compassionate touch. If not, they could be in for a long and difficult season. Leicester only passed into the hands of Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in , but things have been pretty stable since. He was rewarded for his patience with Pearson last season, and the only major question with regard to the state of the club is over Ranieri.

He arrives at the Foxes fresh from a disastrous spell in charge of the Greek national team, and though their problems can't all be attributed to him indeed most can't , losing to the Faroe Islands is a big blot on his record. He also failed to win the title in four seasons at Chelsea , which is regarded by many as a significant failure. He's certainly got a lot to prove, and Leicester are taking a big gamble by hiring him.

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Manual West Ham United: 101 Beautiful Games (Desert Island Football Histories)

Leicester have one very simple, and yet very difficult goal: surviving relegation. Anything better than that would be seriously impressive; anything worse would be greeted with a collective shrug of the shoulders. It's going to be difficult for Leicester, who are on paper one of the weakest teams in the entire division. They've also lost talismanic midfielder Esteban Cambiasso, who chose to not renew his contract with the Foxes after an outstanding season in the Premier League. They're certainly in with a chance of survival, but head into the season as one of the favorites for relegation.

Jamie Vardy. Last season Leicester were heavily reliant on Vardy, who earned an England cap thanks to his string of impressive performances in his debut season in the Premier League. He finished the campaign with only five league goals, but his hand in assisting plenty more earned him a nomination for the Player of the Season award which he eventually lost to Cambiasso. Vardy will no doubt head into this campaign as one of the Foxes' first-choice forwards, and they'll be praying he turns in some similarly good performances once the action resumes.

There's the obvious fox connection, but a little more than that, too. Like the Pokemon, Leicester are often underestimated by many, and have a habit of producing jaw-dropping moments when they're least expected -- often with a surprising degree of elegance. Manchester United will still be having nightmares about the stunning defeat they suffered on their visit to the Midlands early last season. Last season was a disaster for Liverpool, and following a sixth-place finish, any Reds supporter who claims with any kind of certainty they know what to expect heading into is lying to you -- and quite possibly to themselves.

There are definite hopes and maybe even some achievable targets, but nobody really has any idea how it's all going to play out once the games start to matter.

Martin Godleman

Nobody can know for certain if the side that set everything on fire on the way to a goal league campaign was a freakish confluence of luck and chance and Luis Suarez. Nobody knows if the trainwreck that followed revealed the real Brendan Rodgers, a manager some remain firmly convinced should have been sacked at the end of the campaign.

Nobody, then, can say for certain what's coming next.