Drop beckons for duo
David John predicts a tough year for both Aston Villa and QPR in the Barclays Premier League.
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As we count down to a new season, once again we have a handful of feasible candidates whose sole aim is to still be in the Premier League this time next year.
My first thought when sizing up the market was that favourites for the drop Burnley have perhaps been a bit hard done by following their comfortable promotion campaign from the Sky Bet Championship.
- 2pts QPR to be relegated at 2/1 (general) - not convinced by summer arrivals and set to struggle again.
- 2pts Aston Villa to be relegated at 3/1 (general) - diced with the drop in recent seasons and time may just run out.
- 4pts Burnley to stay up at 11/8 (Sky Bet, Hills and Coral) - favourites to go down but have enough to retain their status.
Manager Sean Dyche shrugged off the pre-season loss last year of striker Charlie Austin to mould a youthful side that plays attractive football with a decent focal point up front in the shape of Danny Ings.
Ings seems to be a player on an upward curve who has already been the subject of some covetous glances from other teams at the top level - plus a couple of sides in Germany - but I am sure the wily Dyche will convince his marksman that at least another full season in the north west will do his career no harm in the longer term.
Dyche has apparently been running up his phone bill trying to get some deals done over the summer to bolster numbers and although the likes of Marvin Sordell, Lukas Jutkiewic and Steven Reid among others may not exactly get the pulse racing, the arrivals look more than useful enough for this level who can slot in where needed to the manager's strategy.
There is a decent sprinkling of talent already at Turf Moor in the shape of Ben Mee, Kieren Trippier and Scott Arfield and there seems no reason for Dyche to change the enthusiastic approach which got them here in the first place - and that will be important.
This Burnley side remind me of the Ipswich Town outfit promoted back in 2000 and although it would be stretching things to suggest that they will repeat their efforts and reach Europe, they will tackle each game with relish and have every chance of springing a surprise or two along the way whilst somewhat of an unknown quantity.
The 'Turf' is not the easiest place to visit and an opening encounter against title favourites Chelsea means the place will be rocking - they may get beaten but I would be optimistic in terms of a positive display to create some early momentum.
Burnley are odds-on to return to the second tier but I think they have enough pieces in place to sustain a decent challenge and retain their status for next year.
So on to those who look more at risk.
Harry Redknapp and QPR get another crack at the top flight after bouncing straight back up via Bobby Zamora's late winner against Derby in May's play-off final at Wembley.
They were pretty turgid back in 2012/13 and even Redknapp parachuting in part way through the season could not rally the troops in a similar style to what he achieved at Portsmouth on the way to finishing bottom and miles adrift of safety.
I just wonder whether Redknapp's approach can still cut it and although owner Tony Fernandes has stuck his hand in his pocket to go on a recruitment drive, they still look a a bit short in terms of what will be required.
It seems Redknapp himself believes he needs some help as well and has lured Glenn Hoddle out of semi-retirement to become first team coach and help install a 3-5-2 system.
The promising Steven Caulker is the heart of this at the back but an experiment with veterans Richard Dunne and Rio Ferdinand - who was on the brink of calling time on his playing career - could be a costly, paceless one.
QPR look thin on numbers up front as well - Zamora has been exposed at this level in the past while Austin flits in an out of the treatment room and can't seem to put a run of games together.
Redknapp was tearing his hair out in pre-season, bemoaning the fact he had no fit front-men and it is still not clear whether the classy Loic Remy will be particularly committed to the cause despite his manager's insistence he is staying put.
The bottom line is that the Hoops will have no-one quaking with terror and look well worth a glance at 2/1 for an immediate return to life in the Sky Bet Championship.
My other relegation fancy are Aston Villa, who look an accident waiting to happen this season.
Paul Lambert's side have diced with an exit from the top flight for a while now and despite a huge fan base and a big-team infrastructure, they have shown little in the way of progress under the Scot and time could be about to run out.
Lambert's vision may be constrained to a reasonable extent by owner Randy Lerner's reluctance to bring in real quality and this summer's influx of Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson to add some creativity still smacks of a team on the scrimp and save.
It also means Lambert having to rekindle his enthusiasm in the likes of Darren Bent, Charles N'Zogbia and Alan Hutton, a trio of players the manager has only used sporadically and would essentially not be part of his plans if he had the money to get stuck into the transfer market with some vigour.
That means the most interesting arrival by far at Villa Park this summer is new assistant Roy Keane, who should at least ruffle a few feathers.
But if things start going pear-shaped, the feisty Irishman's patience as he demands excellence could soon wear very thin and a five-game spell during September where Villa face Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and then Everton could potentially leave them in a deep hole at a very early stage.
Andreas Weimann and Fabian Delph have some promise on a brighter note while striker Christian Benteke remains the club's prized asset but is still rehabbing from a long-term Achilles injury and may not see any meaningful action until October.
His fitness has to be a concern as does one of the Premier League's big fish gobbling him up in January if he is back to somewhere near his best - either scenario is one which I'm sure Lambert loses plenty of sleep over.
Overall, their prospects don't look particularly rosy and Villa have more than enough issues to overcome to suggest they will fill one of the dreaded bottom three spaces this time around.