Richard Hercock: Fabregas can help hand Premier League title back to Chelsea

The Premier League kicks off a new season today and I am going to nail my colours to the mast before a ball has been kicked.

Bremen's Ludovic Obraniak, left, challenges with Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas. (AP Photo. Carmen Jaspersen)

I believe Chelsea will be crowned champions of England in nine months.

Jose Mourinho’s men will take the championship back to London and end Manchester City’s tenure as champions.

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And what do I base that on?

Well, pretty much the same reasons behind choices for my fantasy league team.

I cannot see any better defence than that of the Blues. In John Terry and Gary Cahill they have the rock that all title-winning sides need.

Ashley Cole and David Luiz have departed, but that will not weaken Chelsea; the loss of their attacking flair could actually mean the Blues are even measlier in defence than last year. Call it ‘parking the bus’, but Mourinho’s side are very difficult to break down.

Arsenal have strengthened with the exciting addition of Chilean Alexis Sanchez, but Arsene Wenger’s biggest mistake was not bringing Cesc Fabregas back to the Gunners.

His reasoning was that Mesut Ozil and Fabregas were too similar in styles, but I think they could have accommodated both, and Arsenal’s loss is Chelsea’s gain.

Gone is Frank Lampard – he has popped up at Manchester City via New York – but Fabregas will contribute goals from midfield and I would not be surprised if he unlocks the undoubted talents of Fernando Torres up front.

New Stamford Bridge arrival Diego Costa also comes with a massive reputation and the big-money striker can deliver for the Blues.

While Lampard was a headline-grabbing arrival in Manchester, a shrewd bit of business brings in Eliaquim Mangala to partner Vincent Kompany in defence. City’s defence definitely needed strengthening as they based their title last year purely on their attacking prowess.

Across the city, Manchester United are the dark horses for the title. Now those two words and United don’t really go together, but no one but a Red Devils fan expects the title this season to end up back at Old Trafford.

New coach Louis van Gaal will take time to bed in, and a lot is expected of Ander Herrera to fill the midfield vacuum at United, but without the exertions of European football I expect them to mount a serious title threat.

Liverpool went close last season to ending their long wait for a championship, but take away the goals of Luis Suarez and I can’t see them doing as well this term.

Rickie Lambert was a bit of shrewd business, as was the recruitment of his former Southampton team-mates, defender Dejan Lovren and midfielder Adam Lallana. There seems to be a new team being built at Anfield and I think this season will be too early for Brendan Rodgers’s side.

So if Chelsea are my tip for the top, who do I expect to be relegated?

You always have to look at the three promoted teams as the usual suspects and this season is no different.

I struggle to see QPR, Burnley and Leicester City staying too long. One team usually surprises you though, and if that’s the case, then Hull City – with the distraction of Europe – need to get some wins on the board early to avoid being dragged into a fight at the wrong end of the table.