2012/13 Premier League preview

Will the arrival of Paul Lambert improve Aston Villa's fortunes? Photo: PA


Position last season: 16th

Players in: Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar, free), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord, undisclosed), Matthew Lowton (Sheffield United, undisclosed), Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord, undisclosed).

Players out: James Collins (West Ham, undisclosed), Emile Heskey, Carlos Cuellar (both released).

Key man: Darren Bent

Title odds: 1000/1

Chances: Lambert has been charged with reviving Villa's fortunes after a forgettable season under Alex McLeish. Expect the former Norwich boss to make his new side hard to beat once more and move in the right direction. Villa fans will be hoping star striker Darren Bent can keep fit and provide the goals they were so desperately lacking last season.

Potters' fans will be hoping Matthew Etherington provides some flair in a typically physical Stoke lineup Credit: PA


Position last season: 14th

Players in: Jamie Ness (Rangers, free), Michael Kightly (Wolves, undisclosed)

Players out: Andrew Davies, Salif Diao, Ricardo Fuller, Louis Moult, Tom Soares, Jonathan Woodgate (all released), Danny Collins (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Matthew Lund (Bristol Rovers, five-month loan)

Key man: Matthew Etherington

Title odds: 1000/1

Chances: Stoke's European endeavours took their toll on their domestic efforts last season when an intense campaign severely stretched their squad. But Pulis' men have become the epitome of the tough, no-nonsense mid-table Premier League side and still have enough to ruffle a few more feathers over the next nine months.

Steve Clarke replaced current England manager Roy Hodgson Credit: PA


Position last season: 10th

Players in: Ben Foster (Birmingham, undisclosed), Yassine El Ghanassy (Gent, season-long loan), Claudio Yacob (Racing Club, free), Markus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen, free), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, loan)

Players out: Keith Andrews, Marton Fulop, Joe Mattock, Paul Scharner, Nicky Shorey, Somen Tchoyi (all released)

Key man: Peter Odemwingie

Title odds: 2000/1

Chances: Steve Clarke has a tough act to follow after Roy Hodgson left for England, but the Baggies have a strong enough squad to finish mid-table again and steer away from trouble. Clarke is targeting 50 points for the season and is operating from a strong platform: the Baggies' owe just £2m and have a wage bill half of Villa's at £37m. Most intriguing is the signing of the long feted Lukaku who struggled to get into the Chelsea squad but has the pace and power to remind fans of a certain Didier Drogba (if not the theatrics).