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Weekend Premier League predictions

Premier League

Xavi shows off his skills

The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Mowbray wants to achieve more than survival

West Brom manager Tony Mowbray has his sights on more than mere survival when the Baggies return to Premier League action after a two-year absence.

Mowbray is taking heart from how his team performed in their FA Cup semi-final with eventual winners Portsmouth in April as he looks ahead to the testing opener with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Albion produced the most free-flowing football in the Championship to take the title.

It was a stark contrast to the more direct approach of Stoke who have also joined them in the top flight, along with Hull.

Mowbray insisted: ``We go into the league looking forward to it - and we'll enjoy it. We have good players who have shown that, when we have the ball, then we can compete with most teams.

``Why should we fear anything? When we play Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea then, yes, on those days we will find out what the Premier League is all about.

``But I would suggest they are not typical days in the Premier League.

``There will be 30 games where we have just as good a chance as the opposition. Our aim this season is to be competitive.

``I don't want to harp on about it but Portsmouth finished eighth or ninth last season and, for more than an hour in the FA Cup semi-final, you wouldn't have thought Portsmouth were better than us.''

Mowbray added: ``I want the team to show their true qualities. I do hope and believe that we can compete in the league.

``I don't want to say we're aiming for 17th because that sets you off on a negative footing. You expect to lose a lot of games if you finish 17th.''

``We know we will be up against some of the best players in the world. The players here are aware the bar is going to be raised in terms of everything they do.

``Everything has got to improve, whether that be their fitness level, their tactical nous, extra work on technique.

``I am sure they realise that individually we've all got to step up a level. If you are not ready for that challenge, then maybe you shouldn't be here.''

Mowbray is hoping the three promoted clubs can buck the trend of being immediately installed as relegation favourites and make an impact among the elite.

Last season Birmingham and Derby made instant returns to the Championship with only Sunderland managing to survive for a second season.

Mowbray said: ``Everyone has got their own way of doing things. We just look after ourselves. I wouldn't say we've got a worse or a better chance than if you are talking about the other teams who came up.

``I just hope the other teams who have come up do very well because it will be good for football if all three teams who got promoted could stay there.

``It will show that this gulf can maybe be breached. We will compete every game, try to pick as many points up as we can and see where we finish.''

Mowbray has high hopes of his initial cluster of summer signings in Liverpool goalkeeper Scott Carson, Porto defender Marek Cech and Heerenveen midfielder Gianni Zuiverloon.

He said: ``Gianni is going to be an exciting player for us and his assets will suit the Premier League.

``Marek has got Champions League experience and he looks a smooth footballer who is very comfortable with the ball at his feet.

``Scott has played for his country and last season played a whole season for a Premier League side in Aston Villa that finished sixth.

``We are just trying to improve the squad as we go along. You are trying to put that extra bit of quality into your jigsaw puzzle.

``I am sure we will go into the season with some bits where you are not sure if it is quite right, but somebody will get an opportunity to play and hopefully they will step up to the mark.''



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