Brighton have impressed so far in the Championship
As the International break halts the progress of English football's top tier, we take a look at the clubs who have made impressive starts to their league campaign and focus on the key players who are vital if their current form is set to continue.

Manchester United

Sir Alex's young squad have had an explosive start to the 2011/2012 campaign with wins over West Brom and Tottenham as well as thrashing old enemies Arsenal 8-2 at Old Trafford last weekend.

The reigning Premier League champions are favourites to lift the trophy again this season and, although Ferguson only made three new signings over the summer, the squad looks stronger than in recent years.

Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand picked up early injuries just two games into the new season but the likes of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and new signing, Phil Jones, have steadied the ship.

Another new signing, David De Gea, has endured a tentative start to his Old Trafford career making a couple of high profile errors against Manchester City and West Brom. However, his latest performance against Arsenal, where he made a number of quality saves and kept out a Robin Van Persie penalty, will do wonders for the young Spaniard's confidence.

United's defence looks extremely accomplished, but don't forget their attacking prowess. The likes of Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Nani, Chicharito and Antonio Valencia are just a few names that will give any Premier League defender nightmares.

Combine them and you have a deadly attack. Pace, skill and determination are in abundance in this youthful looking United attack, not forgetting the likes of Danny Welbeck, Anderson and even last year's Premier League top-scorer, Dimitar Berbatov, who will no doubt have a part to play throughout this season.

Stopping Manchester United will be a tough ask for any of the top sides in the Premier League this season but Sir Alex will be keeping a very close eye on the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and especially United's noisy neighbours, Manchester City.

Manchester City

Could this be the year that City de-throne the red half of Manchester and begin a legacy at the Etihad stadium where trophies are the norm and star players become club legends?

Perhaps it is too early to be looking that far ahead but the current squad looks fantastic and new additions such as Sergio 'Kun' Aguero and Gael Clichy have settled into Roberto Mancini's side like missing jigsaw pieces, and it's pleasing to watch.

City have scored twelve goals in their opening three fixtures including a 5-1 demolition of Tottenham at White Hart Lane and the blue side of Manchester sit joint top of the Premier League table with fierce local rivals, United.

Edin Dzeko is the key man at the moment for City with six goals in three league games but with Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli looking to get a piece of the limelight, City's attacking options will be delighting manager Roberto Mancini and terrifying the rest of the league and possibly Europe.

A great team has strength in depth and Manchester City are no exception. Their midfield consists of quality players from all over the world including David Silva, Yaya Toure, James Milner and Nigel De Jong. Add to this a strong defence and a world-class goalkeeper and things are looking bright for Mancini and his side.

There is no doubt that this is the strongest City side in recent years and if Mancini and his backroom staff can handle the multi-million pound egos around the Etihad stadium and focus them on playing good football, there is no reason why City can't challenge for top honours come the end of the season.


Brighton have continued their form from last season which saw them finish as runaway leaders at the top of League One.

Gus Poyet's side have embraced the new challenges that Championship football has thrown at them and their new home ground, the AMEX stadium, is proving to be a fortress for the Seagulls.

Ashley Barnes and new signing, Craig Mckail-Smith, have been in lightening form for Brighton so far this season with seven goals between them and, with an unbeaten record in both league and cup competitions, optimism is high at the AMEX stadium.

Newly promoted sides Brighton, Peterborough and Southampton have impressed early on but it is Poyet's side who look the most accomplished at Championship level with wins away at Cardiff and Portsmouth as well as a victory over Premier League side Sunderland in the League Cup last month.

Brighton fans could be forgiven for dreaming of Premier League football next season and if the current squad can maintain this high level of peformance throughout the Championship campaign you wouldn't bet against the side who have just signed former Spanish international, Vicente, after he was released from former club Valencia over the summer period.

Albion boss Gus Poyet told the club website: "Vicente is the special player we wanted. He has great qualities and can play in a range of positions".

Exciting times lay ahead for Brighton and their loyal supporters.


Southampton were one of the Premier League's founding members in the 1992-1993 season after many years in the top flight and the Saints will be vowing to return to England's elite league at the end of this campaign.

Quality runs throughout the Southampton squad with the likes of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Lee Barnard gracing the turf at St. Mary's and manager, Nigel Adkins, will be hoping that his side can maintain the form that sees them sitting in second place, just one point behind league leaders Brighton.

The Saints' last league outing ended in defeat at the hands of Sven Goran Erikson's Leciester side but with healthy wins over Leeds United and Ipswich under their belts already this season, there seems to be no lack in confidence on the south coast.

Midland sides Birmingham and Nottingham Forest will be the next visitors to St Mary's stadium and if Adkins can mastermind victories in both home ties against these well organised Championship teams, belief at the club will only begin to grow.

Football has taken a back seat in the past few days, however, after news broke that Southampton player, Dan Seaborne, was rushed to hospital after being attacked outside a nightclub last Friday. The club said on Friday that they could confirm Seaborne had suffered "a significant head injury and is in hospital under close observation".

We would all like to wish Dan a speedy recovery at 'The Sporting Opinion'.

MK Dons

MK Dons have made a fantastic job of putting their play-off defeat of last season out of their minds and concentrating on the new campaign in hand, as they proudly sit joint top of League One with Sheffield United on sixteen points.

The Dons have thoroughly entertained so far this season on their way to an unbeaten start with wins over Carlisle, Stevenage, Chesterfield, Exeter and Cheltenham.

Karl Robinson's side are the league's top scorers after smashing six past Chesterfield at Stadium MK and four away at Cheltenham.

Club top-scorer, Sam Baldock, however, has left for pastures new as he joins West Ham on a four-year deal leaving the door open for the likes of Dean Bowditch and on-loan striker, Angelo Balanta, to shine at the club.

It will be interesting to see if the loss of Baldock will affect the free-flowing attacking game that the Dons have adopted over recent years and, a difficult trip to Hillsborough to face a strong Sheffield Wednesday side on Saturday will be a stern test for Robinson and his talented squad.

Sheffield United

Recently relegated Sheffield United are looking good for an immediate return to Championship football after an impressive start to their League One campaign.

The Blades sit joint top of the league with MK Dons and are fresh from a 4-0 hammering of newly promoted Bury at Bramall Lane.

Richard Cresswell is the main man at the moment for Danny Wilson's side, scoring four goals, including one against Premier League side Everton in the League Cup.

The Blades were in the Premier League as recently as the 2006-2007 season but have fallen to England's third tier of football after a dismal season in the Championship last year. But, optimism is high at Bramall lane after a postive start to the season and a victory away at recently relegated Scunthorpe on Saturday will help to settle any remaining pre-season nerves.

Crawley Town

Crawley continued there impressive start to the season last weekend with a 4-1 win over Bristol Rovers at the Broadfield stadium with Tyrone Barnett netting twice either side of half-time.

The 'Red Devils' were promoted from the Conference National last season as champions, winning the league by a record fifteen points, and Steve Evans' men have continued there unbelievable form into the football league this term.

With the pressure of being pre-season favourites to win successive promotions and move up to League One, the Crawley players have done tremendously well to maintain their standard of football and have already triumphed over tough oponents in Torquay and Southend

You may remember Crawley travelling to Old Trafford last season in the FA Cup, causing the reigning Premier League champions all sorts of problems. The League Two side lost narrowly 1-0 but earned massive praise for their performance and, interestingly, it is a similar squad to that day that takes to the field for Crawley this season, so confidence couldn't be much higher at Broadfield stadium
3/27/2012 19:51:38

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5/31/2012 21:18:49

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7/11/2012 17:33:45

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