Nickname: The Saints
Ground: St Mary's Stadium
Prior to their relegation from the Premier League in 2004, Southampton had played in the top flight of English football since 1978 and were one of the founding members of the Premier League. Although they were never regarded as a footballing powerhouse in the mould of Manchester United or Arsenal, the Saints are still one of the most familiar and established clubs in the country.
The year 1976 will be remembered fondly by Southampton fans worldwide. Then managed by Lawrie McMenemy, the club finally broke their major honours duck by upsetting the odds and beating heavy favorites Manchester United in the FA Cup Final to lift the trophy. McMenemy also oversaw the club's most successful period in the league to date, with the Saints finishing as runners-up to a dominant Liverpool side in the 1983-1984 season.
Southampton's youth academy is another source of pride for the club; the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have recently joined household names Matthew Le Tissier and Alan Shearer as some of the most talented players to have come out of the highly-rated Saints Academy.
Manager: Nigel Adkins
Adkins first started out his managerial career at Bangor City, a semi-professional Welsh football club, where he led them to back to back titles in 1994 and 1995.
After a relatively successful spell at Scunthorpe where he led them to promotion on two occasions, Adkins signed a three year contract with the Saints. The 47-year-old proved his managerial ability once again by leading the club to promotion from League One to the Championship. Under his stewardship, Southampton constantly found itself in the top two of the Championship, managing to achieve a club record of 10 league wins in the process and eventually won the club promotion to the top tier of English football.
Key player: Adam Lallana
Lallana signed for Southampton when he was only 12 and has since blossomed into an accomplished winger and is one of the first names on Adkins' team sheet. Like his predecessors Bale and Walcott, Lallana possesses pace in abundance and often uses it to great effect. The 24-year-old's quick feet and excellent close control of the ball also makes it very difficult for defenders to win the ball from him.
He was selected in the 2011-2012 PFA Championship Team of the Year last season, scoring for the Saints a total of 13 goals and providing 11 assists in 46 appearances.
Prediction for the upcoming season: 19
The step up to the Premier League from the Championship is huge and the lack of players with Premier League experience within their ranks will see the side struggle to adapt to the rigors of top tier football. We expect Adkins' charges to be planted at the wrong end of the table and fighting for survival, a fight which they're likely to lose.
Did you know? During World War II, a bomb landed on the pitch of the Saints' home ground at The Dell which left an 18-foot crater, damaging an underground culvert in the process which led to the pitch being flooded!
Nickname: The Royals
Ground: Madejski Stadium
Reading, formed in 1871, are one of the oldest teams in the country but never played in the top tier of English football until the 2006-07 season. Their first season in the Premier League was a success; under the guidance of former Manchester United winger Steve Coppell, they defied pre-season expectations to finish a respectable eight in the league while playing attractive football.
The Royals quest for major honours has not yet yielded fruit, with the club only managing to lift the now defunct Full Members Cup in 1988. The club's best showing in the FA cup came in 1926-27 when they lost to eventual winners Cardiff City in the semi-finals. One of the proudest moments in their club history came in 2005-2006, when Coppell led the team to the Championship title with a record 106 points, scoring an incredible 99 goals and only losing twice.
Manager: Brian McDermott
McDermott's managerial resume may not carry heft, with his only previous stints coming at Slough Town and Woking, but the former Arsenal player has already shown keen tactical acumen during his time in charge at Reading.
He joined the Royals as a scout in 2000 and was appointed as caretaker manager of the club in 2009, replacing the departing Brendan Rodgers who oversaw a poor spell of form at the club. Since then, the wily McDermott has managed to bring much progress to the club, including masterminding a noteworthy run to the FA Cup quarter-finals in 2010-11 which involved a famous victory over Liverpool in the third round.
Last season, the 51-year-old helped the club gain promotion to the Premier League after a fantastic run of 15 wins in 17 games, a feat which earned McDermott the League Managers Association (LMA) Championship manager of the year award.
Key player: Pavel Pogrebnyak
The signing of Pogrebnyak from VfB Stuttgart is something of a coup for the Royals. The Russian striker was an integral part of the Zenith St. Petersburg side which won the UEFA Cup in 2008, finishing as the competition's top scorer in the process. He spent the latter half of last season on loan to Fulham and made quite an impact on the Premier League, scoring five goals in his first three games for the Cottagers. Injury disrupted his season however, but Pogrebnyak displayed enough quality to suggest that he will be one to watch next season.
Pogrebnyak's biggest asset is his strength and he uses it to great effect, holding the ball up well and linking play effectively. In addition, the 28-year-old has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and his calmness in front of goal ensures that he does not miss many chances.
Prediction for the upcoming season: 17
Reading have made some astute signings in the transfer window thus far; apart from the aforementioned Pogrebnyak, they have also added the likes of Chris Gunter, Danny Guthrie and former Royals player Nicky Shorey to their ranks. These players may not be the biggest names in world football but have certainly shown in previous seasons that they are capable of matching up to the challenges of the Premier League. We expect the Royals to survive the relegation battle, albeit by the skin of their teeth, but the lack of squad depth could mean serious trouble for McDermott if an injury crisis should occur.
Fun Fact: Reading were previously known as The Biscuitmen due to their home ground being associated with biscuit manufacturers Huntley & Palmers and there is a song titled "Biscuitmen" as a tribute to the club.
West Ham United
Nickname: The Hammers
Ground: Upton Park
West Ham were initially known as Thames Ironworks FC before reforming themselves to their current incarnation in 1900. They are an extremely well respected and recognized club which once saw footballing legends such as Sir Trevor Brooking and Paul Ince don their famous claret and blue jersey.
The Hammers youth academy is arguably one of the best in the country, with current big name players such as Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick all having graduated from it. Several sections of the media have regarded the youth academy as the most important contributor to the England national squad; three of their former graduates and players in Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters played a huge role in the Three Lions' historic World Cup victory in 1966.
Although the club have never won the league title, they have never competed below the second tier of English football and enjoyed success in the cup competitions, winning the FA Cup on three occasions, the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1999 and most memorably, the European Cup Winners Cup in 1965.
Manager: Sam Allardyce
Allardyce started his managerial career at West Bromwich Albion but soon moved on to manage various different clubs including Preston North End, Blackpool and Notts County. His best managerial spell came at Bolton Wanderers, where he not only led them to promotion to the Premiership but steered them into Europe the following years.
Moderately successful spells at Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers followed before the 57-year-old was hired to take charge of the Hammers in 2011. He guided them back to the Premier League after finishing third in the Championship and winning the play offs against Cardiff City and Blackpool.
Allardyce's teams are renowned for being extremely hard to break down, although much criticism has been leveled at him for his preference of 'anti-football' tactics, which often sees his teams play extremely defensively and rely on long-ball football to win the game. He is nonetheless an astute tactician and has registered numerous wins against more illustrious managerial opponents such as Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Key player: Mohamed Diame
Diame signed for West Ham on a free after he failed to agree terms with Wigan Athletic, where he spent the last three seasons plying his trade. The 25-year-old made a total of 103 appearances for the Latics and was regarded as a key player by manager Roberto Martinez. His noteworthy performances at Wigan made him a target of top clubs like Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea but the former Rayo Vallecano player eventually opted for a move to the Hammers.
The Senegal international operates primarily as a defensive midfielder and is known for his tenacious tackling and superb reading of the game. A box-to-box midfielder with a high work-rate, he is an energetic presence in the middle of the pitch and not only disrupts the opposition's play but also recycles possession in midfield effectively.
Prediction for the upcoming season: 12
West Ham have several seasoned Premier League players in the squad which bode well for the chances of staying in the league. Already, the shape of the team has the fingerprints of the defensive-minded Allardyce all over it, with the likes of Alou Diarra, Mark Noble and Diame more suited to destroying play rather than create it, and this will make them a tough outfit to play against. We expect a mid-table finish for the Hammers, and they're likely to upset some heavyweights along the way.
Fun Fact: West Ham have a host of famous fans around the world which include the likes of United States President Barack Obama, film director Alfred Hitchcock and musician Katy Perry.