The first regular-season games of the Barclays Premier League kicks off next Saturday and there is no doubt many of us are excited. So with nine days until the season kicks off, what situations should we keep an eye on? Here are five story lines that will surely make us wonder up to next Saturday and beyond.

Will Manchester City defend its title? - After winning the Premier League title last season on goal difference, Manchester City has had bragging rights since May. But with virtually every other team in the top six from last season making improvements, will City, which has made zero transfers, be able to sweep through teams as easily as it did last season? Head coach Roberto Mancini has been frustrated by his inability to get another high-profile name into a sky-blue kit, but with the riches at his disposal, it's only a matter of time until City makes a transfer. But will it be enough to keep other teams at arms length?

Where will Robin van Persie end up? - The disgruntled striker had a career season last year with Arsenal as he scored 37 goals in all competitions. But Arsenal suffered through yet another season without a trophy. It is for that reason why van Persie wants out. But just because he doesn't want to be there anymore doesn't mean it's easy to know what's going to happen with him. Will he play out the season with Arsenal? Will he be sold to Juventus, a club outside the Premier League? Will he become the villain and join rival Manchester United? Will he sign an extension? Whatever happens with the 29-year-old Dutch player, the outcome will be shrouded in fog until the day it happens.

How will the 2012 Champions League winner fare? - Chelsea finished sixth in the league last season but won the Champions League, thus granting it an automatic place in Europe's top tournament this campaign. With high-profile signings like Eden Hazard and Oscar, the Blues seem destined to finish higher in the table. But considering owner Roman Abramovich's short patience, what will happen when Chelsea goes through a rough patch? Will Robert Di Matteo lose his job? Only time will tell.

Who will attract the most negative attention to himself? - Last season Joey Barton with his flying fists and Luis Suarez the racist both could have been the correct answer to this question. John Terry was right up there, too. But now that Barton is on loan to Fleetwood Town, the EPL will be one troublemaker short. So will Suarez continue his tear of negativity, or will a new person emerge? Perhaps Mario Balotelli will take that throne? Whoever takes the title, prepare for fireworks.

Which teams will be relegated? - Southampton, Reading and West Ham United have all been promoted to the Premier League while Blackburn, Wolverhampton and Bolton were relegated last season. With Norwich City, Swansea City and Queens Park Rangers still in the top flight after last season, which teams of these six will go back to the Championship? Or will another club suffer that fate? Wigan Athletic will be in danger, once again, as Victor Moses is in danger of leaving for a bigger club. Fulham could also struggle if it loses American Clint Dempsey. The fight to avoid relegation will surely be as exciting as it was last year.