Former Australian coach Mickey Arthur provides his views on Australia's fortunes in his exclusive column for thewest.com.au
My impression of the last Ashes series was that the class and experience of England shone through and when a match was on the line they held their nerve and pulled through.
This is indicative of where both teams are in terms of their development. England are a settled unit while Australia are a team in transition.
Michael Clarke and I were very aware of this fact, which is why our planning before I was sacked went around the fact that we wanted to really push England close in England, win a couple of psychological battles and consolidate our planning to make sure that we definitely claimed the spoils in Australia.
On reflection, and having watched the Ashes very closely in England, I thought Australia should have got closer and only really dominated the Old Trafford Test.
People say that Trent Bridge was very close, but in reality this was only due to the incredible debut with the bat at No.11 by Ashton Agar. Had he been given out stumped when he was probably a fraction out, the Test would have been over after the first innings.
The fact is England did not fire on all cylinders and were still good enough to win the series. But enough frailties were shown to provide Australia with some real hope for the return bout.
England relied heavily on the brilliance of Ian Bell and some very good innings from Kevin Pietersen for the bulk of their runs.
Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior did not get the runs they would have expected and will be looking to put that right here in Australia.
The areas for Australia to really probe are Cook's opening partner and No.6 in the England batting order.
I am not sure yet about Joe Root and how his technique is going to stand up on the bouncier, quicker wickets of Australia and expect Jonny Bairstow or new boy Gary Ballance to bat at No.6. Neither has a proven track record yet.
I think that Cook and Trott will show their undoubted class out here, as they did on the last Ashes tour, but Trott will get a real working over with the short ball.
His footwork was less assured after Australia exploited this little chink in his armour.
The role of the finger spinner is so different out here compared with in England, so Graeme Swann's role will be more of a holding one than an attacking one.
This will put more pressure on James Anderson, Stuart Broad and the third quick bowler, who I expect will be Steven Finn or Tim Bresnan, if he has recovered from stress fractures in his back.
If Australia can blunt the impact of the new ball and get the England quicks bowling third, fourth and fifth spells, they will be getting enough runs and will start testing the depth of the tourists' attack.
England have opted for tall fast bowlers, but the jury is still out on Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin.
My starting Australian team for the first Test at the Gabba would be, in batting order, David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon.
I think this team has a good mix of youth and experience. It is very pleasing to see some young batsmen around the country getting plenty of runs, and more importantly getting centuries.
Phil Hughes, Ed Cowan, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh will certainly be putting pressure on the incumbents, which is a very healthy situation.
Expect James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Jackson Bird to play roles if they recover from injury in time, but my bolter in the bowling department is Josh Hazlewood, who is going to be a real winner and could realistically play a crucial role in the latter stages of the Ashes.
I have always maintained that Australia can take 20 wickets - they just need to get enough runs.
Clarke is a true great of the game and if his back can hold up, his contribution will be paramount. He got a real working over with the short ball in England and on occasions was definitely taken out of his comfort zone. He will be working very hard on this aspect of his game and he will have devised a plan against that sort of attack.
I expect him to stand tall and take it on, exactly as he did against South Africa last year.
Watson can expect England to bowl straighter lines as everybody knows that he plants his front leg and plays around his front pad. His balance is crucial and as long as he shapes to hit the ball to mid-on, he will be OK.
Warner is the X-factor and has the ability to take the game away from the opposition in a session and really give Australia the momentum.
Rogers played very well in England and it was a pleasure to see all his toil finally rewarded with a regular Test spot and a Test hundred to boot. He is the one who soaks up the pressure and occupies the crease.
That leaves Smith, Bailey and Haddin at five, six and seven. They all play spin very well and will look to dominate Swann. Having three right-handers in the middle order is good considering how crucial Swann is to the England attack.
I really expect the Australians to take the game to Swann because if he doesn't settle, this will put a lot of pressure on England's quick bowlers.
The key match-ups are the respective opening partnerships with bat and ball as so much emphasis in Australia is placed on winning the new-ball spells of the game.My gut feel is that England will win this contest, but if Clarke, Watson and another batsman have big series this Ashes is going to be very hard fought and close.