Rants and musings from the magazine team
With the Rooney saga set to rumble on until most of us are dead, fall-out for six teams in Europe and yet another high-profile Manchester City league encounter, this weekend looks set to be a belter in the English Prem.
It’s not too bad for coverage either, with only three matches not to be found live on radio or television - in your face, 'the good old days'!
Still, with the case most weeks being that 5Live get three matches, TalkSPORT two and Absolute Radio one, you’d think more of the Saturday 3pm fixtures would be shown in the knowledge no one on the TV except Setanta Ireland has them – but no. So we have the big games shoved in our ears as well as our eyes, but nothing on such intriguing tussles as West Brom-Fulham.
That’s not sarcasm, by the way.
Spurs v Everton (12.45pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, 5Live Radio)
For all the talk over the Toffees’ sticky start to the season – sorry, making puns around their nickname is a force of habit now – they’re still better off than they were at this stage last season, when they ended up finishing fifth.
The worries on this side of Merseyside are also slightly abated with that derby win over a dejected Liverpool, but this trip to White Hart Lane will be a much tougher ask, not least because Marouane Fellaini joins an ever-lengthening injury list. On the plus side, Louis Saha and the criminally underrated Steven Pienaar may play some part – and not as mascots or magic sponge men.
Ledley King remains sidelined for Spurs, but Younes Kaboul could return to defy yet more people who refuse to believe he’s only 24.
What won’t happen: Kaboul’s real age, 64, to be accidentally revealed in the match programme, causing the painting in his attic to crumble into dust
What will happen: Bale put a gloss on Spurs’ nightmare against Inter, but there’s no doubting their defensive deficiencies. They’ll cost them in this game, as Everton take a good score draw
Birmingham v Blackpool (3pm)
It’s been a surprisingly bad start for Birmingham, all piss and vinegar at the season’s commencement and boosted by some excellent signings. Indeed, the only season in which they’ve been slower out of the blocks, in 2005/6, they were relegated. It’s even got so bad that Alixkszndra Hleb has had to reassure fans they’re ‘too good to go down’, which as Leeds, West Ham and Newcastle supporters know, is always a dangerous phrase.
Just one win from eight is a situation that needs to be remedied, especially at home against supposedly weak opposition. But Blackpool are almost at full strength, and have already recorded three away wins this season.
What won’t happen: A fourth
What will happen: A fascinating draw. Again, this isn’t sarcasm
Chelsea v Wolves (3pm, 5Live Radio)
Perennial Chelsea-to-Wolves loanee Michael Mancienne is ineligible to play against mummy and daddy, and with Karl Henry still suspended, Mick McCarthy has been forced to recall 19-year-old Tory namesake David Davis from his loan spell at Walsall.
It’s tough cheese for Walsall: they face Tranmere in an early-season relegation battle this weekend.
Chelsea aren’t looking invincible of late, but should still glide desultorily over Wolves here to potentially move five points clear again at the top. You know in all four Prem meetings with Wolves, one Chelsea player has scored more than once? That’s called a sign.
What won’t happen: The Blues to ever be ruled out of the running for Rooney, even once the ogre-goblin hybrid has signed a new five-year contract at Old Trafford
What will happen: Home win. Sod it, 4-0. It’s the Alan Sugar school of prediction (see West Ham v Newcastle)
Sunderland v Aston Villa (3pm, Absolute Radio)
So far in this Premier League season, there have been success stories and horror stories. Here meet two teams refusing to be pigeonholed into either.
The Black Cats have been typically underwhelming, sitting in 13th, while Villa have been typically solid, despite exit from Europe, a thumping at St James’ Park – against Newcastle, not Exeter – and a change of manager. Given how things could have gone, they’ll be pleased with 8th right now.
They won’t be as pleased that Luke Young will miss three matches with a torn hamstring, or that the BBC’s biggest news story in Birmingham right now seems to be ‘MP’s wife accused of kitten theft’. That just isn’t on.
What won’t happen: ‘MP’s wife accused of unicorn stabbing’
What will happen: To be fair to Sunderland, three of their five consecutive draws have been against traditional Big Four sides, as well as a solid result at Ewood Park. They’re well set to go one better and win this match
West Brom v Fulham (3pm)
Fulham finally had their distinctly unimpressive drawing streak – sorry, unbeaten run – brought to an end by Spurs thanks to some generous refereeing following a harangue from Tom Huddlestone.
The Cottagers still haven’t won in 22 away games in the league, and while this might have been earmarked at the start of the season as a probable three-pointer, the Baggies have been superb this season and genuinely deserve their current standing of sixth place.
Shame it won’t last. Football is a cruel mistress.
What won’t happen: Mark Hughes to win a style war with opposite number Roberto di Matteo
What will happen: Fulham to look less goalshy now Moussa Dembele has returned, but West Brom take another win that could – but won’t – move them as high as third
Wigan v Bolton (3pm)
Bolton, somewhat unbelievably, are seventh in the table, though it’s probably fair to mention they’ve only had two really tough encounters: an impressive 2-2 draw against Manchester United and a 4-1 misery-fest at the Emirates.
Still, they deserve credit, not least for continuing to promote the startlingly impressive Lee Chung-Yong, who scored a great goal in the win against Stoke last week.
What won’t happen: A net-bulging scorcher-fest. Before Bolton won 4-0 in their last meeting, four matches between these two had produced only two goals
What will happen: Away win, with Lee instrumental again
West Ham v Newcastle (5.30pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, TalkSPORT Radio)
The BBC’s celebrity predictions continue with a very confused-looking Alan Sugar offering his thoughts on the games ahead. For a man that seems to know a bit about football, he disguises it very well. In this fixture, he’s firmly settled on an away win before being told he has to offer a score, hesitating briefly then grumping, “Oh... I’m going to say... 3-0?”
It’s not that he’s destined to be wrong – he may very well be right – but the way he’s plucked a scoreline out of the air (or indeed his airse). Doesn’t he realise the intense mathematical analysis, the scouring of the news, expected team sheets and form records, the late nights and early mornings that go into this art of prediction?
Anyway, it’s come up tails so we’re plumping for an away win.
What won’t happen: West Ham have scored at least twice in five of their last home games against the Toon, but it won’t happen this time
What will happen: 0-3 – it’s hard to argue with the self-proclaimed Most Successful Man In The World
Stoke v Manchester United (1.30pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, TalkSPORT Radio)
Enough has been said on the Rooney issue, by such learned loudmouths as Ian Holloway, Harry Redknapp and everyone ringing into TalkSPORT, that you really don’t any more guff from this blog speculating over a seismic shift in football we all saw coming, and a big-money transfer that probably now isn't going to happen.
What won’t happen: Rooney to move to Stoke. That’s probably a safe bet
What will happen: According to statistics, AND STATISTICS KNOW ALL, the following will all take place: Matthew Etherington will provide an assist (he’s made 50 per cent of Stoke’s goals this season), Manchester United will drop points from a winning position (six already, twice as many as the whole of last season) and the game will end in a draw (United have drawn all four away games in the Prem this season). That all said... away win
Liverpool v Blackburn (3pm, 5Live Radio (1st half only; 2nd half on 5Live Sports Extra))
A solid 0-0 away draw in Europe with a much-depleted team could be interpreted as a good result, but Roy Hodgson seems to be on the rack, having his aged bones stretched and twisted by vulture-like fans. A time for patience? Or does he just not know what he’s doing? This game should give some indication.
The good news is that the Hodgson-hating Rafa obsessive Lucas Leiva – the fake one – is still on Twitter, after a threat to leave that may or may not have been written by a rival hacking into his account. This means @NotLucasLeiva21 is around to sum up this game nicely:
“Not looking forward to Sunday. Bloody Blackburn. Horrible long ball, uninventive, clueless football. And Blackburn.”
What won’t happen: A thrilling display of attacking football from Lucas himself
What will happen: 0-0, and more fan woe for Hodgson. He may not be gone by the end of the month, as many are mooting, but by December seems inevitable
Manchester City v Arsenal (4pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5Live Radio)
Oh God, that’s all we need. After his display of oure bellendry last time he scored against former club Arsenal, all we need now is more bravado from Emmanuel Adebayor after scoring a hat-trick in midweek. Maybe this time a bottle will hit him. Hope not, though: he’s actually quite a good pundit.
Jack Wilshere is very deservedly suspended after a frankly shocking tackle, but it’s OK, he’s not that sort of player. For Man City, Mario Balotelli seems to have recovered incredibly quickly (he was originally suggested to be out until Christmas), perhaps as a result of that soothing trip to a women’s prison.
What won’t happen: Arguably, more w***ers on a football pitch at any one time
What will happen: Kolo Toure to miss an encounter with his old club through injury, but Adebayor to play and really rile the fans by scoring, then climbing into the stands to rub his excrement in the face of every single one, man, woman and child. Draw
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