Rants and musings from the magazine team
After more dullardry in midweek internationals, we’re back to the serious stuff; the real games of football, if you will, that actually matter.
There are real life or death games this weekend. If West Ham lose, Avram Grant will be forced to tender his resignation before being shot out of a cannon. Well, what else can you expect from Messrs Sullivan and Gold? It’s a miracle they don’t turn up to home games dressed as a circus ringleader and a sad clown.
And hey, it’s all on TV! (The football, not the cannon-shooting). Sure, we’re not talking the terrestrial terror of Adrian Chiles et al insisting on trying to find positives from an England performance that had very few of them, but get thee to a licensed pub or, failing that, a radio and you’ll find live football galore.
There are just the three untelevised or radio-ised games Premier League games this weekend. It’s a shame they include a couple of interesting but less publicised match-ups, but such is life. Well, money.
Arsenal v Spurs (12.45pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, 5 Live Radio)
The Biggest Game In The World Ever That Is Taking Place This Weekend is essentially a reason for Arsenal to boo William Gallas.
But, and England fans take note, maybe they have a reason to. Gallas consistently undermined his own players as Arsenal captain and, upon being released from the club, joined their fiercest rivals.
Not enough to boo him upon his return, perhaps but compare to the latest pathetic performance from England fans and it seems almost reasonable. To save on more words being ranted into the ether here, read the superb Jonathan Fadugba blogging on why England fans who choose to boo are a bunch of tools.
In news rather than opinion, the BBC reports ‘Wilshere faces derby fitness race’ as if he’s a Grand National winner trying to recover in time to be ridden by a tiny jockey.
And in stats rather than news, this could be a horrible 69 for Spurs, seeking to beat one of the traditional Big Four for the first time in nearly 70 attempts.
What won’t happen: Away win: Arsenal haven’t lost back-to-back Premier League home games in nearly 13 years
What will happen: Spurs are reinvigorated by Jermain Defoe’s return and romp to a draw
Birmingham v Chelsea (3pm, 5 Live Radio)
Good coverage, 5 Live, good coverage. There aren’t enough 3pm kick-offs on the radio and this could be a corker – if Brum get their arses into gear (have to mention them this week - have had some stick for glossing over their matches more often then not...).
Winless in five matches, the home side need Ben Foster to sort out his woeful distribution from midweek, but most as importantly they need a pick-me-up to climb out of the relegation zone. Jean Beausejour could be the player to bring it: an exciting winger from Chile (that’s all they breed over there), he hasn’t featured much this season but it would be great to see him.
He and Birmingham can certainly exploit, as can many clubs over the next eight fixtures or so, a weakness at the back as Chelsea continue their policy of having no reserve centre-backs.
With John Terry out for six to eight weeks and Alex requiring knee surgery and not 100% fit, Chelsea may have to turn to back-up... except they haven’t got any. Ricardo Carvalho went to Real Madrid late in the transfer window but no replacement was brought in, leaving Chelsea with only right-back-by-nature Branislav Ivanovic as a capable CB – and he looked very dodgy against Sunderland.
Michael Mancienne having been sent out on loan to Wolves for the 15th time, Chelsea’s only options are the young and inexperienced Jeffrey Bruma (who does have an international cap, to be fair) or bringing back Michael Essien to accompany Ivanovic in the middle.
Paulo Ferreira in the heart of defence should not be considered an option.
What won’t happen: Any kind of sense to be made...
What will happen: ...as Ferreira starts in the middle again. Brum take their chance for a point
Blackpool v Wolves (3pm)
It’s too early to call this a six-pointer, but a win would be massive for either side – especially Wolves, who, for all Marcus Hahnemann’s reassurances on MOTD 2, are five points adrift of safety at the moment.
They’ll be boosted by the injury-prompted absence of Blackpool keeper Matt Gilks, although it does mean the vastly underrated (well, slightly underrated) Richard Kingson could play.
What won’t happen: The much-maligned Richard Kingson to play – the Tangerines will find some other keeper down the back of the sofa
What will happen: Away win (gasp!)
Bolton v Newcastle (3pm)
You can’t accuse Owen Coyle of being a tinkerman: Bolton have seven ever-present starters in the league this season, the joint-most with Birmingham. Being a squad member with the Trotters means being just that.
A shame, since this blog would like to see Coyle pick himself after scoring a belter in a friendly against Cliftonville this week. Check out this audacious chip (goal begins with a very debatable handball on 0:35).
For Newcastle, Andy Carroll will be fit after a decent showing on debut for England, although Cheick Tiote and – surprise, surprise – Joey Barton are suspended. Most entertainingly, Kevin Nolan will make his first return to the Reebok almost two years after leaving, prompting confusion from fans who don’t know whether to boo him or revere him.
What won’t happen: Much reverence, probably
What will happen: A draw keeps both teams in the top half
Manchester United v Wigan (3pm, Absolute Radio)
Good haul for Absolute, this – the Lancashire lash should perhaps have been on TV (oh come on, Liverpool-West Ham?).
Maybe everyone’s ignoring the game because of the likely non-event it will be: a comfortable home without the ratings-bringing thrashing. In 11 meetings between the two Manchester United have won 11, dishing out two 5-0s last season.
What won’t happen: This to go well for Wigan
What will happen: Easy win, with Javier ‘Little Sweet Green Garden Pea’ Hernandez to score a doubl
West Brom v Stoke (3pm)
Such is the current closeness of Premier League table that from week to week, Stoke seem to be veering dangerously from flirting with Grade A Minger relegation to picking up the tipsy girl next door of mid-table security, packing her into a taxi and taking her home for an evening of debauchery.
For the record and the lawyers, this is a very strained metaphor: Stoke City FC are not the kind of club to actually pick up drunken women and use them for sexual gain.
An easier claim to substantiate (because it’s true) is that after this weekend’s fixtures, the Potters could be anything from fifth to 18th. Most likely, though, they’ll be pottering along in the ninth to 12th region.
West Brom would settle for that right now: their incredible start has hollowed out somewhat. A win here would be useful to say the least. And the least is all we ever say.
What won’t happen: Either team to move much in the table, despite...
What will happen: A home win
Liverpool v West Ham (5.30pm, ESPN & ESPN HD, TalkSPORT Radio)
This blog isn’t entirely convinced this is a natural game for television, but hey, we’ll take what we can get.
West Ham haven’t won their last 24 away matches in the top flight, and haven’t won at Anfield since 1963. You can see where this is going.
Not that Liverpool’s record is looking much healthier: brilliantly, all 12 of their goals this season have been either scored or assisted by Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard, and the latter will be missing for several weeks after injuring himself for England – that cap was almost as controversial as Fabio Capello’s homage to Tony Pulis.
What won’t happen: The Sun to let up in its tiresome campaign against Capello, especially now they have the ‘Prat in the Hat’ tagline to go with
What will happen: Home win - Gerrard or no Gerrard.
Blackburn v Aston Villa (1.30pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, TalkSPORT Radio)
The sneaking suspicion that Gerard Houllier hasn’t moved on with his life since temporarily leaving management in 2007 continues with the signing of 87-year-old Robert Pires.
And we’re assured Blackburn’s takeover by Miss Millie’s wannabes Venky’s Chicken is nearly completed, meaning many shots of anonymous men in the stands accompanied by intense-sounding voiceovers from Sky.
All in all, this is going to be the most intensely analysed 0-0 we’ve seen all season.
What won’t happen: Pires to embarrass himself or Houllier: he’s still a very useful player, though most likely in the centre now and not on the wing
What will happen: Sunday lunch snorefest
Fulham v Manchester City (4pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)
Mark Hughes faces the club that sacked him for a seemingly worse alternative, with Roberto Mancini walking the plank and ready to be pushed. Defeat to a Cottagers team just one point away from the drop zone could be enough to see him be dropped himself, into the briny deep.
Fulham won’t be helped by an ankle injury to Chocolate Moussa Dembele, however, nor the fact that both Carlos Tevez and Joe Hart are expected to return for Man City.
What won’t happen: The visitors to score a header – they’re the only Prem team not to have done so this season (probably because Richard Dunne’s gone)
What will happen: An away win saves Mancini’s skin for now
Sunderland v Everton (8pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)
The last time Sunderland conceded at home was to Cesc Fabregas’ converted fluke some five hours and 47 minutes ago (in football time, that is, as opposed to earlier today in a closed-doors friendly).
But they haven’t beaten Everton in 11 attempts in the league, and playing on Monday night, may struggle to maintain momentum from that amazing win at Chelsea. Darren Bent will replace Danny Welbeck up top.
For Everton, the most interesting team news is that it’s Yakubu’s birthday, bless him.
What won’t happen: A converted penalty: an impressive four of the last six at the Stadium of Light have been saved or missed
What will happen: People to keep sniffing at Chelsea’s defence as the reason behind Nedum Onouha’s solo effort, but it was a wondrous goal, so shh, all righ. Away win brings Sunderland down to Earth and down the table.
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