The offside and interfering Prem Preview


Arsenal v West Ham (3pm)

This season, the Gunners have been awarded more penalties and seen more opposition players sent off than any other team in the league.

Could it be they have an unfair advantage? Do the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United win more key decisions because, as former referee and bitter, desperate joke of a man Graham Poll revealed on radio this week (before backtracking in The Sun), favouring bigger clubs just means less hassle?

No. It's much more likely that Arsenal's speed of passing and well-timed runs into the box simply lead to more last-ditch tackles and resulting fouls by the opposition. Another good conspiracy theory ruined.

That said, Wenger's men deserve at least a few games of bad karma after the farce that was Theo Walcott's first goal against Newcastle in the Carling Cup.

For those of you who haven't seen it, it involved Nicklas Bendtner jogging back from an offside position before unsubtly taking out the only Toon player in a position to stop Walcott from scoring.

Offside. Interfering with play. Deliberately impeding the last defender. Bendtner might as well have waited in the goalmouth and shot Tim Krul in the back of the head. Actually, no: they need that part of him to score.

What won’t happen: Andre ‘G-Nev is my best bud’ Marriner to go one game without controversy

What will happen: No Kieran Gibbs, but still a home win

Blackburn v Chelsea (3pm, 5 Live Radio)

Until their 1-1 draw at Ewood Park in March last season, Blackburn hadn't scored in a league game against Chelsea in an astonishing seven attempts – since May 2006, in fact, when they beat Jose Mourinho's eventual champions 1-0.

But here is a chance to appeal to their new potential owners, the Indian poultry farmers – chicken curry jokes are too easy and perhaps a bit ignorant – Venky's, who do admittedly sound like an Indian fast food chain.

In fairness, the Venky's group also specialises in pharmaceuticals, and they are promising no less than £5 million to Rovers for some new players. Well, a new player. Maybe one-fifth of a new player. For while most new takeover consortiums (consortia?) promise lavish spending and the biggest names, Blackburn's possible new owners are limited themselves to a £5m bargain and some loan signings.

This is, in one way, commendable. We've seen too many clubs try to buy success, however relative to their stature, then fail and go under as well as down (you know who I'm talking about). Being frugal and sensible is... well, sensible. It's sensible soccer. Although their pledge to help Blackburn finish 10th-12th seems an empty one, given Sam Allardyce managed that last season...

What won’t happen: The takeover to really excite anyone, even Blackburn fans

What will happen: Oh, in this game? Really should remember to talk about these fixtures. Sorry. Uh... 2-1 to Chelsea? Oh all right, 3-1

Everton v Stoke (3pm)

With Fellaini, Rodwell and Osman all injured – Osman for six weeks – it would be a big blow for Everton if the superb Mikel Arteta was to miss this game too, as is rumoured. No, we're not above reporting rumours on this blog, so while we're at it, David Moyes is rumoured to be a Neptunian slugbeast with eight arms and 19 eyes, only adopting a human form when there's a camera around.

Stoke have their own problems, not with aliens (apparently this blog is critical enough of the Potters without bringing extra-terrestrial libel into the equation), but illness.

After scoring against West Ham, Kenwyne Jones was brought off due to a high temperature, as was Jermaine Pennant later in the game for exactly the same reason. That's one fast-spreading virus. As if substitutions aren't hard enough to gauge without players taking thermometers out of their shinpads.

"There has been something going around the camp," confirmed Tony Pulis, adding that it wasn't talk of another revolution. "Kenwyne didn't really want to play, but I gave him a bit of a cuddle to get him out there." So that's Pulis down with the sickness too, unless he really is a robot.

What won’t happen: Anything but the draw this seems destined to be

What will happen: Stoke to score: for all the accusations of defensive, ugly football – appalling to think any blogger would say such a thing – the Potters have netted in every competitive game bar one this season, denied a clean sweep only by those pesky Chelsea kids

Fulham v Wigan (3pm)

Two teams one position apart go head-to-head in what has to go down as a must-win for Fulham. Sadly they won't be playing in their very fetching dark green third kit, which looks oddly like a cricket strip but, even more oddly, really quite nice.

Wigan, meanwhile, may threaten to raise their English quota: of the 99 names on their team sheet (as in, 11 players and nine games), only five have been English. This doesn’t matter, necessarily: it ’s just a phenomenally low number.

What won’t happen: Five of the last seven matches between these teams have finished as draws, but it would be an impressive effort for Wigan to extend their unbeaten league run to five matches

What will happen: Home win. And quite possibly, boredom. Neither side has set the league alight this year, and this fixture has produced only 15 goals in 11 games. Their last meeting was the first to see more than two goals between this pair in the Prem. Snore

Wolves v Manchester City (3pm, Absolute Radio)

The only team not to keep a clean sheet this season (Wolves) play a bunch who have conceded five in two. Prepare yourself for goals goals goals!

Or, indeed, a quietly effective City win.

What won’t happen: Tevez to feature for the travellers, due to a thigh problem. He's off to Argentina to visit his folks – not, as Roque Santa Cruz is suggesting, to hole up in his childhood treehouse and refuse to come back to England. Homesick, you see, which explains why Mancini is allowing him to fly home for a few days when he's previously asked the national team to stop making Tevez travel so much. Tch, these continental types (Mancini, not Tevez)

What will happen: Mancini's men get back on track after folding to/against/all over Arsenal last week

Manchester United v Spurs (5.30pm, ESPN & ESPN HD, TalkSPORT Radio)

Another televised game for Spurs, as ESPN brush down the ‘haven’t won at Old Trafford since 1989’ statistic. You’d have to say this is their best opportunity in a while: in the ascendancy themselves, with United stuttering a tad and minus ankle-burdened Wayne Rooney for another three weeks. Owen’s out too, but what else is new?

Good thing ‘Little Sweet Green Pea Runner Bean Salad’ Javier Hernandez is ready to step into his slip-ons. For future reference, tabloid writers, Chicharito means ‘Little pea’ and no more, so stop adding extra adjectives to his nickname. He has enough on his plate, what with all the filming for Goal IV: seriously, young Mexican kid makes good in England? Haven’t we seen this before?

What won’t happen: With Ledley King a doubt as always, what won’t happen is any depth to the Spurs defence until Bafana Bafana’s Bongani Khumalo arrives in January (subject to a work permit). Big signing he ain’t, but he’s cheap, like the budgie, and has to be better than William Gallas is these days

What will happen: Spurs to record their first away win against one of the Big Four in a whopping 68 attempts? Don’t count on it


Aston Villa v Birmingham (12pm, TalkSPORT Radio)

The first of a derby double this Sabbath, Villa-Birmingham is always intriguing. You have history, a see-sawing form record and players playing against their old clubs. Still, even if he tried to let his former employers off the hook, Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey couldn’t miss an open goal as gaping as he did last week.

Somewhat oddly, having gone unbeaten in their first six Premier League match-ups against Villa, Birmingham have lost the six since. With the hosts missing Dunne, Agbonlahor, Carew, Albrighton, Luke Young, Delph and captain Stiliyan Petrov (for two months!), this could be the Blues’ big chance.

What won’t happen: Revealed! Gerard Houllier and Alex McLeish actually long-lost brothers!

What will happen: Could it be? Could it be? Yep – away win

Newcastle v Sunderland (1.30pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, TalkSPORT Radio)

And here’s the even bigger derby. The first meeting between these two since Newcastle’s brief sojourn to the Championship, this promises to be feisty with a capital ‘Argh’.

In the Mackem corner: Sunderland, unbeaten in seven. In the Toon corner: Newcastle and Shola Ameobi, who has scored four in his last three Prem games against the Black Cats.

What won’t happen: A Shola Ameobi hat-trick

What will happen: Score draw, and poor old Chris Hughton to be fired before the year is out for doing very little wrong. His newly-promoted team are ninth. Give the guy a break

Bolton v Liverpool (4pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)

The last time Liverpool scored without either Gerrard or an unbelievably below-par Torres being involved? Opening day. Admittedly Dirk Kuyt has been a difficult absence to bear, but that’s a definite sign.

What won’t happen: Bolton ride into fifth with a thumping victory, fun though that would be

What will happen: Gerrard and Torres to leave in January? It’s not out of the question. And what, then, would be stopping Liverpool from doing a Leeds? Three points here would help, and they’ll get them


Blackpool v West Brom (8pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1)

Blackpool are treated to a bit of Premier League MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBAAAAAALL for the first time in what Sky probably imagined, when they were picking matches for their schedule, to be an early-days relegation dogfight.

Instead it’s a fascinating encounter between two attacking and greatly over-performing teams: Blackpool impressing in joint 11th (or, if you prefer, joint 15th) and West Brom as high as sixth.

This could genuinely be the best match of the weekend.

What won’t happen: Ian Holloway to go several minutes without being reminded of that Rooney rant

What will happen: Away win