Prem Previews: JT love-ins & David Lloyd doppelgangers

FourFourTwo.com would like to begin this week’s blog by apologising on behalf of our newspaper, radio and television cousins, following an almighty storm of hysteria that, frankly, saw them get a bit over-excited about John Terry.

Ironically, in a week that saw a return to top-level football for Diego Maradona, some quarters of 'the meeja' seemed to think that scoring an offside goal against Germany made Terry the second coming of the little (in terms of height, if not width) Argentine.

Overlooking his ghastly defensive error which saw Germany equalise and Scott Carson bizarrely castigated, ‘JT’ has yet again been labelled ‘Captain Marvel’ by the likes of ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley and whoever cobbles together Metro.

JT shepherds the ball... into the back of his own net 

Indeed JT’s ‘heroics’ have caused former Gillingham striker and part time radio pundit Tony Cascarino to compare the Chelsea skipper to Bobby Moore. Well, he’s about as quick on the turn as the great man...

The wide-spread media JT brown-nosefest rather unfairly saw impressive performances by England's new holy trinity of Matthew Upson, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Stewart Downing (no, really) overlooked by the majority, although the likelihood is that they won't all make it to South Africa (should England qualify, no egg-counting here, no sir).

Consistency

If Agbonlahor wants to become an England regular, he will have to find greater consistency at Premier League level, something that his Villa team-mates will need to match if they’re to have any chance of making the top four this term.

This week Villa host Manchester United, knowing a win would see them leapfrog the champions and possibly Arsenal should the North Londoners not win at Manchester City (which they will, by the way).

Obviously beating one of the established top four sides (as Villa did last weekend, leaving William Gallas to question everything bar his own role as the catalyst of the Gunners’ slump) can only aid a Champions League push.

But that result came after back-to-back defeats to Newcastle and Middlesbrough, meaning that even though they won at the Emirates, Villa are still chasing rather than leading the Gunners.

Agbonlahor - One third of England's new holy trinity 

The race for fourth is ultimately going to come down to which of the two sides is less inconsistent (unless by being less inconsistent they’re consistently bad, if you see what we mean...)

Meanwhile, United finally looked like they were back to somewhere near their best last weekend, sticking five past a previously resolute Stoke side at Old Trafford, with youngster Danny Welbeck stealing the headlines from goal-scoring centurion Cristiano Ronaldo with a stunning Premier League debut goal.

Despite being eight points behind the leading pair of Chelsea and Liverpool, United will certainly consider themselves in amongst the title shake-up, given they have a game in hand (at home to Fulham) and are still to welcome both of the top two to Old Trafford between now and May.

If they can do what Liverpool failed to do and win at Villa Park, they’ll go into what looks like being a massively busy and crucial six or seven weeks with even greater confidence, and we think they’ll do it... just.

One man who certainly isn’t high on confidence is Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes, who will come under even more scrutiny than usual on Sunday, with his predecessor Paul Robinson making his first return to N17 since his departure for Blackburn.

Confidence

Despite his erratic form last season, the tubby Yorkshireman was a massively popular figure amongst the White Hart Lane faithful, although that was as much to do with his often jovial demeanour and willingness to wave and indicate the score to the crowd on demand, as his ability between the sticks.

Some Spurs fans are already pining for Robinson’s return, which seems more than a trifle foolhardy considering they would most likely have lost 4-1 or 5-1 at Fulham had the England man been in goal at Fulham on Saturday rather than Gomes. But he would have waved and smiled, and that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

There’s no doubt the Brazilian has talent, you only need to look at his record at PSV – the Brazilian won the title in each of his four seasons at the Philips Stadion, keeping clean sheets in 60% of his Eredivisie matches and once going on a run of 971 minutes without conceding a league goal.

While the Daily Mail’s website may be happy to repeatedly settle for footballing look-a-likes that bear no resemblance other than the colour of their skin (see their Heurelho Gomes effort here), we at FourFourTwo.com towers have a far sharper - and less racist - eye, and have noticed that Gomes bears more than a passing resemblance to David Lloyd – the former England batsman and current Sky Sports pundit, not the tennisist and gym impresario.

White Hart Lane is not the place to go for clean sheets and we don’t expect either team to manage one on Sunday either, although we think Spurs might edge it, just, and start to climb the table again.

"If this doesn't help me catch the ball, nothing will!" 

Two more sides at the bottom end meet at the Britannia on Saturday, as Stoke host fellow newly-promoted side West Brom. Not many would have tipped the Baggies to struggle more than Stoke and Hull, but that’s the way things are looking a third of the way in to the season.

It is, perhaps, an indictment of the Premier League that the team that tries to play good football struggles while those who are perhaps that bit more direct and, dare we say it, one-dimensional look like having more than a decent chance of staying up, but it’s nothing we’ve not seen before.

We’ll save you from more mind-numbing analysis of Rory Delap’s long throw, although we do wonder why it seems to be bringing the Potters more joy at home than it has on the road.

Bottom

It will almost certainly be a feature again on Saturday, and should West Brom be unable to cope with it they will most likely still find themselves bottom come the end of the weekend, given they’ve only scored twice on the road so far this campaign.

If West Brom keeper Scott Carson was a largely innocent party in the goal England conceded on Wednesday, the same can not be said about the three he let in against Chelsea last weekend.

Poor positioning saw him beaten three times and condemned the Baggies to a morale-denting home defeat. These are the kind of mistakes the youngster will have to cut out if he wants to earn regular England caps, and indeed if he wants to keep his side in the Premier League for longer than another six months.

FourFourTwo's Premier League Predicitions:

Saturday November 22 (3pm kick-off unless stated)Chelsea 3-1 NewcastleLiverpool 2-0 FulhamMan City 1-2 ArsenalMiddlesbrough 1-1 BoltonPortsmouth 1-1 HullStoke 1-0 West BromAston Villa 1-2 Man Utd (Live on Setanta Sports, 5:30pm)

Sunday November 23Tottenham 2-1 Blackburn, 1:30pmSunderland 2-0 West Ham, 4pm

Monday November 24Wigan 1-2 Everton, 8pm

Make your own predictions and win £150,000 with Footy15.Footy15 pundit predictions:Alan HansenAston Villa vs Man Utd - DRAWChelsea vs Newcastle - HOME WINLiverpool vs Fulham - HOME WINMan City vs Arsenal - DRAWMiddlesbrough vs Bolton - HOME WINPortsmouth vs Hull - HOME WINStoke vs West Brom - HOME WINSunderland vs West Ham - DRAWTottenham vs Blackburn - HOME WINWigan vs Everton - AWAY WINJohn BarnesAston Villa vs Man Utd - DRAWChelsea vs Newcastle - HOME WINLiverpool vs Fulham - HOME WINMan City vs Arsenal - AWAY WINMiddlesbrough vs Bolton - DRAWPortsmouth vs Hull - HOME WINStoke vs West Brom - DRAWSunderland vs West Ham - HOME WINTottenham vs Blackburn - HOME WINWigan vs Everton - AWAY WINTony CascarinoAston Villa vs Man Utd - AWAY WINChelsea vs Newcastle - HOME WINLiverpool vs Fulham - HOME WINMan City vs Arsenal - DRAWMiddlesbrough vs Bolton - HOME WINPortsmouth vs Hull - DRAWStoke vs West Brom - HOME WINSunderland vs West Ham - HOME WINTottenham vs Blackburn - HOME WINWigan vs Everton - HOME WINGraham PollAston Villa vs Man Utd - AWAY WINChelsea vs Newcastle - HOME WINLiverpool vs Fulham - HOME WINMan City vs Arsenal - DRAWMiddlesbrough vs Bolton - HOME WINPortsmouth vs Hull - HOME WINStoke vs West Brom - HOME WINSunderland vs West Ham - HOME WINTottenham vs Blackburn - HOME WINWigan vs Everton - DRAW

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