The spike-encrusted Premier preview

In saving these 'ere words, this blog stumbled upon the predictions made – and for some reason kept – for this same weekend last year.

Among the usual inconsequential rambling was bitter reflection on a certain beach ball incident (bitter because it ruined the weekend's predictions) and some fearing for Birmingham City's future.

At the time, the Blues had lost five games in their last six, and were already looking uneasily out of the corner of their eye towards the spike-encrusted door marked 'Relegation'. This blog suggested Carson Yeung might start wondering what he got himself in for, and that Birmingham had a tough season ahead.

Perhaps this is the time for another important reminder that takes no responsibility for money lost in backing its in(s)ane predictions.


Manchester City v Chelsea (12.45pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, 5 Live Radio)

Two teams slightly-miffed-but-probably-not-all-that-bothered-really about their midweek exits from the Carling Cup meet to discuss their respective fortunes – on the pitch and in the bank – over a glass of Shiraz and some football.

Chelsea will have suffered more from their defeat. For one thing, it seems so long since Carlo Ancelotti's men even lost a game that recalling the last time they conceded four at home inspires images of dinosaurs and Avram Grant. In fact, it was against this very team, back in February this year when they lost 4-2 to Manchester City in a game overshadowed by Wayne Bridge's refusal to shake John Terry's hand.

But more worryingly for Chelsea, Yossi Benayoun and the on-fire Salomon Kalou (six games, five goals this season) pulled up within minutes of each other in the cup defeat to Newcastle, leaving them not only with half an hour in which to play with 10 men, but relatively short of options this weekend.

Fortunately for Chelsea fans wishing to avenge last season’s double defeat, City are also plagued by injuries (Adebayor, Lescott, Boateng, Balotelli, Kolarov...) and will inevitably field their inspiring 'Thou Shalt Not Pass' formation containing three holding midfielders. Rock. And. Roll.

What won’t happen: City decide to go all out and restrict themselves to just two defensive midfielders

What will happen: A slow start, but Chelsea take the points once the game bursts into life

Arsenal v West Brom (3pm)

The Gunners are unbeaten so far this season, and it takes a considerable stretch of the imagination to believe West Brom can change that, having lost their first two away games in the league. In fact, they haven't won away in any of their last 18 attempts in the Prem.

Still, an impressive series of results that's seen them record four wins in their last six matches gives WBA some momentum going into this fixture – not to mention Peter Odemwingie, looking ever more like the exciting talent this blog predicted he wouldn’t be. Whoops.

What won’t happen: Arsenal to stick with a line-up: the last time they played the same XI two league matches in a row was in January 2009

What will happen: Quite possibly, a red card: five of the ten so far this season have been in matches involving Arsenal. Quite definitely, a home win

Birmingham v Wigan (3pm)

You could call this a bit of a culture clash: while Wigan bring their usual motley crew of nationalities gathered from around the world, Birmingham prepare in the knowledge that all seven of their Premier League goals this season have been scored by Englishmen.

Wigan's measly two have both come from South America: Colombia (Rodallega) and Paraguay (Alcaraz), to be precise. This, of course, proves nothing. What does prove something is that they're currently converting just one in 25 chances – a statistic to make any goalkeeper grin from post to post.

What won’t happen: Wigan to stop Brum extending their record to 18 league matches unbeaten at St Andrews

What will happen: At least one player at the double: in the last four league meetings between these two teams, four players have scored braces like a compulsive thief whose trousers keep falling down

Blackpool v Blackburn (3pm)

It's back to Black as these sides meet for the first time since 1980. In those days, Ian Holloway was still just over a year away from turning pro as a player, and Sam Allardyce was first entertaining his delusions of grandeur.

To be fair, maybe Big Sam could manage a team like Real Madrid to a title or two. He can obviously do a job with limited resources, so it would be fascinating to see what he would do with unlimited ones. The problem, presumably, would be in persuading Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka to drop to the bench so the team can play 4-5-1 with a recently-signed Christopher Samba upfront.

Yes, this blog keeps referring to Samba playing as a striker, but that's because it's still coming to terms with living in a world in which this is possible.

What won’t happen: Surely, as blatant a penalty-box foul in this game as El-Hadji Diouf managed last week against Fulham – and to think Big Sam had the temerity to question the referee!

What will happen: Battling away win. Meanwhile, Blackpool defender Alex Baptiste’s exploratory knee surgery goes very well: “Yep, there it is – that’s a knee all right”

Fulham v Everton (3pm, Absolute Radio)

Things are becoming so desperate at Goodison – second from bottom, yet to win in the league, out of the Carling Cup – that it's taken captain Phil Neville to step up to the plate and tell his team to get its act together.

"There are no hiding places," he announced to a terrified Liverpool Echo reporter. Maybe there's something in that Freddy Krueger comparison.

What won’t happen: Everton to "stand up and be counted"...

What will happen: Fulham take yet another draw – Mark Hughes' 13th in 17 Premier League games. This would be the first Premier League draw between the two sides (17 of the 18 have been home wins)

Liverpool v Sunderland (3pm, 5 Live Radio)

It will be interesting to see how the Liverpool players react to the bollocking they received from Roy Hodgson midweek, although few of those who surrendered to Northampton are likely to feature in this game. It will also be interesting to see if any wags manage to throw a beach ball onto the pitch in tribute to the aforementioned incident happening in this fixture almost a year ago to the day.

The good news for Sunderland is that not only does Lee Cattermole return from suspension, Titus Bramble returns from the local police station, having been bailed after being arrested on a rape charge. You get the feeling this may be mentioned in the Kop.

The bad news for Sunderland is that even though Bramble is back to 'strengthen' their defence, it's looking considerably wobbly if Anton Ferdinand, Michael Turner and John Mensah can't shake off their respective injuries in time. Disastrously, Asamoah Gyan is another doubt, meaning we might not see his dancing celebration – not that he gets a bloody chance before his party-crashing git team-mates hug him into submission.

What won’t happen: "They're all crap and I don't know why I came here," announces Roy Hodgson after Liverpool slump to defeat

What will happen: Liverpool take advantage of a shaky Black Cats defence to take three points

West Ham v Spurs (3pm)

Spurs never make it easy for themselves against relegation fodder, but they should have enough to see off the Hammers – this despite the home team taking two great results away from home, a strong draw at Stoke before a surprise win at Sunderland in the Carling Cup.

This prediction of an away win is nervy to say the least.

What won’t happen: A rout, even though Spurs have scored more goals at West Ham than any other Premier League team.

What will happen: 1-2


Bolton v Manchester United (12pm, ESPN & ESPN HD, TalkSPORT Radio)

As much as Owen Coyle tries to play down his move from Burnley to Bolton, referring to himself as the Messiah, almost, he will have been deeply annoyed to lose to them in the Carling Cup.

And this Lancashire hotpot won’t be made any easier for Wanderers by their shortage at the back: Gary Cahill is still banned and Andy O’Brien out with an ankle injury, so the home side look set to start with Sam Ricketts and Zat Knight at the back – perhaps not ideal when facing a rejuvenated D. I. Berbatov.

At least the nearly-always reliable Jussi Jaaskelainen will return for Bolton, relegating Rupert Grint lookalike Adam Bogdan to the bench.

Manchester United, meanwhile, will welcome permacrock Rio Ferdinand back to the squad and Anderson’s return gives United options alongside Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes, who have started every Premier League game this season. You wouldn’t necessarily have predicted that at the start of the season.

What won’t happen: Berba to return to the folds of the Bulgarian national team, despite the overtures of new boss Lothar Matthaus

What will happen: Away win

Wolves v Aston Villa (2.05pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, TalkSPORT Radio)

The weird kick-off times continue after the Battle of Lancashire at noon. This Midlands melee starts, for some reason, at the very precise time of 2.05pm, possibly allowing for viewers to prepare themselves for the physical onslaught that awaits them.

Gerard Houllier takes charge of a team in the Premier League for the first time since 2004, while Mick McCarthy tries to work out how to stop Wolves from throwing any leads – already this season they’ve dropped eight points from winning positions.

What won’t happen: That won’t be a problem for Wolves in this game

What will happen: 0-0

Newcastle v Stoke (4.10pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)

What the hell is going on with these kick-off times? Perhaps expecting a lot of injury time in both games preceding this one, Newcastle-Stoke is pushed back to 4.10pm, confusing viewers more than Sky usually manage to do. Maybe Andy Gray is having incontinence problems and needs those few extra minutes before getting on camera.

Newcastle have bigger worries: veteran goalkeeper Steve Methuselah Harper will be out of the game for around 12 weeks after shoulder surgery. Tim Krul is a top keeper, but he looked a bit dodge – not dodgy, dodge – against Chelsea.

What won’t happen: Krul to let the side down – he’s good really

What will happen: Home win More to read...Club index - all 92 teams have their own page Features • News • Interviews • HomeInteract: Twitter • Facebook • Forums