The baleful, booming, bilious, Bruce-beating Prem Preview

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Mark bloody Lawrenson somehow nailed nine out of 10 predictions last week. He only slipped up with Wolves v Manchester City, as did everyone else, not least Roberto Mancini.

Either Lawro’s undergone a major policy change from his usual “Pfft, if Liverpool aren’t playing I’m not really bothered so I’ll say home win,” or the BBC person who interviews him has just decided to give up and do it himself.

Yes, this is envy talking.

Anyway, it should be a great weekend for Premier League football, and one that could upset a few predictions: many of these are difficult to call.

A shame, then, that it’s a bit of a crap couple of days for live footy on the telly, or even radioey. Nobody is covering the fascinating, potentially brilliant West Brom-Man City match-up, nor the explosive Battle of Tyneside between Sunderland and Stoke. Expect violence in that one, even if you will only be hearing about it via Jeff and the boys.

Still, can’t complain (as hard as we try).


Bolton v Spurs (12.45pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, 5 Live Radio)
Well, one team at least is benefiting from TV money: this is the fifth televised game in a row for Spurs. No doubt Sky Sports’ commentators will take the opportunity to cream, however literally, over Gareth Bale. The list of adjectives prepared in gleeful anticipation is probably three A4 pages long already.

There’s no doubt about it: Gareth Bale is one of the most exciting talents to emerge from the Premier League in the last few years. Remember, too, that earlier in this very year he had one foot on the platform, one foot on the train, ready to leave Spurs on loan.

As Burnley fan @1dart said on Twitter, subsequently brought to attention by Oliver Kay of The Times: “Last January Bale was linked with a loan move to Burnley and our fans were unanimous that he wasn’t as good as what we had!” Never mind, eh?

However, Spurs fans must keep their feet on the ground regarding Bale. Yes, he happily merked the best right-back in the world at will, and even if Maicon was underprotected, the Welshman looked like he wasn’t even trying (check out this beauty from the excellent Zonal Marking for an illuminating figure). And yes, Bale is something a bit special. But he is at an early stage in his career and he is not, TalkSPORT fans, the best player in the world right now. Sense of perspective, please, boys.

And as we write this, we glance up at the office TV to see Sky showing a Bale-against-Inter compilation. Sigh. At least he's keeping a cool head; nobody else is.

What won’t happen: More links to other people’s work in a single blog. That’s enough for now
What will happen: Oh go on then, one more: the highly unpredictable but often brilliant Studs Up has produced two superb cartoons (here and here) on Spurs’ fortunes over the last week. Anyway, trust the euphoria to come crashing down as Kevin Davies scores a fifth goal in four home games against Spurs and Bolton record a deserved win

Birmingham v West Ham (3pm)
Hammers owners Goldy ‘n’ Sully return to former club Birmingham for the first time since finding their new digs. You can never be sure if they know anything about football, or are even aware they own a football club, but if they are in touch, they’ll know West Ham could easily be seven points adrift of safety by 5.15pm. Ouch.

Good news for them, then, that a good Brum side is looking shaky, definitely underperforming in 15th. The bad news for West Ham is that Mark Noble is due to have an operation on his appendix and, according to The Telegraph’s preview, will be “out for a moth”.

A moth isn’t too dissimilar to Messrs Gold and Sullivan, actually: just like the Cockney spivs, they’re attracted to a spotlight. BOOM.

What won’t happen: Avram Grant’s charm to save him forever
What will happen: Home win and the situation at West Ham gets desperate

Blackburn v Wigan (3pm)
All excitement towards this game is overshadowed by the fact that scatological Twitter legend @TheBig_Sam responded to us personally the other day. True, the conversation was about Neighbours, but it was a happy, happy day.

What won’t happen: Wigan to produce a display as woeful as they did against Fulham, you’d think, but they haven’t won at Ewood Park in seven attempts...
What will happen: Two out of form teams circling the relegation zone: expect a dour draw

Blackpool v Everton (3pm, Absolute Radio)
These two haven’t met in a competitive fixture in 30 years, when Everton won a League Cup replay 3-0. The form’s with them, then.

Not so the media, who have allowed the Toffees’ turnaround to go unnoticed. Everton now sit comfortably in eighth, just reward for some committed displays after another dismal start to the campaign. And Yakubu’s goal last week – winning the ball to begin the attack, then slamming home with a fine finish – was little short of sublime. It was sublim.

What won’t happen: Richard Keys to “have a word”, as Ian Holloway suggested when the anchorman asked Ollie if he really would be happy to be relegated this season
What will happen: More Ollie quotes to be taken out of context? Almost certainly – especially once Everton put the dampeners on Blackpool with an away win

Fulham v Aston Villa (3pm)
It’s official: no one gives a toss about Fulham.

Unlike fellow Londoners Tottenham, you won't catch the Cottagers on that new-fangled TV. By our calculations they’ve not been featured since the second week, when they snatched a point against Manchester United. Since then, nine straight fixtures including this one have stayed in the Saturday 3pm slot. What did Al Fayed ever do to you, Murdoch?

Well, we’re going to make an effort, even if none of the television channels are. After Clint Dempsey’s beautiful brace last week, the home side may line up with him up front, although most likely he’ll tuck behind the glad-to-be-back Moussa Dembele. Elsewhere, it’s a strong line-up, especially with the impressive Carlos Salcido at left-back.

And Villa fans, rejoice: Emile Heskey is out for a month with a knee injury. No 4-5-1 with that donkey as a lone striker, anyway.

What won’t happen: Kindness towards Heskey here. We’ve been patient, we’ve even gone against the grain and praised him, but the last two weeks, including THAT miss which should have put his team level in the loss to Sunderland, have showed that he really is genuinely bloody awful
What will happen: Draw

Manchester United v Wolves (3pm, 2nd half only on 5 Live Radio, full commentary on 5 Live Sports Extra)
While 5 Live seek to confuse everybody by featuring only half of this game on their mainstream channel, the first 45 being only on Sports Extra, Wolves seek to capitalise on a decent run of form to help their relegation battle.

In what is, bizarrely, Wolves’ third consecutive match against one of the Manchesters, the away side travel in the gloomy knowledge they’ve not kept a clean sheet in 13 games. But on the other hand, United are missing Nani, Anderson, Darren Fletcher, Michael Owen, Ryan Giggs, an America-bound Wayne Rooney and – polite cough – Owen Hargreaves.

What won’t happen: Wolves’ first win at Old Trafford since 1980
What will happen: Home win to nil

Sunderland v Stoke (3pm)
In the four Premier League meetings between the Black Cats and the Potters, there hasn't been a single away goal. It’s difficult to see that changing here, even if Sunderland have to pick themselves up after that unfortunate thrashing to fierce rivals Newcastle. Titus Bramble is banned following a red card in that match.

What won’t happen: Following that 5-1 defeat, Steve Bruce to go any redder, even if you daubed him in red paint and whipped him with your manhood
What will happen: 0-0 with 15 yellow cards


Arsenal v Newcastle (1.30pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, TalkSPORT Radio)
Rumours are that Andy Carroll won’t be forced to live with Kevin Nolan much longer, which is a disaster. In no sensible form of real life should they cohabitate, with Carroll reading Nolan’s children bedtime stories and having to be in bed himself by 11pm (this is all true, by the way). They can’t be split up. It’s just too perfect.

There’s also a whisper, which we can't confirm, that Chris Hughton is made to sleep at the foot of Kevin Nolan’s bed.

What won’t happen: Almunia, Vermaelen, Diaby, Gibbs, Frimpong or Van Persie to feature for injury-hit Arsenal, but instead the Gunners get Fabregas, Arshavin, Denilson and Song, all of whom were rested against Shakhtar (that went well)
What will happen: 3-1

West Brom v Manchester City (3pm)
Three defeats on the bounce for Man City, in case you hadn't noticed, and in trying to avoid a fourth this isn't a match-up Roberto Mancini will fancy. West Brom fully deserve their top six placing (even after slumping to Blackpool on Monday), and will provide City with a stern test. Then it’s the Manchester derby on Wednesday. Yowser.

Rasher than a side of bacon, Mancini has said the club would have to sack him. He won't be leaving of his own accord, and he probably wouldn't leave in a Honda Accord.

Still, if Mancini were to get the boot it would be very harsh: he has a completely new team to cobble together and they are, after all, still fourth in the league.

But you’re never going to win sympathy when you have all the money in the world. Those who inherit bottomless pockets are rarely seen as victims. The exception is, of course, Bruce Wayne, but in fairness his parents are deeeaaaaad.

What won’t happen: Seemingly, the press to stop reporting reassurances from Mancini and James Milner that the Man City dressing room is “united”. That’s a deliberately poor choice of words verging on scandalous
What will happen: Could Citeh really lose four in a row? It all depends on how well they start: at present they don’t have the team spirit or attacking intent to turn a game around. We’re plumping for a spirited – from West Brom, at least – draw

Liverpool v Chelsea (4pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)
Once upon a time this game mattered. Not any more. It’s a predestined Chelsea win.

You do find yourself wondering more than ever, though, what kind of hole Liverpool would be in without Captain Fantastic. Steven Gerrard came off the bench at half-time against Napoli to rescue his side with a hat-trick in the last 15 minutes. Rumours are he’s out with a shoulder injury after carrying the club for too long.

Yeesh, that’s poor. Sorry.

What won’t happen: Either of swap-shop buddies Joe Cole and Yossi Benayoun to face their former clubs. Amazingly, Frank Lampard will also miss out again, frustrating even the most patient of Fantasy Football players who rely upon on him for points
What will happen: Away win. Liverpool look even weaker than usual, with Kyrgiakos, Johnson and Babel all doubts – not that music piracy buff Babel, apparently hated by everyone including Roy Hodgson, would play anyway...