The bat-eared, slide-avoiding Premier Preview

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Hello everyone. Apologies for the lack of blog last week – there was an incident involving bears, trees and Mansfield Town. But we’re back now, and to mix it up we’re using full team names in the title of each game. That’s right! We’re crazy! It does knacker brevity in the Spurs-WBA prediction a bit though.

Manchester United FC v Everton FC
(12.45pm, Sky Sports 2, HD2 & 3D, 5 Live Radio)
Everton are in a tidy bit of form, having not lost in the league since February. But if statistics matter – and we all have to pretend they do, or Opta will start fading from the picture like that scene in Back To The Future – they’re up against a team with some ridiculous home record this season.

It’s mysterious, is Manchester United’s home/away dichotomy. Winning just five away games out of 17 (no more than Newcastle or Blackpool) is distinctly crap, but 15 wins from 16 at home is an incredible effort bordering on the faintly ridiculous. Rumour has it the United tour bus is haunted by the ghost of Massimo Taibi.

Tim Cahill may return from an ankle injury, which would be a massive boost for the visitors, but Mikel Arteta will not, which will not be.

What won’t happen: Everton overtake Liverpool in the table
What will happen: Everton overtake a Mini on the M62 home. United win

Aston Villa FC v Stoke City FC (3pm)
Gary McAllister may take charge for Aston Villa in lieu of Gerard Houllier’s sad hospitalisation. McAllister is Villa’s assistant manager – it’s not just a random appointment for one game. But that wouldn’t be a bad rule for some teams. Mick McCarthy rushed to A&E for shouting until his lungs collapse? We’ll have The Special One for a game, please, say Wolves: Gary Megson.

McAllister does, at least, have a fully fit squad to choose from, while Tony Pulis is minus Higginbotham and giant lump trio Sidibe, Faye and Carew. That’s Abdoulaye Faye, by the way: former team-and-name-mate Amdy Faye is a free agent after Leeds let him go this year. One for Wenger to think about.

What won’t happen: Stoke allow themselves to be distracted by a looming FA Cup final – as their performance against Bolton showed, they don’t let pressure or expectation affect them or their play
What will happen: A few more Stoke fans creep out of the woodwork, and Nick Hancock finds himself back on TV again. Draw

Blackpool FC v Newcastle United FC (3pm, Absolute Radio)
It may sound scandalously like sarcasm – something this blog obviously deplores – but this could be a cracking match. Well done, you boys at Vodka FM: this is a very good pick. Potentially, anyway. We’ve obviously cursed it now.

Blackpool finally find themselves in the bottom three after a descent as distasteful as following a botty-problemed child down the slide. A metaphor for the kids there. And with Newcastle boosted by a good home draw against the league leaders, you’d be a fool to bet on a home win here. A fool! Especially as Tangerine talisman Charlie ‘Glass Ankles’ Adam could miss most of the rest of the season...

Speaking of which, Alan Pardew is playing down his chances but we’re expected to see Hatem Ben Arfa back before the summer, which would be nice to see. Until he has his other leg broken, of course. Newcastle face Birmingham in a few weeks: our money’s on Lee Bowyer to do the damage.

What won’t happen: Blackpool take the lead and hold on, much to everyone’s amazement
What will happen: Blackpool take the lead, only to throw it away. Newcastle win

Liverpool FC v Birmingham City FC (3pm)
Liverpool’s new strikers have weird ears. Suarez has bat lugs, while Andy Carroll’s make him look like the Count from Sesame Street. That is all.

Actually, there’s a bit more. Fun fact! If Birmingham win, they’ll have defeated Liverpool as many times (30) as they’ve drawn against them. The Reds beat the Blues almost 50% of the time, on 56 out of 115 occasions. So there you go.

What won’t happen: Birmingham win
What will happen: They grab an unexpected draw to bring them closer to wrapping up safety

Sunderland AFC v Wigan Athletic FC (3pm)
Seven points from 12 doesn’t sound impressive, but it’s been enough to take Wigan off the bottom spot and out of the relegation zone for the first time since 2007. They won’t mind facing Sunderland at the moment either, Fraizer Campbell-less for up to a year – A YEAR – and currently on a worse run than... than...

OK, you can choose your own end to that sentence. It’s interactive journalism! Like citizen journalism, but not exploitative. So, take your pick. Sunderland are on a worse run than...

a) Devon Loch in the 1956 Grand National
b) Derek Redmond in the 1992 Olympics
c) An amputee chasing an eight-legged unicorn that’s stolen his crutches

What won’t happen: Sunderland lose and make their recent haul one point from ten games
What will happen: Probably, even more bad luck for Sunderland, who’ll be without Campbell and Craig Gordon for some of next season as well as this one. For now, though, a home win gets the Black Cats back on track

Tottenham Hotspur FC v West Bromwich Albion FC (3pm, 5 Live Sports Extra)
It’s probably for the best to just ignore Harry Redknapp’s ramblings about Stoke throwing their league game against Manchester City in order to gain a European spot.

There are too many permutations for it to be considered now, and as usual he's simply distracting his own men from the job in hand – and not in a good way, a la Mourinho relieving pressure, but in a bad way, a la Uncle Albert in Only Fools And Horses.

Still, his Spurs did well to recover from 3-1 down against Arsenal, even if they will be slightly miffed they didn’t turn it around completely. Szczesny’s superb leg-block of Modric's shot could have huge repercussions.

West Brom have finally lost under Woy after eight games but could be fairly confident here: for a start, they know the pressure is on Spurs. With their tough run-in on the road, games such as this and home fixtures against Blackpool and Birmingham are absolute must-wins.

Furthermore, Bale and Corluka may miss out after sustaining injuries against Arsenal, though, oddly enough, not as a result of some blatant hacking, which was directly largely at Modric.

What won’t happen: Much attacking intent from the Baggies in this game. Nevertheless...
What will happen: West Brom are boosted by Dorrans’ return from injury and manage to claim a draw

Wolverhampton Wanderers FC v Fulham FC (3pm)
Fulham generally don’t really believe in winning away from home, as it’s awfully vulgar. But that even more vulgar (vulgarer?) Michael Jackson statue awaiting them for every home game might persuade the Cottagers to get away and enjoy their time on the road a little more.

Wolves, as per, are missing Irish pair Hunt ‘n’ Doyle (weren’t they 19th-century detectives?), and also Mouyokolo and Zubar, which was slightly less successful as a TV show.

What won’t happen: Fulham take the MJ statue with them as a good luck charm, strapping it to the roof of the team coach and scaring young people on aeroplanes
What will happen: Draw

Chelsea FC v West Ham United FC (5.30pm, ESPN & ESPN HD, TalkSPORT Radio)
This blog doesn’t like to pretend it knows better than Champions League-winning managers, but surely the Torres solution, which Carlo Ancelotti has now reached after slowly crawling towards it like Scooby-Doo’s Velma searching for her specs, was obvious all along. Keep the 4-3-3 that’s worked. Play Drogba. Have Torres on the bench. Playing 4-4-2 with them both doesn’t work, and if you take the pressure off the Spaniard he’ll score over time.

Then sell Drogba in the summer while he’s still worth something: the Ivorian is 33 now and his value is declining, plus his contract is up next summer. Torres, 27, will be of greater value in the long run and will play much better next season.

West Ham don’t have the enviable ‘disaster’ of having two world-class strikers to choose from, but they do have the very impressive Demba Ba, who may help them to avoid a fourth straight defeat. That recovery didn’t last long, then.

What won’t happen: Roman Abramovich approaches Avram Grant in the away dressing room, bringing a bunch of flowers and a placard reading, “Come back, Avram, all is forgiven”
What will happen: Chelsea make it 35 league victories to West Ham’s 34 in this fixture with a comfortable win to nil

Bolton Wanderers FC v Arsenal FC (4pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)
Following the 189th Old Firm derby of the season is a much more interesting game, as Jack Wilshere reminds Bolton why he was so useful for them last season.

We could talk about how Arsenal keep bottling chances but you all know that already. Bet you don’t know that Arsenal have won their last four games at the Reebok, though, did you?Oh, you did? You don’t need this blog at all, really, do you?

What won’t happen: Home win
What will happen: Arsenal stick one to their critics with a dominating win over a Bolton side still crushed from last Sunday

Blackburn Rovers FC v Manchester City FC
(8pm, Sky Sports 1, HD1 & 3D, 5 Live Radio)
Oh, hello, it’s Blackburn vs Man City in glorious technicolor 3D! What a thriller this’ll be! Break out the disorientatingly low camera angles! Someone should invent black-and-white 3D TV. That would really mess with viewers’ heads.

In team news, Nzonzi’s banned and Balotelli's dead. (One of these may statements not be true.)

What won’t happen: Blackburn record their first win since January, at the 11th attempt
What will happen: Manchester City record their first away win of 2011, at the 11th attempt