The beanie-bashing Premier preview

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So, we’re off and running, and into the second week of the Premier League season. You’d hope it’s as exciting as the opening weekend’s action, and some cracking fixtures await.

Despite it having been Friday the 13th, your man got six out of ten predictions right last week, which as anyone who read last season will know, is an improvement of roughly six. Not a bad start to the season, although Blackpool can bugger off. 4-0 away from home indeed…


Arsenal v Blackpool (3pm kick-off, 5Live Radio)

Blackpool have been rewarded for a remarkable result against Wigan – who thought Marlon Harewood still had goals in him at the age of 87? (there’s no way he’s 30) – by being endlessly patronised by all and sundry. “Aww, are ickle Blackpool playing Arsenal? Aww, how sweet” say Sky Sports, patting Tangerines fans gently on the head.

Even less surprising than this inevitable condescension is the news that Arsene Wenger’s signed a contract extension at the Emirates. Sure, he’s not won anything in five years, but he’s basically blackmailed the club into keeping him on by signing loads of players who can only play in his patented system. This Arsenal team would do nothing under a Mark Hughes or a Sven-Goran Eriksson. It’s diabolical brilliance from the Frenchman.

What won’t happen: Wenger to leave, EVER
What will happen: 3-0. Sorry, Blackpool fans

Birmingham v Blackburn (3pm)

Who on Earth would want to invest in Blackburn? Their history isn’t a glamorous one, times have changed from when they last bought the title in the mid-90s, and they currently play ugly football under an ugly manager.

This isn’t meant to be a savage attack; merely facts, as Rafa Benitez might say. The point is that Blackburn are never going to be glamorous, and if you give Sam Allardyce £100 million, he’ll buy forty Christopher Sambas. That a billionaire wants to buy Rovers is a sign that we’re running out of clubs to be taken over.

And good work saying you want to buy Beckham, Mr Ahsan Ali Syed. Way to convince everyone you’re serious.

Birmingham will be boosted for this game by their comeback against Sunderland, and Giant Serb Nikola Zigic, who impressed from the bench, could well start. Blackburn have only Nikola Kalinic upfront, unless Man United loanee Baby Diouf is given a chance.

What won’t happen: Talisman David Dunn plays 90 minutes, or indeed one minute
What will happen: Blackburn, who have been commendably restrained with their finances of late, are taken over by a man who knows nothing about football and sink without trace. In this game, home win

Everton v Wolves (3pm)

The Toffees’ quest to avoid a repeat of last season’s shocking start didn’t begin well with defeat to Blackburn, thanks largely – well, no, entirely – to Tim Howard going for a run and leaving the ball behind him. Great finish by Kalinic though.

Everton look set to stick with the same side, but Wolves are forced into changes by an ankle injury to Jelle Van Damme, thoroughly Van Dammed to the touchline. You wouldn’t see uncle Jean Claude limping off like that.

Steven Mouyokolo is also a doubt with a pickled hamstring, but Kevin Doyle should return to remind everyone why he and Steven Fletcher are Wolves’ joint-biggest signings.

What won’t happen: The Muscles from Brussels shows his pitiful namesake how it’s done, machine-gunning a hat-trick (I’m not sure how that would work either)
What will happen: Draw

Stoke v Spurs (3pm, Absolute Radio)

After kicking off with Aston Villa-West Ham last week, Absolute Radio delves into a Stoke special, featuring the Potters’ home game against Spurs, followed by Chelsea away next week. It’s a Stokescreen, I tell ya!

Further good news for Potters fans is that Kenwyne Jones, who impressed in the dozen minutes his ankle held up against Wolves last week, may even feature against Spurs. Probably not though, which means a potential debut for Tony Pulis’ new signing Jon Walters.

Incidentally, Pulis won Whine of the Week (about to be taken by ‘Arry, methinks) for moaning about injury time when it had no effect on the loss to Wolves. The Welshman has created a conspiracy theory that referees add more time on when his team is winning, but give them less time to equalise when they’re losing. Sure, Tony. Because they care about you that much.

What won’t happen: Spurs stumble to a defeat and blame the grass surface, saying “it’s too real”. Actually, what am I saying – that will happen
What will happen: No Defoe, but Spurs win thanks to improved performances on midweek from Michael Dawson, Sebastien Bassong, Vedran Corluka, Wilson Palacios and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. To a man, they were appalling; humbled by Young Boys.

West Brom v Sunderland (3pm)

Two teams in need of a win here (it’s mid-August for Pete’s sake… - Ed), with the home team in need of a fast recovery from that 6-0 dinking at Stamford Bridge and the Black Cats still hissing over throwing away a 2-0 lead against Birmingham.

And West Brom are in definite need of a point at least, given that three of their next four matches are against Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal. Argh.

Sunderland are crap away from home, so the Baggies will take heart from that – but on the flipside, Roberto Di Matteo looks daft in a beanie.

What won’t happen: Di Matteo adopts the fedora look, to much critical acclaim
What will happen: Sunderland bounce back from last week’s disappointment to win on the road for a change

West Ham v Bolton (3pm)

“What normally happens in West Ham-Bolton,” editor Gary Parkinson confidently announces, “is that Kevin Davies scores, or at least plays very, very well.” So there you have it.

Bolton shouldn’t be making any drastic changes to their line-up, but the Hammers may give starts to new boys Frederic Piquionne and Thomas Hitzlsperger.

The bad news is this isn’t going to be an especially exciting game. The good news is that I’ve completed three teams now in my World Cup 2010 sticker book. At this rate, I’ll be done in time for the next one.

What won’t happen: Another week to go by with Gold ‘n’ Sullivan staying oddly quiet
What will happen: Kevin Davies scores, or at least plays very, very well (I have to listen to my boss, else I’ll be fired). 1-1

Wigan v Chelsea (5.15pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, TalkSPORT Radio)

You have to wonder how many games Roberto Martinez has left before he faces the sack. This blog is a bit of a fan of the original RoMa – cheap imitation Roberto Mancini has none of the Spaniard’s style – but he must, by now, be testing the board’s patience.

This is not to write off Martinez as a poor manager. Nevertheless, football is a results business, and losing your opening game of the season 4-0 at home to minnows Blackpool would be enough for some chairmen to sharpen their decapitating swords. This, of course, is coupled with a collection of defeats reading 5-0, 4-0, 4-0, 9-1, 5-0, 4-0 and 8-0 last season.

It’s no great surprise either: look at their defence. Last week’s back four of Antolin Alcaraz, Emmerson Boyce, Steve Gohouri and Maynor Figueroa will have struck fear into nobody’s hearts but a few BNP voters.

All in all, a heavy defeat to a rampant Chelsea who just thumped a sorry West Brom could mean the end for Martinez. But then Wigan did beat the Blues at home last season, even if they did lose 8-0 away, so maybe there’s still hope for the Latics.

What won’t happen: Hope for the Latics
What will happen: A comfortable Chelsea win


Newcastle v Aston Villa (1.30pm, ESPN, TalkSPORT Radio)

Out of the frying pan, into the fire for Chris Hughton and his Toon Army. Defeat at Old Trafford isn’t a fun start to any season, and any hopes that Villa would implode without Martin O’Neill proved unfounded as they creamed West Ham 3-0.

Villa will most likely be starting with new arrival Stephen Ireland, a makeweight for James Milner that, depending on how you look at it, represents either a bargain or a daft idiot who owns a pink car, wears Superman pants and once got hair plugs.

What won’t happen: Ireland to turn up in a specially-made Aston Villa wig, much as we’d all love it to happen
What will happen: Open game. Newcastle score but Villa win.

Fulham v Manchester United (4pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5Live Radio)

Mark Hughes faces his former father figure again from a different dug-out, just as keen to say, “Look, daddy, I can do what you do.” Chris Smalling has a similar opportunity if United give him a run-out against his old club.

It’s a shame for Fulham that they might lose Mark Schwarzer to Arsenal, but David Stockdale put in a positive performance between the sticks to prove that Fulham aren’t all about veteran goalkeepers (Back-up Pascal Zuberbuhler is 39, y’know).

What won’t happen: An end to the Rooney-baiting in The Sun. Watch out, fellas, he’s a caged bear – once he scores he’ll rip ya face off and make off with your picnic hamper.
What will happen: 0-2


Manchester City v Liverpool (8pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5Live Radio)

A tale of two ‘keepers in this game, perhaps. Joe Hart played out of his nine-year-old skin to deny Spurs a deserved win last weekend, but who would be a keeper on Merseyside right now? Reina’s wrongdoing and Howard’s howler trumped even Chris Kirkland’s sparkling bit of near-post ineptitude.

That Hart was so impressive won’t be enough to ease the worries of Mancini, however. His team didn’t get a sniff in the first 45 at White Hart Lane, despite playing an incredibly defensive 4-5-1 (I did wonder how the Italian was going to incorporate Nigel De Jong, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Gareth Barry in one team: it turns out, by playing all of them).

It was always going to take this team time to gel, but you can’t afford to slip behind early in the season, even against two top-four challengers. They’ll be boosted by Mario Balotelli’s goal on debut in midweek.

Liverpool, meanwhile, will miss Joe Cole through suspension for crap penalty taking, but Fernando Torres should return, even ahead of David Ngoals.

What won’t happen: Liverpool to dominate as much as Spurs did
What will happen: Liverpool to be as wasteful as Spurs were. A still unsettled City sneak a draw More to read...
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