Skip to main content

The booing, televised, Birmingham-mentioning Prem Preview

After more dullardry in midweek internationals, weâÂÂre back to the serious stuff; the real games of football, if you will, that actually matter.

There are real life or death games this weekend. If West Ham lose, Avram Grant will be forced to tender his resignation before being shot out of a cannon. Well, what else can you expect from Messrs Sullivan and Gold? ItâÂÂs a miracle they donâÂÂt turn up to home games dressed as a circus ringleader and a sad clown.

And hey, itâÂÂs all on TV! (The football, not the cannon-shooting). Sure, weâÂÂre not talking the terrestrial terror of Adrian Chiles et al insisting on trying to find positives from an England performance that had very few of them, but get thee to a licensed pub or, failing that, a radio and youâÂÂll find live football galore.

There are just the three untelevised or radio-ised games Premier League games this weekend. ItâÂÂs a shame they include a couple of interesting but less publicised match-ups, but such is life. Well, money.

SATURDAY

Arsenal v Spurs (12.45pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, 5 Live Radio)

The Biggest Game In The World Ever That Is Taking Place This Weekend is essentially a reason for Arsenal to boo William Gallas.

But, and England fans take note, maybe they have a reason to. Gallas consistently undermined his own players as Arsenal captain and, upon being released from the club, joined their fiercest rivals.

Not enough to boo him upon his return, perhaps but compare to the latest pathetic performance from England fans and it seems almost reasonable. To save on more words being ranted into the ether here, read the superb Jonathan Fadugba blogging on why England fans who choose to boo are a bunch of tools.

In news rather than opinion, the BBC reports âÂÂWilshere faces derby fitness raceâ as if heâÂÂs a Grand National winner trying to recover in time to be ridden by a tiny jockey.

And in stats rather than news, this could be a horrible 69 for Spurs, seeking to beat one of the traditional Big Four for the first time in nearly 70 attempts.

What wonâÂÂt happen: Away win: Arsenal havenâÂÂt lost back-to-back Premier League home games in nearly 13 years

What will happen: Spurs are reinvigorated by Jermain DefoeâÂÂs return and romp to a draw

Birmingham v Chelsea (3pm, 5 Live Radio)

Good coverage, 5 Live, good coverage. There arenâÂÂt enough 3pm kick-offs on the radio and this could be a corker â if Brum get their arses into gear (have to mention them this week - have had some stick for glossing over their matches more often then not...).

Winless in five matches, the home side need Ben Foster to sort out his woeful distribution from midweek, but most as importantly they need a pick-me-up to climb out of the relegation zone. Jean Beausejour could be the player to bring it: an exciting winger from Chile (thatâÂÂs all they breed over there), he hasnâÂÂt featured much this season but it would be great to see him.

He and Birmingham can certainly exploit, as can many clubs over the next eight fixtures or so, a weakness at the back as Chelsea continue their policy of having no reserve centre-backs.

With John Terry out for six to eight weeks and Alex requiring knee surgery and not 100% fit, Chelsea may have to turn to back-up... except they havenâÂÂt got any. Ricardo Carvalho went to Real Madrid late in the transfer window but no replacement was brought in, leaving Chelsea with only right-back-by-nature Branislav Ivanovic as a capable CB â and he looked very dodgy against Sunderland.

Michael Mancienne having been sent out on loan to Wolves for the 15th time, ChelseaâÂÂs only options are the young and inexperienced Jeffrey Bruma (who does have an international cap, to be fair) or bringing back Michael Essien to accompany Ivanovic in the middle.

Paulo Ferreira in the heart of defence should not be considered an option.

What wonâÂÂt happen: Any kind of sense to be made...

What will happen: ...as Ferreira starts in the middle again. Brum take their chance for a point

Blackpool v Wolves (3pm)

ItâÂÂs too early to call this a six-pointer, but a win would be massive for either side â especially Wolves, who, for all Marcus HahnemannâÂÂs reassurances on MOTD 2, are five points adrift of safety at the moment.

TheyâÂÂll be boosted by the injury-prompted absence of Blackpool keeper Matt Gilks, although it does mean the vastly underrated (well, slightly underrated) Richard Kingson could play.

What wonâÂÂt happen: The much-maligned Richard Kingson to play â the Tangerines will find some other keeper down the back of the sofa

What will happen: Away win (gasp!)

Bolton v Newcastle (3pm)

You canâÂÂt accuse Owen Coyle of being a tinkerman: Bolton have seven ever-present starters in the league this season, the joint-most with Birmingham. Being a squad member with the Trotters means being just that.

A shame, since this blog would like to see Coyle pick himself after scoring a belter in a friendly against Cliftonville this week. Check out this audacious chip (goal begins with a very debatable handball on 0:35).

For Newcastle, Andy Carroll will be fit after a decent showing on debut for England, although Cheick Tiote and â surprise, surprise â Joey Barton are suspended. Most entertainingly, Kevin Nolan will make his first return to the Reebok almost two years after leaving, prompting confusion from fans who donâÂÂt know whether to boo him or revere him.

What wonâÂÂt happen: Much reverence, probably

What will happen: A draw keeps both teams in the top half

Manchester United v Wigan (3pm, Absolute Radio)

Good haul for Absolute, this â the Lancashire lash should perhaps have been on TV (oh come on, Liverpool-West Ham?).

Maybe everyoneâÂÂs ignoring the game because of the likely non-event it will be: a comfortable home without the ratings-bringing thrashing. In 11 meetings between the two Manchester United have won 11, dishing out two 5-0s last season.

What wonâÂÂt happen: This to go well for Wigan

What will happen: Easy win, with Javier âÂÂLittle Sweet Green Garden Peaâ Hernandez to score a doubl

West Brom v Stoke (3pm)

Such is the current closeness of Premier League table that from week to week, Stoke seem to be veering dangerously from flirting with Grade A Minger relegation to picking up the tipsy girl next door of mid-table security, packing her into a taxi and taking her home for an evening of debauchery.

For the record and the lawyers, this is a very strained metaphor: Stoke City FC are not the kind of club to actually pick up drunken women and use them for sexual gain.

An easier claim to substantiate (because itâÂÂs true) is that after this weekendâÂÂs fixtures, the Potters could be anything from fifth to 18th. Most likely, though, theyâÂÂll be pottering along in the ninth to 12th region.

West Brom would settle for that right now: their incredible start has hollowed out somewhat. A win here would be useful to say the least. And the least is all we ever say.

What wonâÂÂt happen: Either team to move much in the table, despite...

What will happen: A home win

Liverpool v West Ham (5.30pm, ESPN & ESPN HD, TalkSPORT Radio)

This blog isnâÂÂt entirely convinced this is a natural game for television, but hey, weâÂÂll take what we can get.

West Ham haven>âÂÂt won their last 24 away matches in the top flight, and havenâÂÂt won at Anfield since 1963. You can see where this is going.

Not that LiverpoolâÂÂs record is looking much healthier: brilliantly, all 12 of their goals this season have been either scored or assisted by Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard, and the latter will be missing for several weeks after injuring himself for England â that cap was almost as controversial as Fabio CapelloâÂÂs homage to Tony Pulis.

What wonâÂÂt happen: The Sun to let up in its tiresome campaign against Capello, especially now they have the âÂÂPrat in the Hatâ tagline to go with

What will happen: Home win - Gerrard or no Gerrard.

SUNDAY

Blackburn v Aston Villa (1.30pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, TalkSPORT Radio)

The sneaking suspicion that Gerard Houllier hasnâÂÂt moved on with his life since temporarily leaving management in 2007 continues with the signing of 87-year-old Robert Pires.

And weâÂÂre assured BlackburnâÂÂs takeover by Miss MillieâÂÂs wannabes VenkyâÂÂs Chicken is nearly completed, meaning many shots of anonymous men in the stands accompanied by intense-sounding voiceovers from Sky.

All in all, this is going to be the most intensely analysed 0-0 weâÂÂve seen all season.

What wonâÂÂt happen: Pires to embarrass himself or Houllier: heâÂÂs still a very useful player, though most likely in the centre now and not on the wing

What will happen: Sunday lunch snorefest

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

Mark Hughes faces the club that sacked him for a seemingly worse alternative, with Roberto Mancini walking the plank and ready to be pushed. Defeat to a Cottagers team just one point away from the drop zone could be enough to see him be dropped himself, into the briny deep.

Fulham wonâÂÂt be helped by an ankle injury to Chocolate Moussa Dembele, however, nor the fact that both Carlos Tevez and Joe Hart are expected to return for Man City.

What wonâÂÂt happen: The visitors to score a header â theyâÂÂre the only Prem team not to have done so this season (probably because Richard DunneâÂÂs gone)

What will happen: An away win saves ManciniâÂÂs skin for now

MONDAY

Sunderland v Everton (8pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)

The last time Sunderland conceded at home was to Cesc Fabregasâ converted fluke some five hours and 47 minutes ago (in football time, that is, as opposed to earlier today in a closed-doors friendly).

But they havenâÂÂt beaten Everton in 11 attempts in the league, and playing on Monday night, may struggle to maintain momentum from that amazing win at Chelsea. Darren Bent will replace Danny Welbeck up top.

For Everton, the most interesting team news is that itâÂÂs YakubuâÂÂs birthday, bless him.

What wonâÂÂt happen: A converted penalty: an impressive four of the last six at the Stadium of Light have been saved or missed

What will happen: People to keep sniffing at ChelseaâÂÂs defence as the reason behind Nedum OnouhaâÂÂs solo effort, but it was a wondrous goal, so shh, all righ. Away win brings Sunderland down to Earth and down the table.