The Carrot-Dangling, Press-Teasing Premier Preview
The smoke-and-mirrors magic of the FA Cup means little Premier League action this weekend, with eight games spilling over five days.
For insight and analysis Ã¢ÂÂ hah, sorry, couldn't finish that sentence. For aimless, demented rambling about the matches on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 'stay tuned', as they say, to this 'channel' over the next few days.
This weekend, it's all about big fish taking on the minnows Ã¢ÂÂ not in the FA Cup but the self-proclaimed BestLeagueInTheWorld, as title challengers Manchester United and Arsenal take on Championship challengers Wolves and Burnley.
Sadly, they're in separate games, with the Premier League chiefs YET AGAIN turning down this blog's proposal for tag-team football. Their loss.
But even with these David and Goliath battles taking place, there's still time for the weekly relegation scrap, hosted once again by Messrs Gold and Sullivan, as West Ham take on Bolton. This week's star prize: a carrot dangling above a trapdoor.
Elsewhere Ã¢ÂÂ more precisely, at Goodison Park Ã¢ÂÂ Hull play an Everton team desperate to avoid the inevitable wrath of Moyezilla if they lose three games in a row. Rumour has it he once killed a man just by looking at him.
Arsenal vs Burnley
A non-FFT colleague and football widow told the blog she is attending her first-ever game this weekend, having accidentally talked herself into accompanying her Gooner hubby to watch Arsenal-Burnley. She says she's looking forward to a good competitive game in which either team could win. Insert your own punchline.
At least the furore over Ryan Shawcross taking out Aaron Ramsey has died down, even if Arsene Wenger has never heard of the words 'move on'. It's probably his fault anyway for signing off his pre-match team talks with the words "Break a leg."
What won't happen: Said colleague enjoys a rollercoaster ride of emotions as Burnley grab a last-minute winner.
What will happen: Burnley's record of being inept away from home extends to 15 games for a solitary point. Surely, even a Premier League dream team Ã¢ÂÂ which Burnley ain't Ã¢ÂÂ couldn't avoid relegation if they had to forfeit every other game?
West Ham vs Bolton
Such is the tightness of the relegation battle, the Hammers go into this game sitting pretty in 13th (lucky for some). Bolton are a couple of points above the dropzone too, thanks to their new policy of scoring goals.
Yes, the Trotters abandoned the habit of more than nine hours of football by netting against Wolves last week to grab a vital 1-0 win as Zat Knight Ã¢ÂÂ who, lest we forget, has two England caps Ã¢ÂÂ scored his first goal for the club.
They really need a goalscorer.
What won't happen: Bolton find a goalscorer.
What will happen: Bolton find a valuable point to hold the Hammers down.
Wolves vs Manchester United
Thanks to Chelsea's date with destiny/Stoke in the FA Cup, United and Arsenal could both go top, though not at the same time. As it is, United should go top but Arsenal won't climb into second unless they put four past Burn... Arsenal will climb into second.
In Red Devils news, Gary Neville has shocked the world by announcing what his future holds with the club. The 35-year-old defender and professional gesturer told a stunned audience, "I don't know, I'm not thinking about it," somehow prompting news stories from journalists hoping in vain he'd say something about John Terry.
For real excitement and suspense you need United's opposing manager this weekend Ã¢ÂÂ none other than Wolves' main man Mick McCarthy. Talking after the 1-0 loss to Bolton, McCarthy teased us by saying "We need a certain amount of points with 11 games left to stay in the league. Can we get those points? That remains to be seen."
What won't happen: A United takeover, as far as this blog can see. David Gill is behind the double Glazer salesmen and sadly for the fans it'll take more than a few gold and green scarves and some handmade banners (the best of which just says DEBT in massive letters) to shift the Americans.
What will happen: Wolves need a certain amount of points with 11 games left to stay in the league. Can they get three here? That remains to be seen. But since you ask, no
Everton vs Hull
It was odd to hear some pundits react to Everton's loss at Spurs last weekend with the sigh, "Well, they're out of contention for the top four now." (A very long and wordy sigh, clearly.) Were they ever in contention?
Even after back-to-back wins over Chelsea and Manchester United, it would have taken a brave idiot to bet on their making that all-hallowed fourth position Ã¢ÂÂ and in what other leagues or even sports can you say that's something to aim for?
The Toffees' best chance was in the ludicrous suggestion of a play-off for fourth place, which has Ã¢ÂÂ thank the footballing gods Ã¢ÂÂ been thrown out of the window like Ashley Cole's belongings. Now adrift in 10th place and seven points behind seventh, for Everton even the fictitious play-off spot would be a hell of an ask.
Still, this should be threeasy points for Moyes' men, even if Hull did do them at their own ground. Phil Brown's men last won away from home in 1976, or more accurately, March 4 2009 Ã¢ÂÂ a year and a day ago, at Fulham. And that was a fluke.
What won't happen: Jimmy Bullard scored a flash volley to mark his return to the reserves but don't expect him to do the same in his return to the first team.
What will happen: Hull chairman Adam Pearson says relegation would cost the Tigers ÃÂ£100m. Hull for a summer administration? Place your bets.