The history-changing, Lescott-terrorising, comedy-airkicking Premier Preview

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It’s the time when the season’s pattern becomes clearly defined: when the champions look to surge into an unsurpassable lead, and when teams likely to go down slip away from the pack.

So you’d think, anyway. But regarding the latter, especially, it may be a little longer before the relegation battle is settled: there’s one point and three goals separating six teams either side of the big bold line marked RELEGATION ZONE.

That said, Wigan look incredibly vulnerable with that whopping -22 goal difference and are bottom despite a win last week, while in Kevin Doyle Wolves have just lost their best player to injury for the rest of the season.

Keep up the fight, guys! Please, for the love of this blog’s readership, keep up the fight!


West Ham v Manchester United (12.45pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, 5 Live Radio)

No real surprise to see this game on the telly, as it gives Sky to show more footage of Alex Ferguson sitting in the stands communicating to Mike Phelan through the world’s oldest telephone.

He’s lucky the phone can only call one person; otherwise, he’d had to manually dial the number.

Manchester United are missing a few famous faces, but West Ham look positively full-strength – Jack Collinson and Junior Stanislas are the only potential first-teamers likely to miss out.

What won’t happen: A draw – interestingly (to some of us), none of the last 14 meetings between these sides has been tied

What will happen: Sod’s Law would say a draw, but the brain says Manchester United.

Birmingham v Bolton (3pm)

Panic hasn’t set in yet for the League Cup winners: sure, Birmingham are second from bottom, but if they win their game in hand they’re up to 13th.

Bolton beat Brum in the FA Cup in both clubs’ just three weeks back, but since then the superb Stuart Holden has been shot in both kneecaps by a cackling, pistol-wielding Jonny Evans.

What won’t happen: The Blues to go down – the hunch remains...

What will happen: Like a couple who thought they had time for a quickie before the dinner party guests arrived, the hosts shock the visitors

Everton v Aston Villa (3pm)

An interesting 3pm kick-off, this. Not only does it showcase the relative demise of two teams used to battling for Europe (Everton are nine points from a Europa League spot; Villa, 16), but it could show the very real demise of Gerard Houllier.

The Frenchman has made precious few friends during his short time in the Midlands, rotating the squad and honourably promoting youth but at the expense of squad harmony and results.

“There’s no revolt here,” claim Houllier’s players, avoiding eye contact and hiding pistols behind their backs. But the manager’s days may well be numbered – that number presumably being somewhere between two and however many days are left until the end of the season…

What won’t happen: Villa - currently in 14th - to find themselves bottom after the weekend’s results, although it could technically happen

What will happen: Home win, despite Everton facing a full-strength Villa without themselves being able to call on the injured Saha, Rodwell, Coleman and Arteta

Newcastle v Wolves (3pm)

It isn’t overstating matters in purely football terms to call Kevin Doyle’s season-curtailing injury a disaster for Wolves.

The Irishman single-handedly carries the attack, be it by scoring goals or holding up the ball to bring others into play. They’ll miss him more than any other player, even England international Matt Jarvis’ - bet his mum will like seeing it written down like that.

Newcastle are likely to be without Spanish-speaking wide-boys Jose Enrique and Jonas Gutierrez, while Cheik ‘It Out’ Tiote is suspended.

What won’t happen: Neither manager to adopt an overly self-satisfied expression at some point during the game.

What will happen: Battling draw for the visitors; frustrating draw for the Toon

Stoke v Chelsea (3pm)

Chelsea are back in form again, winning four of their last five league games and with only Fernando Torres to be concerned about.

Still, when you have David Luiz acting as a playmaker in central defence, it’s not really a worry. In fact, it might be worth putting Torres in the back four. He might pop up for a corner and score a header or something.

The misfiring Spaniard will feel confident of a goal in the Potteries, though: Stoke have lost every one of their last seven matches to Chelsea, scoring just twice in the process. Second thoughts, maybe Nando should go in goal…

What won’t happen: Fernando Torres to don some gloves (and possibly a little helmet) and plonk himself between the sticks. Sadly.

What will happen: The Blues’ resurgence continues

West Brom v Liverpool (3pm, Absolute Radio)

Here’s one for you, as Roy Hodgson takes on the team who seem to be doing awfully well without him: if it wasn’t for David Bentley, Woy would never have been Liverpool boss.

Had the plastic-haired midfielder not missed his penalty in the 2009 League Cup final - Spurs could have sealed victory at Wembley and with it a European berth at the expense of Fulham, thusly preventing the Cottagers from having a crack at last season’s Europa League and stopping Woy’s weputation wocketing enough for him to get the Anfield gig in the process. 

Meanwhile, so pre-occupied with their Europa League campaign, Spurs would have failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League - meaning Gareth Bale would never have been born!.

Don’t believe us? Go back in time to February 2009, taking with you a picture of Spurs’ enjoying their Champions League exploits. Teach past-Bentley how to take a proper chuffing penalty and then watch the Spurs players in the picture slowly disappear (a la that bit in Back to the Future) as history is changed.

Or don’t. It’s up to you, really.

What won’t happen: A similar theory regarding Wilson Palacios and the assassination of JFK.

What will happen: Woy’s wevenge! Well, a draw, anyway

Wigan v Spurs (3pm)

Oh, more Spurs. It’s hard to know what to expect from this one. Wigan have beaten Spurs twice in the last four meetings, with the other two games resulting in hidings rather than tidings – 3-0 and that frankly absurd 9-1.

What won’t happen: As catastrophic a defensive disaster as everyone, Redknapp included, is predicting for Spurs: the centre-backs will still be the mostly reliable Dawson and Bassong, with Corluka available as back-up

What will happen: Bale is rested, meaning he’ll face Real Madrid having played just 90 minutes in three months – but Spurs grab three points at the DW

Arsenal v Blackburn (5.30pm, ESPN & ESPN HD, TalkSPORT Radio)

The only Premier League manager under more pressure than Gerard Houllier, it seems, is Steve Kean. No wins since January means Blackburn’s owners - Venky’s Lancastrian Fried Chicken - are most likely getting rather impatient.

Arsenal have Van Persie, Fabregas, Walcott and Song fit, too, plus – snigger – Lehmann if they want him. The German made a nightmarish return to reserve action earlier this week, in which he conceded twice, managed a comedy airkick and generally charged around like a loon - it’s only a matter of time before he takes Almunia’s place in the first team.

What won’t happen: Lehmann to ever do anything near as brilliantly mental as everybody is expecting.

What will happen: Comfortable home win for Arsenal


Fulham v Blackpool (1.30pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, TalkSPORT Radio)

Fulham are the form team here, having not lost a home game in the league since New Year’s Day.

Expect to see a home side focusing on a tight defence and an away team throwing piss to the wind in an attempt to win 5-3.

What won’t happen: Blackpool to win 5-3

What will happen: Fulham quietly do the job, edging ever-nearer to safety

Manchester City v Sunderland (4pm, Sky Sports 1, HD1 & Sky 3D, 5 Live Radio)

Yup, it’s the weekly ‘Match Man City Will Almost Certainly Win 1-0 But Let’s Put It On The Bloody Telly Even Though There Is Nothing Really At Stake’ Sunday afternoon kick-off.

Add to this Sunderland’s poor form and you have absolutely no reason to televise this inevitable scandal against entertainment, especially in 3D – unless it’s to see Joleon Lescott shudder every time Asamoah Gyan is on the ball.

What won’t happen: 3D and HD to benefit Steve Bruce as much as it will Roberto Mancini

What will happen: 1-0. Or maybe Citeh feel like going crazy, in which case – 2-0