Hull vs Wigan in the Premier League... who'd have thunk it?

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Ignore what the miserable old naysayers on other football websites tell you about the Premier League becoming predictable and ‘stale’; the element of surprise in English football is still alive and well, as was proven by last weekend’s results.

This honestly isn’t an attempt by the posse to justify our frankly woeful predictions for last weekend’s matches, although Sunderland, Stoke and Fulham did all slap us square in the face with that giant wet fish we call ‘football-magicd’ by winning for the first time this season on Saturday against Spurs, Villa and Arsenal respectively, contrary to our supposedly Ã¢Â€Â˜better’ judgement.

Stoke beat Villa: We honestly didn't see that coming...

And if those three results weren’t enough to convince you that the shock level in Premiership football still stands at a decent level, then one of this Saturday’s matches provides just the tonic.

Quigley vs Geovanni

The last time Hull hosted Wigan with league points at stake was back in November 1996, when 3,537 people ‘packed’ into Hull’s old Boothferry Park ground to see the two sides play out a 1-1 draw.

That it’s taken only 12 years for both sides rocket through the divisions to take their seats at the top table of English football says a lot about exactly how ‘predictable’ football really is. Their sheer presence in the top-flight wouldn’t have been predicted back in ’96, in fact you’d probably have said it was more likely they’d have gone bust and dropped as many divisions the other way.

Among the players on show that presumably drab November day were John Butler, Wayne Biggins (both of Wigan), Mike Quigley and Neil Mann (of Hull City 'fame'), which, given that Saturday’s teamsheet will most likely feature names like Boateng, Geovanni, Palacios and Zaki, probably says a lot about how far the two teams have come since those far simpler times in the basement division (which presumably makes 'League One' the ground floor, 'the Championship' the first floor and 'the Premier League' the loft-conversion with poncy Velux windows which was hastily installed in a wave of early 90's optimism and ludicrous over-spending).

Biggins: Probably didn't play for Honduras

In any case Hull will look to copy Wigan’s model of cementing themselves as loft conversion - sorry, Premier League mainstays over the next three or four years and have started the right way, picking up four points from a relatively tough opening two matches against Fulham and Blackburn.

The latics themselves, on the other hand, are still without a point and will be more than keen to avoid going into the International break pointless.

This match looks like being an open, yet fairly close one. You get the feeling that, what with all the excitement and novelty of being in the Premier League dying down slightly, Hull might just approach this game with a little less vigour - giving Wigan, who have a host of decent players, it has to be said, a chance of picking up their first point of the season.

Later on Saturday afternoon Newcastle travel to London and will look to build on their steady start to the season against Arsenal.

The Toon followed their impressive opening day point at Old Trafford with a hard-fought win over Bolton last time out and at this early stage look like being a tougher nut to crack than they have been in recent years.

The Gunners, as previously mentioned, lost at Fulham last week and seem to be struggling to strengthen their squad with the desired quality, despite the club insisting that money is available for Arsene Wenger to spend.

New faces

With Fabregas back and a decent mid-week win against FC Twente under their belts, Arsenal should just about edge this one, although if they don’t get one or two new faces through the door by Monday night, we fancy they won’t be able to maintain a real title tilt for another year at least.

Two sides that don’t seem to have had any problems bringing in new faces in recent weeks have been Sunderland and Manchester City.

Both have added to their squads through the transfer window and have spent again this week, with Sunderland signing West Ham centre back Anton Ferdinand and Man City re-signing Shaun Wright-Phillips from Chelsea, although it seems that where Man City are opting for quality (Jo, Kompany, Wright-Phillips), Roy Keane is just punting on quantity, panic-bulk-buying with the kind of desperation you usually see in the prelude to a natural disaster, or when Harry Redknapp gets bored and/or twitchy.

Anton gave up his weekend job to move north

Both new boys may be in action on Sunday as the two teams go head to head at the Stadium of Light and although both sides won well last weekend and played 120 minutes of football in midweek, City’s European excursions may just leave them lagging somewhat, given that they played a day later than Sunderland and, of course, had further to travel.

Whether or not this will be a factor come Sunday remains to be seen but what we do know is that if Sunderland defend as well as they did at Tottenham last week and City play anything like they did in Denmark on Thursday, Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon can expect to have a very, very quiet afternoon. Premier League predictions:
Bolton 2-1 West Bromwich Albion
Everton 1-0 Portsmouth
Hull City 1-1 Wigan
Middlesbrough 2-0 Stoke
West Ham United 1-1 Blackburn Rovers
Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle (Live on Setanta Sports 1, 17:30)
Aston Villa 1-1 Liverpool
Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham
Sunderland 1-0 Man City