The idiotic-punting, point-rejecting, Rafa-knocking Premier Preview

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So, the PFA Player of the Year will be one of Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, Cesc Fabregas or Carlos Tevez. Probably the only way the nominations could have been more predictable would have been if they'd added, 'And Rooney will win'.

Both Rooney and Fabregas being nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award slightly takes the gloss off that as well, especially since Rooney's 24 (as is fellow nominee James Milner).

It would be nice for the award to go to Joe Hart or, begrudgingly, Fabregas just because they're younger than your correspondent.

Rooney and Tevez go head-to-head, on Saturday and for the PFA Award

And yes, as ever, it's biased towards the big clubs. Each of the Player of the Year nominees plays for a team currently in the top four. But on the plus side, at least it’s more interesting than Scotland’s Player of the Year, which is between David Weir (Rangers), Kris Boyd (Rangers), Steven Davis (Rangers) and Andy Webster (Rangers, on loan to Dundee United). There’s only one place that trophy’s going: Ibrox, possibly via Celtic Park for a bit of a gloat.

Maybe their managers should have to justify why their players have been nominated, a la the pre-election leaders' debates. Ferguson, Wenger, Ancelotti and Mancini together in a room...actually, no, bad idea.


Manchester City vs Manchester United

The early kick-off sees a titanic tussle with both teams an iceberg away from failure.

City’s hold on fourth looks tenuous, while United have yet to recover from their “For you, Tommy, ze var is over” moment against Bayern. This game will test their mental toughness more than any other.

Some would like to see Manchester City take the lead just to hear their fans reprise Chelsea’s chant towards the United gold-and-greens: “No noise from the Norwich fans.”

A friend has placed what he is calling a ‘cheeky’ bet on City to finish third. He says cheeky; everyone else says stupid. Even if the Arabian Knights (is that catching on yet?) win their game in hand, they’ll be six points behind the Gunners with just a handful of matches left. Idiot.

Still, the odds on Spurs’ goalscorers against Arsenal being Danny Rose and Gareth Bale were probably pretty long too.

What won’t happen: Surely, a repeat of the incredible match at Old Trafford. A goalfest isn't out of the question though. Remember a couple of weeks ago when this blog said City needed to improve their goal difference, at that point nine worse than Tottenham's? A 6-1 and a 5-1 did that soon enough – they're now ahead of Spurs in the GD stakes

What will happen: A fiery game from City catches United off-guard and a home win puts Spurs right back where they started

Birmingham vs Hull

Rumours abound that the Blues are up for sale after club owner Carson Yeung failed to pay investment bank and parent company Seymour Pierce £2.2m on Monday. £2.2m? That's chicken feed! Seymour Pierce have warned they could sell the club to get the money – bloody hell, Carson, get your hands in your pockets!

What won’t happen: It's come out of nowhere, this, but it should disappear just as quickly – Yeung will pay up and the club won't be sold. Still, not a great way for the new(ish) owner to butter up the investors.

What will happen: The inevitable home win buries both Hull and the prospect of a close relegation battle. You have only this blog to blame for that – the prediction was that it would go right to the wire

Blackburn vs Everton

Blackburn, in 11th, play Everton, in 8th. Blackburn can climb to 10th or sink to 12th; Everton won't move whatever happens.

Move along, nothing to see here.

What won’t happen: This blog is aware it rarely acknowledges Blackburn beyond criticising Big Sam for killing football, and promises substantial focus on them next week

What will happen: Blackburn grind down Everton and it's a draw

Fulham vs Wolves

One of three 0-0 draws last Sunday – the first time goallessness has ever reached such drab heights in the Premier League – saw Wolves climb further up that cliff face of survival and they are now just a couple of results from safety.

They've done well, the Midlanders, after a poor start to the season. Mick McCarthy deserves credit for keeping them up, even if is annoying as hell in the commentary box and starting to look a bit like Christopher Lee.

As for Fulham, a win here could catapult them into the top half ahead of their Europa League semi-final. Blimey, next season's just going to be a massive disappointment, isn't it?

What won’t happen: Tragically, this blog can't see Fulham winning the Europa League for the simple reason that life isn't fair. Liverpool will do it, like the big shot bastards they are

What will happen: Tepid draw

Stoke vs Bolton

Stoke are another team who can look back on their season with fondness, even though Tony Pulis's rigid target-setting – it was 40 points, now it's 46 – is grating more than Alan Green's voice. And personality. And face.

Bolton...well, they're still here, aren't they? For the moment, anyway – that could change. Should probably save this valediction until the end of the season, really.

What won’t happen: Bolton won't go down: currently five points clear, they have a should-win home game against Portsmouth next week that will probably do the maths for them

What will happen: A home win keeps the Trotters' budget champagne on ice

Sunderland vs Burnley

Sit down. Are you sitting down? Burnley won away from home. Ouch, did that hurt? Well, I did tell you to sit down.

Beating Hull at the KC was an absolutely massive result for the Lancashire club – if they'd lost they'd be six points behind Hull and seven from safety. As it is, they're ahead of Hull on goal difference, and have basically succeeded in taking the Tigers down with them.

Good news about the parachute payments then.

What won’t happen: A second away win for Burnley in as many games

What will happen: A spirited draw nonetheless

Spurs vs Chelsea

That frankly unbelievable win in the North London derby has put Spurs fans on Cloud Ten (Cloud Nine was achieved against Wigan).

Either unbelievably or all too believably, it was Tottenham's first league win over Arsenal this millennium; the last was in November 1999, when New Labour was still cool and Danny Rose was looking forward to his ninth Christmas.

Rose's wonder strike – let's forget he was completely out of his depth after that and was rightly taken off at half-time – certainly distracted worried Spurs fans from the news that Aaron Lennon broke down in training AGAIN on Monday, with his return looking increasingly unlikely to be this season. This is what happens when you try to rush a player back – you rush him back into hospital.

Chelsea ignored Fergie’s mindgames to beat Bolton on Tuesday, but they needed some handiwork from Drogba and Terry to do it. Although Bolton wouldn’t have scored anyway, rendering their protests overblown, Drogba’s slap was particularly impressive – definitely the most blatant handball since…well, ever. It made Henry’s effort look positively accidental.

What won’t happen: Sorry, Thierry, we're not going to forget that

What will happen: This is a huge game, requiring Spurs to rise to the occasion. They do, and Chelsea look nervy, but it ends a draw


Wigan vs Arsenal

After Benitez and Ferguson a few days ago, it's now Wenger's turn to give up.

In his words, Arsenal "must forget the title race". Where’s the famous never-say-die attitude of the French?

It’s not over until that tit from the Go Compare adverts sings, and even if a goal is unlikely, it’s something to aim for. Saying it’s over is psychologically akin to shooting your players in the kneecaps before a game.

That all said, it probably is all over for Arsenal this season – and the final nail in the coffin came at the hands of their rivals too. Oh well.

Speaking of blowing chances, Wigan don’t make it easy for themselves: they had a great opportunity to pull clear of the relegation zone and swan into 14th but somehow contrived to draw 0-0 with Portsmouth. And not just any Portsmouth team – a Portsmouth team featuring two debutants and only four subs, two of whom were teenagers and none of whom were goalkeepers.

Just reading the team sheet provides a pretty convincing argument for the gulf between the Premier League’s flyers and sinkers. How many of this team should really be able to lay claim to playing in the self-confessed best league in the world?

That is the team Wigan failed to beat. They don’t deserve to be in the Premier League any more than Portsmouth do.

What won’t happen: Arsenal surge to the title

What will happen: Defeat leaves Wigan in purgatory

Portsmouth vs Aston Villa

Villa's surge for a Europa League spot, as detailed by this blog midweek, immediately hit a stumbling block as they drew with Everton. In fact, it was only an injury-time own goal that saved them from defeat. Still, there's time: a win here and they've overtaken Liverpool.

Not that that should detract from Martin O'Neill's disappointment with the draw and the brilliance of the BBC's headline: 'O'Neill: draw no use'. Yeah, knob off with your point! That's no use to us! Actually, no, give it back, ta.

What won’t happen: Pompey field a full sub bench

What will happen: Away win


Liverpool vs West Ham

According to his agent, Rafael Benitez will definitely see out of the rest of his contract at Liverpool, keeping him at the club until 2014. Some Scousers may be hoping any new owners arriving before then offer the Spaniard a larger sum of money simply to go away.

Rumours surrounding a summer departure for Benitez are flying around thicker than Icelandic ash, with Juventus and Real Madrid being cited as potential destinations. Glory-hunting Real would be brave to approach a man who failed to win the Premier League and Benitez would be a nutter to accept. There’s no patience of the Mersey in Madrid, Rafa. Lose one game and you’re out.

Is that job at Celtic still going? How about Apprentice Shelf Stacker in Morrison’s?

What won’t happen:  The best part about the Benitez exit rumours is the tie-in that Martin O’Neill vs The Aston Villa Board will end with the Irishman going to Anfield. That would be a brilliant acquisition for the Reds. It won’t happen though

What will happen: Home win, and for now at least, Rafa turns a blind eye to the graffiti that reads, “We’ll get you and your little Ngog too.”