The 'Mensa & Weightwatchers coalition' sponsored Prem Preview

Job Application Form #67921

Name: Chris Hughton
Age: 52 on Saturday
Strengths: Doing the impossible, not being Alan Pardew.
Weaknesses: Having hair like a badger, not being Alan Pardew.
Reasons for dismissal from last job: I have no idea

Poor old Chris. But at least he’ll be able to enjoy a cracking weekend of Premier League football from his sofa. Swings and roundabouts, eh?


Aston Villa v West Brom (3pm, Absolute Radio)

These are dark days for Gerard Houllier, although in all honesty you bring it on yourself when you say after a fourth defeat on the trot, “If I have got to lose 3-0, I would prefer it to be to them as I like Liverpool.”

No matter how much you wish it, or indeed how much you wish you were still at a big club, fans will not appreciate the sentiment behind that statement. It is A Very Bad Thing To Say. ‘Kay, Gerard, Gerard?

And just as things looked like they couldn’t get any worse for Villa, Emile Heskey’s back from injury.

What won’t happen: A better chance for West Brom to record their first win over the Villains since 1985

What will happen: Carlos Cuellar to shore up the home defence, and West Brom’s hopes of a smash ‘n’ grab win are nullified. With their key men Odemwingie and Brunt likely to miss out, a draw is the likely result

Everton v Wigan (3pm)

Reunited again in the centre of midfield are the unlikely pairing of Marouane Fellaini and Jack Rodwell, who impressed like the mismatched cop duo they are. Mary ‘n’ Rod: one’s a gritty young kid from the streets who’ll do anything to nail a perp, and the other has an afro.

Wigan will welcome back Hugo Rodallega from suspension with such open arms he’d be wise to fear crushing, and the Colombian will have some extra crushing weight on his shoulders, too, with Victor Moses and, ahem, Franco di Santo out of the game.

What won’t happen: Wigan to turn up for a change

What will happen: Home win

Fulham v Sunderland (3pm)

If Mark Hughes’ men keep going along cottaging like this, they could find themselves in the relegation zone sooner than you can say, “Mummy, what does cottaging mean?”

Or at least they would if the three Ws beneath them weren’t such utter crap. Toss, dross, gathering moss – call them what you like, but if Wigan, Wolves and West Ham aren’t relegated by the end of the season (you may have noticed this blogger has withdrawn that prediction on Stoke to go down, if not at the bookies) it’ll be due to a massive turnaround or a vast miscarriage of justice.

Back to this game, though: the struggling Cottagers have an impressive record at home against Sunderland, winning four of their six Premier League encounters there. Which is good.

Less good – worse, you could call it – they will still be without the sprightly Carlos Salcido, and the continued absence of Moussa Dembele means the inconsistent Diomansy Kamara may be given another start up top.

What won’t happen: Craig Gordon, who has announced his return from injury with a series of stunning performances, to play, very doubtful as he is with a hamstring pull. Step forward Mr Mignolet for another attempt to remind people who he is

What will happen: Bore draw

Stoke v Blackpool (3pm)

It’s a fascinating match-up: a team who have showed how a newly promoted side with little talent arguably should play, and a team who have showed how a newly promoted side with little talent can survive in the Premier League: the former with excitement, the latter with Tony Pulis.

Look, we’re not going to let this beef with Pulis lie until at least one of us is dead.

Jermaine Pennant, he of the potential permanent contract, should start for Stoke after his injury, while Richard ‘African keepers can be good really’ Kingson will hold his No1 spot for Blackpool on account of Matt Gilks still being crippled.

What won’t happen: Justice, which is an away win

What will happen: This blogger to die before Tony Pulis. Home win

West Ham v Man City (3pm)

It’s lucky for Manchester City that this should be one of their easier trips, because they’ll miss both Carlos Tevez and Alexsandar Kolarov through one-game suspensions. Suspiciously useful timing, really. Call the fraud squad!

Unbelievably for a team with all the money and players it wants (or doesn’t, *cough* Roque Santa Cruz *cough*), City look a bit short of goals without Tevez in the side. Mancini will be quietly happy with a sneaky 1-0 win here thanks to a moment of magic from David Silva or the like.

As for West Ham, the last time they put more than one goal past City in the league was in 2000, when the Hammers boasted Paolo di Canio and Fredi Kanoute upfront (not to mention Pearce ‘n’ Pearce in defence). They’d take at least one of those forwards in a shot these days, but would settle for just the one goal here if it meant a point.

What won’t happen: Avram Grant to survive the season, due either to fan pressure, heart problems or Gold-and-Sullivan-related insanity

What will happen: Job done for Bobby Manc, with a narrow away win

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

Well, where to start? For one thing, ESPN must be thanking any number of gods for this game taking on a whole new meaning, although knowing their luck after Blackpool-Man Utd was called off last week, this will be off as well.

Due, perhaps, to fans throwing chairs onto the pitch in protest at the ludicrous sacking of Chris Hughton and the arguably more ludicrous hiring of Alan Pardew, the man who is to Premier League survival what Mike Ashley is to the Mensa and Weightwatchers coalition.

Enough has been said already, and will continue to be said, about Ashley’s overwhelming idiocy in sacking a competent manager in order to make a ‘jobs for the boys’ apoointment (Pardew’s a friend, apparently), but it’ll be interesting to see the new man will do at easily the biggest club he’ll ever manage.

One thing’s for sure: it makes more sense for him to take on the mantle of the chief villain’s sidekick than the man who stared a gift horse in the mouth and shot it.

What won’t happen: The game to pass quietly without much notice being taken

What will happen: Liverpool to celebrate having a recent history of comparatively sensible owners by winning at St James’


Bolton v Blackburn (1.30pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1)

Bewilderingly-barneted Scotchmerican Stuart Holden looks set to return for Bolton, but their rivals will be without useful players Nikola Kalinic, Steven Nzonzi and Martin Olsson (plus the less useful Vince Grella and Keith Andrews)

Given recent results you’d expect the Lancashire Hotpot Derby to go the way of the home side, but Bolton haven’t beaten Blackburn in over four years and Big Sam has an excellent record against the Trotters, gobbling them up with relish.

What won’t happen: El-Hadji Diouf to go in lightly on his old side

What will happen: A home win keeps Bolton in top-six dreamland

Wolves v Birmingham (1.30pm, TalkSPORT Radio)

The home side will be without Jody Craddock’s thigh, David Jones’ foot and Michael Mancienne, Michael Kightly and Karl Henry’s knees, but should be able to cobble together a Frankenstein’s monster of an XI to face their Brummie pseudo-rivals.

It’s worth noting that Birmingham haven’t lost to Wolves in the top flight since 1981, before a lot of their squad was born (sit down, Lee Bowyer).

What won’t happen: A nil-nil draw, oh no

What will happen: 6-1, according to’s news Editor Gregg Davies. He predicted Liverpool 4-4 Chelsea, remember.

Spurs v Chelsea (4pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)

It’s the kind of game when Tottenham would really welcome that extra touch of class from Rafael van der Vaart, but the Dutchman is still out with a hamstrung hamstring.

Chelsea, however, are in The Worst Form Of Their Lives™ and unbelievably are even facing calls from some corners to sack Carlo Ancelotti.

What a ridiculous statement. If you fired a manager every time he had a run of poor games for a month you’d end up with Alan Pardew in charge of every club.

It is a sad case of affairs for Carlo, though, because the bad run seems to have coincided with the sad death of his father. Ever since he donned that fetching black suit it’s all gone downhill, and he’s confessed to not sleeping well due to stress.

We all have our irrational (and sometimes rational) hatreds of football managers but you wouldn’t wish that on someone as nice as Ancelotti.

What won’t happen: Chelsea make it five unsuccessful visits to the Lane in a row...

What will happen: Spurs take their chance


Manchester United v Arsenal (8pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)

Arsenal love teams disparaging them, so it was a slice of genius from Chris Smalling (“they should be more intimidated than we are”) and especially Patrice Evra, who said:

“For me, Arsenal is a training centre. You watch the match, you enjoy it, but are you going to win a title afterwards? We can lose against them, but at the end of the day, what is there for Arsenal? There is nothing – no trophies, nothing.”

Good work, Patrice, take the rest of the day off.

What won’t happen: Any mention of Arsene Wenger’s team talk being done for him by his fellow Frenchman, OBVIOUSLY

What will happen: Arsenal’s scintillating, free-flowing attacking football to embarrass Evra and co., with the Gunners scoring more than once in a league game at Old Trafford for the first time in 26 years.