The Nipple-Counting Prem Previews

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It's been an interesting start to the decade for the fellas of the Premier League. Well, some of them.

We may be into the third weekend of the new year but more than half of our Pedigree Chums are playing their first league game since those crazy days of 2009.

Remember that year? It seems like so long ago already.

No more so than for Rafael Benitez. That Christmas present – A New Year, A New You – doesn't seem to have done the trick.

But hey, Liverpool may be out of the FA Cup, as well as the Champions League, the Carling Cup and, y'know, credibility, but it's a new day.

And Rafa has a whole decade ahead of him to turn the tables.

In that time, tides will change and the world will revolve, but come the end of 2019 Alex Ferguson will still be managing, Ryan Giggs will still be playing and Liverpool will still be saying, "Next year, guys – next year."

But what about this weekend, eh? EH?

We might actually have some football now the snow’s toddled off.

Plus it’s a new start, so this blog might even get some predictions right this year.

It was certainly bang on with Paul Hart leaving QPR, although we did give him two months instead of just under one…


Chelsea vs Sunderland

No Drogba, no Essien, no Kalou, no Mikel... the African Cup of Nations has hit Chelsea hard.

It's tight at the top, too, so Chelsea will thank their lucky Tsars that Sunderland's Darren Bent has lost his early-season momentum.

And productive midfielder Alex Reid – no, wait, he's that crossdressing Jordan-jumper from 'Celebrity' Big Brother; Andy Reid, that's the one – is an injury doubt, so like a child with no thumbs in an arts and crafts class, the Black Cats have their work cut out for them.

What won't happen: Chelsea to miss Kalou. Oh come on, he's pointless

What will happen: Chelsea to miss Drogba, Essien and Mikel. A draw frustrates the Blues

Everton vs Manchester City

Well, thank Christ Adebayor's all right, eh? THANK GOD FOR THAT. Because no one else plays for Togo, do they, Sky Sports?

No one else was on the receiving end of that attack, were they? It's not like three people died, is it?

No, it's all OK because ADEBAYOR IS ALL RIGHT.

What won't happen: Adebayor to play. It's not his fault Sky Sports News reported the attack in such a sickening manner. The striker has been through a horrific ordeal and he's not ready to return

What will happen: Sky Sports News to keep up their disgraceful ways despite this bit of shouting into the ether. Plus Mancini's winning start continues

Manchester United vs Burnley

It's a baptism of fire for new Burnley boss Brian Laws, who climbs onto the team bus for the first time to travel 20 miles down the road and 12 places up the table.

But Laws can take heart from Burnley being well rested (two weeks since their last match, against MK Dons) and the fact that United, who could move to the top of the tree if results go their way, are still far from full strength.

Among the likely absentees are Ferdinand, Vidic, Fletcher, Nani, Van der Sar, Berbatov and O'Shea. Well, at least they have a defence now.

What won't happen: Alex Ferguson to resign after the match and emerge as Laws' second-in-command. "I want a new challenge," he says to a pack of stunned journalists

What will happen: Can Chris Eagles have an impact against the club that took him in as a foundling and nurtured him like a weak baby bird, before shipping him out on loan every two months? Yes – he'll be involved in Burnley's only goal as they lose 3-1

Portsmouth vs Birmingham

The latest development in the Steptoe & Son tribute that is Portsmouth Football Club is their TV money being given away.

Presumably, anyone who has watched a Portsmouth game on telly this season can look forward to a cheque arriving in the post.

What won't happen: David James to move to Pulis’s Stoke, as rumoured. It’s fallen through. Up until just now, this blog was billing it as a certainty. This news is so breaking it makes Back To The Future look like Ben Hur

What will happen: Brum win again

Stoke vs Liverpool

Well, well, well. How do you solve a problem like Liverpool?

It's looking increasingly like Rafa is powerless to stop his side's slide – and with Torres out for six weeks, Benayoun three and Gerrard a fortnight, he's really up against it.

Can he inspire something from nothing, starting with this tough game at the Britannia Stadium? Judging from Liverpool's performance against Reading, no.

That all said, he didn't deserve the ITV arseache who conducted the post-match interview:

"You were rubbish – why is that? Is your squad too weak? Do you rely on two players? Why is your team such an embarrassment to Liverpool's rich history? Are you crying, Rafa? Why are you crying?"

A bit of probing’s fine, but he was one step away from asking the clearly miserable manager, "Do you want to kill yourself? Right now? We'll look away. We'll film you, but we'll look away."

What won't happen: Rafa to be fired, ever – even at the end of this season, which it’s alleged is his deadline for success. To what depths would Liverpool have to sink in order for him to get the sack? If they were relegated, he'd be given a year to adjust to the rigours of the Championship

What will happen: Things can only get better... except they can't, as Liverpool rarely threaten in a 1-1 draw. If I'm wrong, you can BLOW ME, F**KFACE

Spurs vs Hull

Tax evasion, 'Arry? That's above and beyond your usual cheeky-chappy shenanigans – that's actually illegal. What were you doing, son?

We hear about suspended managers having to watch from the stands, or recuperating managers watching from their house, but rarely about jailed managers watching from The Big House.

If he can get a TV, that is – he might have to perform a few favours first...

What won't happen: Serious consequences. 'e's 'Arry, inn'e? He could wriggle out of a murder scene

What will happen: Spurs start the decade as they will almost certainly go on – in fifth. If they want to actually break into the top four this season this is the game they have to win. So they won't. No, let’s be positive – Spurs nab three points

Wolves vs Wigan

Blimey, the foot of the table's tighter than Fatty Foulke's thong. Just one point separates five teams either side of the relegation divide.

With each of the other three (West Ham, Bolton and Hull) facing one of the top six in their games, this match turns into a dog's nipples on a cold day – a real six-pointer.

By the way, in confirming the facts behind that metaphor, this blog found a mutt messageboard in which someone had nervously written: "My dog is pregnant and has six nipples and I am sure she had eight nipples the last time she was pregnant. Please explain. Thank you."

Yeah, they fall off in childbirth, you see. That week at the vet's was the worst work experience we ever had, sweeping all those nipples off the floor.

What won't happen: That image to leave you for a while

What will happen: Hmm? Oh yes, football. Score draw; Gary Caldwell to impress on his Wigan debut


Aston Villa vs West Ham

There’s been a lot of talk about a flamboyant Italian taking over at Upton Park – no, not Zola, that was a while ago now – but unless he’s Jesus Christ, who wasn’t Italian, he can’t heal the sick.

The Hammers have been hammered by long-term injuries: still sitting out will be the likes of Ilunga, Noble, Gabbidon, Hines and Carlton Cole.

Oh, and Kieron Dyer probably won’t feature, but that’s like saying Zola probably won’t win The Apprentice.

Villa are much healthier, and enter the fixture on the back of a good performance against Blackburn midweek.

What won’t happen: Villa haven’t drawn in 10 matches. They won’t draw this one either

What will happen: Comfortable home win

Blackburn vs Fulham

Writing this while watching Big Sam scream and gesture furiously at his players in the closing minutes of Blackburn's Carling Cup defeat to Aston Villa, this blog is starting to see why he has a heart condition.

Compare this to Roy Hodgson, the mercurial maestro behind Fulham's renaissance, and it's like watching Henry Kissinger take on the Incredible Hulk.

Apt, since this match is going to see some surprisingly smooth operators take on a team of massive lumps.

What won't happen: Big Sam to see in 2011 unless he retires while his health is still... well, existent

What will happen: Either 1-0 to Fulham or 2-0 to Fulham. So, that’ll be 1.5-0 then

Bolton vs Arsenal

In a feat of administrative genius, Bolton play both their league games against Arsenal in the space of four days, which isn't exactly the start the Coyled spring was after.

Still, if they can record any kind of result in this match the momentum they'd take to the Emirates on Wednesday would be immense.

What won’t happen: For Bolton, any kind of result and any kind of momentum

What will happen: Two Gunners victories beckon. Sorry, Coyley

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