Prem Previews: Predictable, predictabler & Hull

Until Phil Gartside’s dastardly plans come into fruition and the division is reduced to 18 teams, there is always going to be the need for a couple of midweek matchdays in the Premier League calendar.

Traditionally we’re treated to one early doors, with pleasantly warm mid-August evenings being a great time to take in some top-flight action, and between Christmas and New Year depending on when the big guy’s birthday falls (we mean Chris Kamara, not Jesus, obviously).

This year they’ve plumped to shoe-horn one in the last week of October, happily (or not) the very week the weather here in dear old Blighty has turned more bitter than Sir Alex Ferguson soaked in a marinade of lemon juice and earwax.

One place that’s sure to have a heated atmosphere (geddit?) is the Emirates, where Arsenal welcome old friends Spurs with open arms. Spurs, of course, are basking in the rays of eternal hope, optimism and chirpy Cockney jollity that emanate from Harry Redknapp’s backside, and actually looked like they vaguely remembered how to play football against Bolton on Sunday, having spent the previous two months seemingly playing an advanced form of hide-and-seek.

"DUCK! Oops, sorry it was just William Gallas" 

This miraculous upturn in the mood at White Hart Lane hasn’t worried Cesc Fabregas, who claims Spurs would struggle to beat Arsenal Ladies. The fact the Ladygunners are probably a more physical side than Cesc’s boys has perhaps passed the little chap by, bless him.

Arsene Wenger has also chimed in on the recent goings on at Spurs, oddly and somewhat pointlessly claiming that Tottenham wouldn’t have sacked Jaunde Ramos had he been appointed in July, ignoring the fact Spurs only won five league games under the Spaniard in the 26 they played this calendar year and that, and here’s the important bit, it’s none of his chuffing business.

Extended Warranty

You’d imagine all this slightly disrespectful shooting-off of mouths might motivate Harry Redknapp’s boys, but the fact is we all know how this one is going to pan out.

Spurs will take the lead, look like they’ve turned a corner, create a few good chances but not take any more of them, let in a stupid goal (this is probably where Heurelho Gomes comes in) and then fall victim to a moment of magic from Robin van Persie or Emmanuel Adebayor and end up losing the game 2-1. can guarantee this to a degree of certainty that puts Argos’s extended warranties to shame.

At least there's one team in N5 that wins trophies... 

While Redknapp’s move to N17 may have come out of left-field, Pompey’s decision to plump for Tony Adams as his replacement was as widely predicted as Kerry Katona’s breakdown.

Despite that, Adams must have been more than a bit chuffed to have taken the wheel at the good ship Portsmouth Football Club, not least because his last sojourn into management with Wycombe ended as woefully as Weekend at Bernie’s, but also because he got the job ahead of men like Sam Allardyce, Alan Curbishley and Avram Grant, Pompey's former Director of Football (it was a passing fad, ask yer dad).

Nevertheless, it is the former Arsenal and England stalwart that takes the reins at Fratton Park, and what easier place to start than Anfield? Errm, well, Stamford Bridge on current form. Liverpool are flying and, as stated by last week, finally look ready, willing and able to compete with the biggest of Premier League big guns at domestic level, not just in Europe.

By winning at Stamford Bridge they’ve now set a marker for themselves, and surely the famously Eurocentric Rafa Benitez will be persuaded to divert his gaze from the European Cup to the Premier League trophy. Having continued to be resilient and solid at the back, the Reds have added the ability to find goals at the right time in league matches, a skill they have only really demonstrated in Europe over the past three or four seasons.

Despite looking like being without Fernando Torres and with Robbie Keane carrying a groin niggle (an odd turn of phrase, we grant you), it’s hard to see anything other than a home win from this one. Pompey looked dazed and confused against Fulham on Sunday following Redknapp’s midnight exit and despite having now had more than a couple of hours to get their heads round what’s happened, we expect them to be overwhelmed again at Anfield.

Delightfully camp

Moving on to a game that’s slightly harder to forecast, Chelsea travel to title-chasing Hull looking to spring an upset at the KC Stadium.

Having previously seen off the Cockney quartet of Fulham, Arsenal, Spurs and West Ham to varying degrees of ‘pluck’ the Tigers are fast becoming everybody’s second favourite team, kind-of like the modern equivalent of Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle (first time round, not the last time... or indeed the next time). Except they can defend. And their fans wear clothes.

The very same fans have, like the team they proudly follow, won many friends this season. In an age of coin-throwing, effing and jeffing, and all-out nastiness from the terraces, the Hull faithful have brought joy to many with their delightfully camp “you’re getting mauled by the Tigers” chant.

In truth, it’s the accompanying hand gestures that bring a smile to the face of – it’s like something Dave Benson Phillips would teach four-year-olds to do on kids' TV back in the day.

Pedants note: Paul Heaton is a Blades fan 

But having lovable, well-behaved fans alone doesn’t get you very far. Does it, Scotland?

Hull's success has been based on hard work and sticking to a simple system, rather than chopping and changing every seven minutes and playing half the team out of position, like a certain unemployed Spaniard. Chelsea are reeling having finally lost their long-standing unbeaten home record and will crave no other tonic other than three points from their trip to East Yorkshire, but that will be easier said than done.

The Blues are the first Premier League 'megaclub' to travel to the KC this season, and despite waltzing to a comfortable 4-0 win in their last visit in the League Cup last season, we expect them to find the going a little tougher this time round.

Expect to see John Terry get his knickers in a twist when things don't go his way and things to end all square. Premier League Predictions:

Wednesday, 29 October 2008
Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham
Aston Villa 2-0 Blackburn
Bolton 1-1 Everton
Fulham 1-1 Wigan
Hull 1-1 Chelsea
Liverpool 2-0 Portsmouth
Man Utd 2-0 West Ham
Middlesbrough 1-1 Man City
Stoke 1-1 Sunderland