Premier League previews: More hats please!

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Here we are then, the business end of the season. With Stoke all but relegated, Manchester United out of the title race and Spurs with no chance of making the top four, there doesn’t seem much left to play for.

This is, of course, a load of chuffing bobbins. Stoke are far from doomed, despite what some publicity-hungry Irish bookmakers might tell you, United will still be right amongst the title challengers come May and Spurs... well, that bit is probably just about right.

While Paddy Power has already decided Stoke are dead and buried, many other bookies have bumped Chelsea ahead of United as favourites for the title, purely on the basis of the Blues' win over Portsmouth and United’s draw with Newcastle.

You may have thought they’d have learned their lesson, having been burnt this time last year for doing the same after eventual champions United drew with Reading and Chelsea beat Birmingham, but evidently not.

Siegfried and Roy

In any case, a bigger shock than the result at Old Trafford was the impressive performance of recently signed Toon pair Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez.

We’ve all become accustomed to Newcastle’s foreign imports being about as successful as an American 4x100m relay team (Andreas Andersson, Silvio Maric, Marcelino – we could go on, we really could), so it was refreshing to see the pair put a decent shift in and cause United a few problems, at both ends of the pitch.

The Argentine duo may look like a cheap Siegfried and Roy tribute act, but if they can continue to perform in that vein then Kevin Keegan really has pulled a couple of rabbits out of his hat.

Siegfried and Roy: A partnership not to be messed with

Trendy little trilby

Speaking of which, a rather pressing concern has arisen in the shed this week; why do punters not wear hats to football matches anymore?

We don’t mean those garish jester-style efforts sported by the likes of John ‘Portsmouth Football Club’ Westwood (yes, him with the bell and the disturbingly grubby blue and white slacks), we’re talking about a trendy little trilby, a nifty fedora or better yet a Fred Astaire style top hat. appreciates that this trend is most likely a reflection of contemporary fashion as a whole, but it’s still an alarming issue that has yet to be addressed by the FA and, presumably, was a big factor in Brian Barwick being kicked out on his not-so-bony backside on Wednesday.

Back to the matter in hand and Stoke, who as we’ve established are still just about mathematically safe, host Aston Villa in the Britannia Stadium’s first ever Premier League clash.

Martin O’Neill’s side look a pretty tidy unit again this season and should certainly have the quality to overcome the Potters and make it six points from six.

Villa are perhaps one of the sides most in need of a good start, with a relatively thin squad (we mean in terms of depth, before you mention Wilfred Bouma’s waistline), they may well struggle when the games come thicker and faster through the winter months, especially if they push on in Europe.

Well done sir. That's what we want to see! 


Also on Saturday Roy Keane will take his rag-tag band of Irishmen, former Man United youthies and Spurs reserves to White Hart Lane.

At one stage it had looked like Sunderland were going to have more of Spurs' Carling Cup winners in their starting line-up than Spurs themselves, but an unsurprising injury to Teemu Tainio has put paid to that.

Nevertheless, Steed Malbranque and Pascal Chimbonda (who will presumably be stocking-ed and gloved up, what with it already being the final third of August and all) are both likely to make a swift return to White Hart Lane.

Despite the departure of Tainio and Malbranque, Spurs still have 204(ish) midfielders on their books, which just about makes up for the fact they’ll soon be left with just one recognised striker and one centre-half who isn’t constantly ambling out of god-awful Essex nightclubs or indeed Michael Dawson.

Both Spurs and Sunderland will be looking for their first points of the season but word on the street is that Dimitar Berbatov will play, which might just be enough to tip the balance in Spurs’ favour.

Pascal in standard gloved-up mode... in April 

Calamity mode

The weekend’s action ends with a real relegation battle at Fratton Park on Monday night, where bottom club Pompey entertain ‘struggling’ Manchester United.

Harry’s boys were comprehensively tonked by Chelsea on Sunday and David James has shown signs of lapsing into ‘calamity mode’ in his last two outings for club and country.

This could be very, very bad news for the south coast club who, despite strengthening their strikeforce with Peter Crouch, probably haven’t done enough to reinforce their defence or midfield.

However United will be without Cristiano Ronaldo, Ji-Sung Park, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves, the suspended Nani and, of course, Louis Saha so Pompey may fancy their chances of maintaining their reasonably decent home record against the champions.

The David James we all know and love Premier League predictions:

Saturday August 23
Blackburn 2-1 Hull
Liverpool 2-0 Middlesbrough
Newcastle 0-0 Bolton
Stoke 1-2 Aston Villa
Tottenham 3-2 Sunderland
West Brom 1-1 Everton
Fulham 0-2 Arsenal (Live on Setanta Sports 1, 5:30pm)

Sunday August 24

Wigan 0-2 Chelsea (Live on Setanta Sports 1, 1:30pm)
Manchester City  1-1 West Ham

Monday August 25

Portsmouth 1-1 Man United