The rambling, title-chase-loving midweek Prem predictions

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You can't spell 'executive' without 'exit' – tenuous start – and sure enough, another Chief Executive of the FA is gone.

Ian Watmore didn't want more, it seems, resigning from his post to become the FA's sixth Chief Exec casualty in a little over 10 years. The FA now needs some mug to take on this thankless task. What's Paul Hart up to?
In other news (well, kinda), this blog got something right for a change. We're never one to toot our own horn, largely because we have very little to toot it about, but among a handful of other good calls, the prediction that Liverpool would shock United before the Red Devils came up trumps was bang on.

That’s known in the industry as a miracle.

Somehow, this didn't make the headlines in the aftermath of the match, with all news outlets focusing on the predictable clash between Rafa Benitez and Sir Alex Ferguson with referee Howard Webb finding himself in the middle.

Can't you just feel the warmth?

Whatever side of the fence you fall on regarding which side of the 18-yard line Antonio Valencia fell on, it's amazing how two managers can have such completely different views of an incident.

As far as Fergie was concerned, it was a penalty and a straight red. In Rafa's mind, it wasn't even a penalty. Neither was happy. And people wonder why there's a ref shortage…

How can two people see the same thing happen and interpret it so differently?

Surely this is some kind of behavioural phenomenon. Do managers just see what they want to see?

Do they lie, knowing inside they're wrong but willing to do anything for team morale, including instilling a culture of victimisation?

Or do they genuinely delude themselves into thinking they're right about every decision? It's extraordinary, really. 

Maybe managers are simply that self-centred, focused on their own concerns to the point they can’t see another argument or even situation.

On seeing a 2-1 87th-minute lead turn into a 3-2 defeat against Portsmouth, new Hull boss Iain Dowie said, "It showed how cruel this league is." 

Yes, it certainly is cruel conceding two goals in the last three minutes, compared to such trifling matters as a club imploding.

Cruel is watching your team be relegated for mistakes made off the field. It is not failing to play for 90 minutes.

Still, if it takes that bugling bell-end John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood off our screens for a bit, good riddance to them. 


West Ham vs Wolves

Massive game, this. This is the game in hand both clubs have over Wigan and Bolton above them, and three points would be...well, not invaluable like a mother's love or a really nice sense of belonging and contentment in your life, but pretty handy in the context of the next few weeks of football.

Team news (really should make a habit of this): Hammers captain Scott Parker should feature after shaking a leg in shaking off his leg injury, and like your correspondent's clapped-out Punto, Carlton Cole could start for the first time in two and a half weeks. 

Mick McCarthy will probably name an unchanged side for the seventh time in a row. That's something you don't usually associate with relegation-threatened teams. Maybe there’s a bet involved.

What won’t happen: Wolves do manage to stay up, but need more than 11 men to do so
What will happen: A shock away win helps the cause


Aston Villa vs Sunderland

Bent scores so early the fans haven't even arrived yet...

A top result for Steve Bruce’s men against his former Brum is rewarded with a tough old visit to the Blues' rivals. Bruce's thoughts on the 3-1 victory: “It was an unbelievable game of football. You know now why we age visibly in front of you with games like that.” Just you, Steve.
Villa need to be wary of Sunderland, and especially Darren Bent, getting off to a flyer. Bent has scored more goals in the first 15 minutes of a match this season – eight, since you ask – than any whole team in the Premier League.

That's something for Capello to think about: start with Bent, take him off after 20 minutes with England 2-0 up and give the stage to Crouch/Defoe/Heskey/Zamora/The Ghost of Michael Owen.

What won’t happen: Capello to pay attention to this clearly flawless idea 

What will happen: Bent doesn't even make the flight. In the present, a draw frustrates Villa as they strive to go fo(u)rth 

Blackburn vs Birmingham 

Big Sam’s Blackburn, scourge of football, did well to keep Chelsea at bay and could do it again to their fellow title challengers later in the season.

With Rovers also set to play Arsenal and Manchester United, a team with no ambition and no interest in anything approaching the beautiful game could end up deciding who wins the Premier League. That’s either ironic, depressing or both. 

This may sound a bit harsh, so it’s only fair to point out that Blackburn have now lost only one of their last 14 home games. That, it must be said, is a good record. It’s just a shame it’s been made in such a fashion. 

Ah well. Who are we to quibble? Big Sam could clearly have us in a fight. Even if we wore him down over nine rounds, El-Hadji Diouf would sneak up with a bag of bricks and clout us from behind. 

What won’t happen: Allardyce has three spirits visit him in the night, and after realising everybody hated him as a child, hates him now and will continue to hate him after he's dead, mends his ways and plays 4-2-4 with Samba banned from the opposition half 

What will happen: Birmingham are as slow out of the blocks as they were against Sunderland, but muster a point in the second half 

Manchester City vs Everton 

Mikel Arteta, surely an inclusion in any Premiership Prettyboy XI, says Everton need to win six games out of eight to grab a Europa League spot.

He’s ambitious – but why not? Everton have none of the Big Four still to play this season; indeed, this is their toughest fixture left.

Man City, meanwhile, have sights on a bigger prize, and three points here would reaffirm them as favourites for fourth.

What won’t happen: These won’t be easy points…
What will happen: …but City grab all three

Portsmouth vs Chelsea 

Pompey are going down with a fight, even if their deficit makes their fight akin to a dead cat facing Rocky Balboa. 

Three points over 'rivals' Hull must have tasted sweet for the south coast outfit, but being fined another £1 million for financial irregularities soured that soon enough.

You could say an extra £1m on top of their £65m debt is just a further drop in the lifeboat-less ocean, but it doesn't exactly help, does it?

Cheer up Avram, at least Pompey's problems aren't term......oh

Portsmouth also revealed they had to drop on-loan Aruna Dindane when some men with hobbling posts popped round for a chat. A clause in Dindane's contract means if he plays one more game Pompey will have to pay RC Lens, his home club, £4m (which means he'll be on the first boat back to France).

It's harsh on the player to be forced out this way, but in fairness Portsmouth could have added, "Frankly, you'd have to pay us £4m to play him."

After they dropped points at Blackburn and Manchester United beat Liverpool, many have said Chelsea are out of the hunt. Even Carlo Ancelotti, for reasons best known to himself, has piled the pressure on his own team as they prepare to face their old manager, Avram 'Somebody please give us a' Grant.

The Italian eyebrow model has confessed his side must beat Portsmouth if they are to stay in the Premier League title race and pundits agree. But isn’t this all a bit premature? Arsenal have been written off twice this season and now they’re second.  

If Chelsea win their game in hand against Portsmouth, they’re back into second place and a mere point behind United. A point. One point. One.

And even if it all goes wrong and they draw here, theyn’re only three points behind with United still to play. It’s not over until it’s over, or at least until United beat Chelsea on Saturday 3rd April.

The important thing to remember is that there’s a long, long way to go. Seven or eight games remaining is not a ‘run-in’ any more than watching The Bill is having a run-in with the law.

Instead of calling the title race a write-off because of one weekend’s results, let’s do what the managers always say and take it a game at a time. There’s at least a fortnight to go until things get really interesting. 

What won’t happen: A longer ‘prediction’ this year. Are you still awake at the back?
What will happen: United grab the title with a week to spare, as Chelsea and Arsenal – damn, got sucked into it. Away win

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