The rescheduled and extended Premier Preview

On paper it isn’t a cracking weekend of Premier League action, but at least it goes on forever: previous cancellations mean the fixtures keep on coming all the way up until Wednesday. Hurrah! Football!

Do leave comments, by the way – feel free to make your own predictions and take issue with the nonsense below. It’s not that this blogger feels hopelessly lonely (though that is also true); more that the possibility for different opinions is great because predictions are such a widely varying...thing.

Yeah.

SATURDAY

Wolves v Liverpool (12.45pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, 5 Live Radio)

At first you can’t help but wonder why 5 Live would choose to use its precious credits in covering this early kick-off when Sky Sports is showing it, but then you realise that both radio and television stations are basically going to keep showing Liverpool games until Kenny Dalglish wins one.

This is a good chance for King Kenny to get off the mark, but it’s not as if he needs to alleviate any pressure: he’d be a fan favourite even if he got Liverpool relegated, and club chairman Tom Werner has already said he’s impressed by the progress, even the turnaround, the Scot has led.

Turnaround? Two defeats, one draw? Maybe standards are slipping. Still, Dalglish has lifted spirits, got the players on his side, fans love him etc. etc. You do ask yourself what he would have to do to become unpopular on the red end of Merseyside. You feel relegation wouldn’t be enough. Take a dump on a portrait of Bill Shankly, perhaps?

What won’t happen: Dalglish to take a dump on a portrait of Bill Shankly, perhaps

What will happen: Wolves won this fixture at Molineux just three weeks ago, and if they keep their nerve they could win this one – especially with Steven Gerrard still serving a suspension. Instead, they do enough to grind out a 0-0 draw

Arsenal v Wigan (3pm)

Arsenal beautiful, Wigan unpredictable etc. – these predictions write themselves, don’t they?

Oh well, in the interest of enlightenment (pfft), it’s worth noting that Wigan have lost only one game in their last eight, and drew with Arsenal at the Arthur-esque DW Stadium days before the New Year, the last time the Gunners conceded in the Prem. Still, they’ve never lost to Wigan at home...

Not-quite-disastrously-for-them-but-still-very-annoyingly, Wigan are still without Tom Cleverley, Victor Moses and James McCarthy, all missing various limbs. Arsenal could welcome back Abou Diaby.  

What won’t happen: Wigan put in the performance of their season to win by three goals

What will happen: Honestly? Thumping home win

Blackpool v Sunderland (3pm)

Probably the simplest way of looking at the Darren Bent transfer saga is that Sunderland did have him, and now they don’t. For all the rage, fury and impotent (though largely justified) whining, Steve Bruce should remember that self-evident fact. It’s happened now. Move on.

That said, likely new signing Ricardo Fuller is a good player who will chase every cause and run all day but compared with natural goalscorer Bent, it’s not quite the same...

What won’t happen: Bruce to answer loaned-out David Healy MBE’s calls, even with Bent betraying him and Welbeck out injured

What will happen: A readymade Blackpool take their chance with a typically unchanged squad


Can David Healy fill the Bent-shaped void at Sunderland? Errrrm, probably not...

Everton v West Ham (3pm)

January sure is a busy month for West Ham: they’re scheduled to play eight games in all, with this being no6. Luckily, they have a talented, sizeable squad capable of...oh, that sentence isn’t even worth finishing.

Much like Avram Grant’s tenure, perhaps – though thanks to some dithering from the West Ham board, after weeks of disgraceful speculation and backbiting started entirely by themselves, he’s still hanging on to the ledge of Premier League management by his fingernails. He’s surviving game by game, it seems, but a defeat here would still be unlikely to see him ousted from that ledge and plummet to the ground below.

Everton, meanwhile, may miss Steven Pienaar more than they realise at first, even if the Saffa has contributed a total of zero assists this season. With Tim Cahill knobbing about in the Asian Cup, they look a little underpowered in midfield.

What won’t happen: The Hammers to nab their first win at Goodison since 2005   

What will happen: Arteta does the job: 1-0

Fulham v Stoke (3pm)

Impressively, Stoke’s combined defenders have scored more times this season than Fulham’s combined strikers, and even had more shots at goal. That probably says more about the Cottagers’ bad run of injuries, but still.

The Potters, in fact, are eighth and on the verge of signing John Carew; while the Norwegian may be no Demba Ba, he’d be an excellent player to fit into Stoke’s system, especially one losing Ricardo Fuller to Sunderland. All these good signings are really putting paid to that prediction of relegation. *shakes fist in general direction of bookies*

What won’t happen: Fulham, with a 50% draw record thanks to 11 stalemates in 22 games, go all out and record a thumping 4-0 victory

What will happen: Steve Sidwell could make his home debut, meaning he’ll most likely get injured or score an own goal or something. The game heads for a bore draw until Stoke sneak a late winner

Manchester United v Birmingham (3pm, 5 Live Radio)

As much as we want to invigorate excitement and debate, look: Man United have won the title.

At least, that’s this blogger’s pessimistic opinion, and interestingly, it’s one that’s not shared by many others. Some think it’ll go right down to the wire; some are firmly behind Arsenal claiming the title; others think Man City will sail away with it. The best we can all hope for is a close finish.

This is the kind of game that could theoretically derail Manchester United’s campaign briefly, if it wasn’t for the fact that Srralex’s former charges genuinely roll over and die for him.

Still, Ben Foster could be key here: despite that horrific error in the Carling Cup semi, he’s been one of the most impressive keepers in the Prem this season. But then he’s had to be – despite playing just two more games than opposing number Edwin van der Sar, he’s had to make 104 saves to the Dutchman’s 42.

It’s pressure that won’t let up with the terrible news for Birmingham that ultra-reliable Scott Dann is out for the season.

What won’t happen: Alex McLeish to be fired – a ridiculous claim if ever there was one

What will happen: Dull, boring, predictable home win


Did Ben Foster's performance vs West Ham impress old boss Fergie? Errrrm, probably not...

Newcastle v Spurs (3pm, Absolute Radio)

Random stat of the day: the average time Newcastle score their first goal in a game is on 40 minutes. The average time Spurs score their first goal in a game is on...40 minutes.

So there you go.

What won’t happen: Stevie P to slot into the Tottenham team straightaway, though his inclusion should remind ‘Arry he has at least three midfields to get rid of...

What will happen: Frustrating draw for ‘title-chasing’ Spurs (come on, really?)

Aston Villa v Manchester City (5.30pm, ESPN & ESPN HD, TalkSPORT Radio)

So THAT’S why Villa signed Darren Bent in such a hurry: he’s scored three goals in his last four appearances against Man City. Blimey, football really is becoming a short-term results business.

Bad news for Houllier, then, as Villa have taken only five points from 30. However, the side is turning a corner, and Bent will certainly help. But will it be long before he becomes a Scott Parker, carrying a team on his back?

That’s an exaggeration, of course – Villa’s squad is too big for Geoff Capes to carry – but he may end up regretting a move from European challengers to safety-chasers. It’s like when he left Spurs: maybe he just really hates playing abroad.

What won’t happen: City and Villa to ‘try something’ and agree a Dzeko-Bent swap at half-time

What will happen: Bent to score on debut but City to triumph

SUNDAY

Blackburn v West Brom (4pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)

Steve Kean could turn out to be a very good manager, but right now he’s a very good lucksmith. With Big Sam fired for no discernible reason except a lack of attractive football being played, caretaker man Kean was strangely given until the end of the season by chicken vendors Venky’s, who have now extended his contract until 2013.

Utterly, utterly bizarre. Still, good luck to him.

Boaz Myhill will continue in goal for West Brom, as Welsh keepers carry on deposing first-choice glovesmen in the top flight (well, Myhill and Wayne Hennessey, anyway). They’ll be feeling a bit better about things now they’ve ended that horrible run of six straight defeats with a last-gasp win against Blackpool.

What won’t happen: Fabio Capello to be sacked next week and Steve Kean to be given the England job – but only because the even luckier Alan Pardew gets there first, looking around him dazed and confused at his own fortune

What will happen: A struggle for all involved. Draw


Could Blackburn's Steve Keane be the next England manager? Errrrm, probably not...

MONDAY

Bolton v Chelsea (8pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)

This is a potentially excellent tie for Monday night footbaaaall, which means it’ll inevitably turn out to be awful.

Wanderers’ Wheater-wangling is a shrewd bit of business, especially as their centre-backs numbered two before his arrival, and their subs bench rarely more. The ex-Boro man will have to deal with a rejuvenated Frank Lampard straightaway, who is back from injury and has scored seven goals in 11 games against Bolton. Chelsea haven’t lost to the Trotters in 14 meetings.

And while we’re statting, Ancelotti’s charges have the highest pass completion ratio this season while Coyle’s side have committed the most fouls, the dirty beggars.

What won’t happen: A Bolton clean sheet – strangely, they’ve not made a successful shut-out against any London side in 20 Premier League matches

What will happen: Score draw

TUESDAY

Blackpool v Manchester United (7.30pm, ESPN & ESPN HD)

Oh go on then, let’s carry on into the overflow games.

I rued how unfortunate ESPN were to miss out on this fixture when it was cancelled, forgetting, of course, they’d have it back – albeit not straight after the 3pm kick-offs, but at the less friendly time of Tuesday night when Holby City is on.

Verdict: away win

What won’t happen: Blackpool to hold onto Charlie Adam beyond this year, though he may stay for the season

What will happen: We told you already!

Wigan v Aston Villa (7.45pm, 5 Live Radio Extra)

The 5 Live website originally claimed the station was covering this game Monday night, which was impressive, it being a full 24 hours before kick-off.

Unfortunately, it’s only covering it live, rather than pre-live. The Latics-Villa match-up is just on 5 Live Radio Extra, though – the main thing is covering the Arsenal-Ipswich Carling Cup second-semi second-leggy.

What won’t happen: Charles N’Zogbia to be tapped up by Houllier during the game, kidnapped during distraction from a corner, and to reappear in injury time in an Aston Villa shirt, ala Dzeko in the Villa v Man City game

What will happen: Wigan win. If we keep predicting it, one day it will actually happen

WEDNESDAY

Liverpool v Fulham (8pm)

When this fixture was meant to have been played (18th December), it would have been a fascinating insight into how Fulham were progressing without Hodgson, as much as how Liverpool were progressing with him. The two would come head-to-head in a fiery but friendly encounter, with tributes paid by away fans to the jowly one’s achievements at Craven Cottage while supporters of his current club steadily ignored him, and Mark Hughes looked on wondering what he’s meant to be doing to get out of this mess...

Oh well, never mind.

What won’t happen: Anything but a home win, as King Kenny breaks his duck

What will happen: Don’t know. Look, it’s on bloody Wednesday...

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