The short-wearing, boing-boinging, ‘80s Euro synthpop Prem Preview

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It’s the penultimate weekend and sneaky plum time if you’re in the bottom three, but the Premier League plays second fiddle to the FA Cup Final this weekend – or at least it should do…

But who gives a toss about the self-proclaimed greatest tournament ever invented, eh? It’s all about the Premier League as far as this blog is (contractually) concerned – it’s like one of Richard Keys' dreams, apart from there’s no sign of female officials being eaten by fire-breathing lions as Keith Houchen stands by, watching the melee while singing the theme from M*A*S*H.


Blackburn v Manchester United (12.45pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, 5 Live Radio)
It’s only right that Manchester United should be crowned champions for a record-breaking 19th time at, uh, Ewood Park. But the fans won’t care where they start the party.

While it’s been an excellent season for the Red Devils - one that can only be topped by winning the Champions League at Wembley - Rovers’ owners must be seriously regretting letting go of Sam Allardyce. That is, if they even remember doing so.

Blackburn may only be two places lower now than they were at the time, but their three-point advantage over dropzone dwellers Blackpool and Wigan could be eliminated after this match. With the honeymoon period curtailed to a wet and windy weekend in Cleethorpes, Steve Kean may be wondering what he’s let himself in for.

They’ll welcome back the talismanic David Dunn, the only Englishman to score for Rovers this season, but a second win in 14 games looks beyond them here.

What won’t happen: Steve Kean to inherit Fergie’s job, not that he’ll ever retire while he lives and breathes anyway
What will happen: United comfortably wrap up three points and the title

Blackpool v Bolton (12.45pm, 5 Live Sports Extra)
Given their current form, this blogger wonders if it’s possible for both teams to lose somehow.

Bolton would be the likelier candidates, having lost their previous five away matches (they’re second from bottom in the away games table) and being injury-depleted to the point of them playing Johan ‘striker and husband of Amanda’ Elmander in midfield.

The Tangerines, though, are second-bottom of the form league and third-bottom of the league that matters (and no, that’s not the fair play table).

This has a draw written all over it in poo-coloured felt tip pen.

What won’t happen: Coyle finally succumbs to his waking dreams and, shorts at the ready, brings himself on as a second-half sub to score the winning goal
What will happen: A pooey point apiece

Who likes short shorts? Owen Coyle - we keep telling you this...

Sunderland v Wolves (12.45pm, Absolute Radio)
You can’t spell football without 0-0, unfortunately, and that result looks as likely here as people saying “But zeroes aren’t the same as Os.”

Technically, of course, you can’t spell football without 1-1 either, if you take the lower case ‘l’s as ones.

There was a point here, originally.

A goalless draw looks very much on the cards, as Sunderland aren’t the best at home (one win since New Year’s Day) and Wolves are pretty inept away, taking just nine points on the road. Not so much dangerous predators, then, as pretty massive roadkill.

What won’t happen: Sunderland to experiment with Craig Levein’s legendary 4-6-0 formation in the absence of any fit strikers
What will happen: A useful point for Wolves ahead of their showdown with Blackburn next week

West Brom v Everton (12.45pm)
Hey kids, can you say ‘nothing fixture’?

This blog doesn’t want to demean games that could still be very interesting, but it’s safe to say there’s little riding on this one.

Everton will stay seventh with a win, a loss or a draw and West Brom are mathematically safe. They could climb into the top half with an 18-0 win, but even taking a 3-0 lead would be enough to give Roy Hodgson a heart attack.

For preventing, or at least delaying, West Brom’s boing-boingness, Woy deserves the credit he was never going to get at Liverpool whatever his results there. We probably won’t be seeing any animated GIFs of his relative success at the Hawthorns though.

What won’t happen: Everton could go sixth with two wins if Spurs take just one point from their last two matches (very possible at Anfield and against a battling Birmingham), but...
What will happen: ...they’ll slip up here. Draw. Actually, we’ve been told we predict too many draws, so sod it, away win.


Chelsea v Newcastle (1.30pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, TalkSPORT Radio)
It’s not quite the title race broadcasters were hoping for at this juncture, but this is still an intriguing tussle, not least as we could get a glimpse of Newcastle’s new kit in action.

Sadly, we’re likely to have to wait at least another week to see it, but if any of their multitude of injured players turn up wearing a T-shirt with a waistcoat and tie motif, supporters should get the gist.

What won’t happen: Chelsea, the only team in the league with no major injury worries, generously lend knack-wracked Newcastle a few squad players
What will happen: Home win

Arsenal v Aston Villa (4pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1)
The Gunners’ decline this season has been well documented, and 10 points from 27 since the Carling Cup Final tells a tale.

But if they finish strongly with two heavy wins against Villa and Fulham, and Chelsea slip up in their tricky final fixture away at Everton, they could return to second in the table, which would at least be a small fillip. More like a Phil, perhaps.

They’ll be without ‘80s Euro synthpop duo Fabregas and Nasri, but should have enough to see off a Villa side who have already reached safety. Expect Darren Bent to score, though – he’s fairly good at it.

What won’t happen: Houllier to see out the whole of next season; it’s just a hunch, but with his very sad health problems, he may be forced to retire sooner rather than later
What will happen: 2-1, with Walcott, Bendtner and Bent all on the scoresheet. Well, we might as well try to be specific

Wow, ‘80s Euro synthpop duo Fabregas and Nasri have got the moves...

Birmingham v Fulham (4pm)
Fulham have had an excellent latter half of the season, surging into the top half with a series of good results. A round of applause, please. Actually, wait, we forgot about the Michael Jackson statue – cancel that applause. Fetch the shotguns.

Brum should be safe by now but have fallen into what could be interpreted as a ‘Europe next year, probably safe already this year’ malaise. Taking just one point from their last four matches is testament to that, and explains why they’re only three points from being in the Championship.

They’re a wee bit short, too, with Martins, McFadden, Taylor and Dann all injured and Ridgewell and Gardner serving suspensions. Tut tut.

Luckily they’re playing a team that, for all their recovery, still doesn’t believe in winning away. In the last six seasons, Fulham have won just 11 matches on the road – as many as Manchester United recorded all last season.

What won’t happen: A thumping away win, despite Fulham domination
What will happen: Birmingham crawl closer to certified safety in the manner of a blind squirrel with a limp

Liverpool v Spurs (4pm, 5 Live Sports Extra)
Oh, it’s the big one: the battle for fifth! With a shot at Champions League participation now mathematically beyond both teams, Spurs and Liverpool fight it out for the booby prize of the Europa League: it’s a straight toe-to-toe between two teams who don’t really want to be in it. And it’s all live on TV!

Uh, what? It’s not? Oh, of course, there’s a dead rubber between alphabetical friends Arsenal and Aston Villa to televise and show to the masses. Obviously that takes precedent.

Martin Kelly should return for Liverpool, while Tottenham have the longest injury list in the league: Bale, Huddlestone, Hutton, Assou-Ekotto, Woodgate, King,

Khumalo and now Palacios will all miss out. Jermaine Jenas may come back into the team, like silver lining a polished turd.

What won’t happen: An away win for Spurs: Dalglish has made Anfield a fortress, his team taking 20 points from a possible 24 since he arrived
What will happen: Liverpool win and Tottenham remain on just one victory since their 1-0 win over Milan at the San Siro in February.

Wigan v West Ham (4pm)
This is the last-chance saloon for West Ham, and what an opportunity: travelling to the team one place and three points above them in the league. If they don’t win this, they’re down – it’s as simple as that.

A bit of a bugger for them, then, that Little Scotty Parker is out injured with Kryptonite Thigh. Stanislas, Noble, O’Neil and – snigger – Kieron Dyer will all be watching from the sidelines. Actually, Dyer might have a nap.

Looking at their remaining fixtures, here at home to West Ham then away at a relaxed Stoke City, the Latics should be safe. But Wigan still look as comfortable in charge of their own destiny as a man holding a piss-filled nuclear warhead.

What won’t happen: A working piss-filled nuclear warhead, admittedly
What will happen: A heroic away win delays the inevitable for Grant’s grafters