The three most unwatchable top-flight teams

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The votes are in. The dates are booked. The trailers are being filmed, the voiceovers bellowed.

Premier League games are coming to a small screen near you, in five short weeks' time.

Having haggled over the fixtures like narky tenants with a sulky landlord, Sky and ESPN have announced which 48 games they will televise through to the end of November.

And their choices reflect the popularity of the top flight's 20 teams.

"I know you're there"

It will come as little surprise that no team will be featured more often than Manchester United (televised nine times). Even without Cristiano Ronaldo, the reigning champions are guaranteed to pull in the viewers.

Nor is it a great shock to see Chelsea (9), Arsenal (8) and Liverpool (8) on the telly again and again.

They are, after all, the rest of the 'Big Four' and although fans of those teams would prefer their own one-horse race, it's understandable that others – including the media – would love the field to remain wide open for as long as possible.

But as with the X Factor, it's not just about ability; it's about appearances, perception, and glamour. Which is why the number of televised fixtures doesn't follow the league table as much as it panders to a presumed level of interest.

If the number of featured games followed the blatant meritocracy of the league table, for instance, Everton would be the fifth-most featured team.

As it is, only 10 teams are featured less often than David Moyes' boys, who will be on telly five times, three of them against 'Big Four' clubs.

The thing is that Everton aren't poster boys for The Most Exciting League In The World.

A very good team they may be, but it's hard for broadcasters to whip up enthusiasm for a team who played much of last season without strikers.

(If done by an Italian coach, this would be seen as tactical genius; successfully deployed by injury-depleted Moyes, it was taken as proof that 4-5-1 is strangling the life from the league).

No, cameras are much more drawn to the romantic possibilities of Manchester City (featured seven times) and Spurs (6).

Better, reason the broadcasters, to feature Harry's glory boys or nouveau riche City's new signings – and, if we're honest, potential implosion. It makes a better story than hard-earned wins.

As if to further enrage Everton fans, they're on the same number of times as Blackburn.

Armchair Rovers fans (and if you think they don't exist, you weren't around in 1995) will be able to enjoy televised Lancashire derbies against Burnley and Bolton, plus visits to Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

You can see what the fixture-pickers are thinking.

In fact, you can visualise the Sky adverts now, with footage of the Premier League's glossiest stars interspersed with shots of Sam Allardyce furiously barking orders through his chewing gum: "Can Big Sam upset the big boys in their own back yard?"

"I've got you right where I want you"

If Blackburn (or any perceived minnow) are to triumph against a Champions League team, you can bet your bottom Euro that a smartly-trousered pundit will call it evidence that the Premier League is the best competition on the continent.

And true to form, Sky have kept their pledge to cover all teams at least once. But only just.

Two teams who finished in lower mid-table last term, Wigan and Bolton, are featured just the once each: Latics for the visit of moneybags neighbours Man City, Bolton for the (second) return of former guru Allardyce.

In truth, and with no offence intended to either team, it's no great surprise that these two teams aren't having their doors hammered down.

Wigan face an uncertain future without Steve Bruce, while Bolton fans remain fiercely divided about life under Gary Megson.

Like nearby Blackburn, both these Lancashire rivals have had to be come up with inventive price cuts in a desperate struggle to hold up season ticket sales.

To be blunt, they can barely sell their product to their own fans; what chance have broadcasters of doing it to the remote-wielding majority?

Hence Sky only paying dutiful visits, like young relatives to a dying great-aunt in order to stay in the will.

At least Murdoch's men get around the grounds, covering a home game for every side except, oddly, Man City (so don't expect too many Robinho goals as they happen).

With only 17 games to Sky's 31, ESPN have neither the obligation nor desire to pay lip service to each of the 20 teams.

With the failure of Setanta demonstrating how difficult it is for fresh broadcasters to turn the outlay on Premier League rights into operating profit, ESPN would be unwise to do anything but maximise their viewing potential.

No shock to see, then, that there are four Manchester United games in ESPN's 17. (By comparison, Fergie's men feature in five of Sky's 31 games).

Stay-at-home Bolton and Wigan fans needn't bother augmenting their unfruitful Sky subscriptions with an ESPN top-up: neither team is featured at all. Nor are Pompey or Stoke.

Indeed, according to the broadcasters, Tony Pulis' men are the Premier League's third most unwatchable team: blanked by ESPN, they're only featured twice by Sky.

One is a Sunday lunch at Hull which will doubtless be described as a "curtain-raiser" for the subsequent Chelsea vs Man United.

The other, the visit of Pompey on the same day as Bolton vs Blackburn, is not so much Grand Slam Sunday as Contractual Obligation Bring Your B*st*rd Sons To Work Day.

Not that Stoke fans will care a jot, of course, and nor should they.

When your team is feared throughout the land, your home ground a passionate theatre of "no one likes us we don't care," it's difficult to be riled by the odd smug comment from Gary Lineker about being last on MOTD.

Potters fans won't be puzzled by the polarisation between their team and the glamour boys up the top end.

And it's probably fair to say they won't give a dog's danglies if they don't outmuscle Arsenal on the box as much as they do in the box.

"Try this one for size lads"

Football is all about ripping up the script. The 1973 FA Cup Final may now be remembered for Sunderland's heroics and Bob Stokoe's questionable dress sense, but the build-up was far more about Don Revie's Europe-conquering household names.

Television has always yearned for familiarity, and more importantly for glamour.

And if you disagree with it, consider this.

Besides clashes with the 'Big Four', Everton's two featured games are at Fulham and Pompey.

Tell us how you'd sell us those games. You might get a job making TV adverts.

NEWS: Live Sky and ESPN schedule revealed

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