The Transformers-sounding, 'touch and go' Premier Preview

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What a great weekend for English top-flight football, cracking fixtures, anything could happen, etc. etc.

No, seriously, if this blogger had to recommend one weekend of the Premier League season for you to watch as closely as possible, this would be right up there. Right up there. Probably about fifth – ultimately failing to qualify for the Football Weekend Champions League.

Frankly, if you miss out you’re either mad or busy.


Birmingham v West Brom (12.45pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, 5 Live Radio)

It’s the weekly Midlands pseudo-derby! And here’s your host: the Carling Cup champions, 2011.

Hope is a powerful thing, as the Blues proved, so with any luck the hope that the game, and tournament, will be remembered for Birmingham’s glory rather than Arsenal’s shame will infiltrate the common psyche. To quote many a person the day after the final, “Did you see the Arsenal game last night?” Sigh.

Playing West Brom isn’t much of a comedown, though, as despite the FA Cup run, Birmingham’s survival instinct will now be kicking in. They have two games in hand over their relegation rivals so this doesn’t count as a must-win, but anything fewer than three points will be seen as a disappointment.

Well, not two points. That would be seen as a miracle – almost as big a miracle as an away win for a side with a manager who has recorded just 13 victories on the road in six seasons as a Premier League manager.

What won ’t happen: West Brom’s first Premier League win at St Andrews, as the home side are boosted by returns from Hleb ‘n’ Gardner

What will happen: A stonking draw…no wait, home win [decisive as ever – ed]

Arsenal v Sunderland (3pm, 5 Live Radio)

The good news for Arsenal fans is that we’ve done the Carling Cup talk now, but the bad news is that Laurent Koscielny should recover from a hamstring injury in time to have another nice little on-field barney with Shezza (so much easier to spell).

Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas are out but, according to the BBC, remain “touch and go” for the Barcelona game, which should suit their style of play nicely.

Have we made that joke before? Sorry. Aaron Ramsey may feature on the bench, if that’s any help.

Fillet Mignolet will continue to play between the sticks for Sunderland.

What won’t happen: Wojciech Szczesny or Laurent Koscielny to ‘leave it’ when the ball bounces into the six-yard box.

What will happen: Draw? Get outta here! Yep, draw. Sorry, this blog’s getting a bit schizophrenic

Bolton v Aston Villa (3pm)

Remember when it’d be Villa challenging for Europe and Bolton battling relegation? How times change, and as the Premier League puts its dang down, flips it and reverses it, you wonder if Gerard Houllier will see out the year.

Playing a weakened team against Manchester City in the FA Cup was, in short, a bad idea. There was nothing to gain from it except staving off injuries and, with three days between fixtures, Villa’s relatively fit side should have been able to play both.

They’ll have a stronger XI out for this game (though Richard Dunne will be missing for a month – milk cartons at the ready), but it may not be enough against an impressive Bolton outfit, and an even more impressive Bolton team wearing it.

What won’t happen: Anything but a home win, even counting Ashley Young’s habit of scoring against Bolton (five in five now)

What will happen: Some makeshift defending from the Trotters as David Wheater is stretchered off with elephantism. Look, someone has to diagnose it

Sell by April 18th? But the transfer window will be closed...?

Fulham v Blackburn (3pm)

Fixture of the week this ain’t, but it is an intriguing match-up simply because it’ll be interesting to see what handshake controversy Mark Hughes has on the cards. Steve Kean won’t mind: his profile needs raising a bit. Maybe he should spit on his hand as he approaches the Welshman, and see Hughes recoil in horror.

What won’t happen: Chris Samba to return the starting XI as a striker – those days are gone, right?

What will happen: Away win? Yeah, go on then – though Dempsey scores his fifth goal in five games against Blackburn

Newcastle v Everton (3pm)

Ryan Taylor will not be playing because he’s banned. Ryan Taylor’s band will be playing. Ryan Taylor’s band is banned because he is not playing. Playing is banned because Ryan Taylor is in a band. A band is playing because Ryan Taylor is banned. Playing. Banned. Ryan. Band. Taylor. Banned. Banned. Banned.

What won’t happen: The league is so close that Everton, two places above the drop zone last week, could move into the top half with a win. They won’t, though.

What will happen: Draw, as the Merseysiders continue to chase their first St James win since the year 2000

West Ham v Stoke (3pm, Absolute Radio)

A massive game for West Ham, this, as they have a genuine chance of taking points from a tough-to-beat team. Stoke don’t travel well – just the 10 of their 34 points this season have come away from home – but they’re resilient and what the Hammers don’t do well is battle to a victory they don’t deserve.

This fixture, admirably covered by a radio station this blogger is in danger of plugging too much, but kudos to them anyway, could depend entirely on how well West Ham start - which is usually badly. Never mind.

What won’t happen: A returning Kieron Dyer to play 90 minutes, and a currently injured Robbie Keane to ever play 90 Premier League minutes every again, either in one game or accumulatively. Top tip: he’ll be back in the SPL next season

What will happen: Stoke to be boosted by Jermaine Pennant’s return, and grab a useful draw. If he doesn’t play, they’ll probably draw anyway

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

After their red rivals’ demolition of the Latics last week, it’s the turn of Mancini’s City to show what they can do against the same unfancied opposition. Prepare yourselves for a barnstorming 1-0 home win.

City will, of course, be without Kolo Toure, who has been suspended by the club after his A-sample tested positive for a specified substance.

What won’t happen: An upset, I’m afraid, upset fans

What will happen: Home win


Liverpool v Manchester United (1.30pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, TalkSPORT Radio)

Because clichés are fun (and easy), we’ll go right ahead and say games don’t come bigger than this. Sure, it may not be a head-to-head title decider as it was a few years ago, but the result will have massive connotations for both clubs.

Just pity the poor ref in the middle of it.

Whether Fergie will actually be forced to serve a touchline ban for his post-match ramblings at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday remains to be seen, but remember he has a suspended two-match  ban already hanging over his head so if he does, it could be as many as four matches in the stands. In the meantime, he's refusing to talk to 'the media' - including Manchester United's in-house television station, MUTV.

It won’t be.

"Tell the swines I'm not talking to them..."

The Transformers-sounding adductor injury has hit Liverpool hard, with Danny Agger and Fabio Aurelio both in a race (not with each other, you understand) to return in time. Raul Meireles should be fit, though, which is good news for Kop-outs – sorry, Kop-ites.

Whether the 3-5-2 wing-back system will work against a team so strong through the middle will be a key issue of a fascinating tactical battle, but with Kelly injured, Glen Johnson will at least be in his more natural position on the right. Aurelio will play at left-wing-back if fit; if not, uh...Paul Konchesky? Come back!

What won’t happen: Nemanja Vidic to feature as he’s banned, but at least he won’t have to continue his horrible record against Liverpool’s Fernando Torr... oh.

What will happen: United bounce back in style with an away win over their most hated of rivals. Expect Gary Neville to be yelling a few things from the stands.

Wolves v Spurs (4pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, 5 Live Radio)

From the league and from the Champions League places respectively, both teams look the most likely candidates for being squeezed out like...well, let’s not finish that analogy.

It’s fair to say that given their recent record against Spurs, Wolves will be disappointed not to win, and given Wolves’ general calibre, Spurs’ will feel the same way if they fail too. At least Jamie O’Hara is ineligible to score against his parent club.

He’s ineligible to play, too, by the way: it’s not like he’s permitted to wander around for 90 minutes on the proviso he doesn’t score or set anyone up. But since you ask, Tottenham’s own Jermain Defoe has been playing under this rule for six months now (heigh-o!).

What won’t happen: The Wolves win everyone seems to be predicting, but it will be two dropped points for Spurs

What will happen: A touching tribute to Dean Richards, who played for both clubs but sadly passed away last week at the appallingly young age of 36


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

Blackpool minus Charlie Adam = argh. Blackpool minus Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell = aaaaaarrrrgh. Blackpool minus Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell while playing against resurgent champions... well, you get the idea.

Chelsea may have turned a corner with that win over Manchester United, fortuitous though it was. They’re the games you need to win, against title-chasers when you’re not at your best. The Blues basically out-United United.

David Luiz looks an exciting prospect, although someone should remind him he’s a defender and that sometimes he should defend. Fernando Torres looked improved, too. Finally, some good news for the London side. A win here should help even more, especially if they can increase the gap over Spurs.

What won’t happen: Luiz scores three at each end

What will happen: Blackpool win and Ian Holloway dances naked through the streets