The Transformers-sounding, 'touch and go' Premier Preview
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 Ã¢ÂÂ ultimately failing to qualify for the Football Weekend Champions League.
Frankly, if you miss out youÃ¢ÂÂre either mad or busy.
Birmingham v West Brom (12.45pm, Sky Sports 2 & HD2, 5 Live Radio)
ItÃ¢ÂÂs the weekly Midlands pseudo-derby! And hereÃ¢ÂÂs 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 BirminghamÃ¢ÂÂs glory rather than ArsenalÃ¢ÂÂs shame will infiltrate the common psyche. To quote many a person the day after the final, Ã¢ÂÂDid you see the Arsenal game last night?Ã¢ÂÂ Sigh.
Playing West Brom isnÃ¢ÂÂt much of a comedown, though, as despite the FA Cup run, BirminghamÃ¢ÂÂs survival instinct will now be kicking in. They have two games in hand over their relegation rivals so this doesnÃ¢ÂÂt 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 Ã¢ÂÂ 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 Ã¢ÂÂt happen: West BromÃ¢ÂÂs first Premier League win at St Andrews, as the home side are boosted by returns from Hleb Ã¢ÂÂnÃ¢ÂÂ Gardner
What will happen: A stonking drawÃ¢ÂÂ¦no wait, home win [decisive as ever Ã¢ÂÂ ed]
Arsenal v Sunderland (3pm, 5 Live Radio)
The good news for Arsenal fans is that weÃ¢ÂÂve 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 Ã¢ÂÂtouch and goÃ¢ÂÂ 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 thatÃ¢ÂÂs any help.
Fillet Mignolet will continue to play between the sticks for Sunderland.
What wonÃ¢ÂÂt happen: Wojciech Szczesny or Laurent Koscielny to Ã¢ÂÂleave itÃ¢ÂÂ when the ball bounces into the six-yard box.
What will happen: Draw? Get outta here! Yep, draw. Sorry, this blogÃ¢ÂÂs getting a bit schizophrenic
Bolton v Aston Villa (3pm)
Remember when itÃ¢ÂÂd 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, VillaÃ¢ÂÂs relatively fit side should have been able to play both.
TheyÃ¢ÂÂll have a stronger XI out for this game (though Richard Dunne will be missing for a month Ã¢ÂÂ 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 wonÃ¢ÂÂt happen: Anything but a home win, even counting Ashley YoungÃ¢ÂÂs 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 ainÃ¢ÂÂt, but it is an intriguing match-up simply because itÃ¢ÂÂll be interesting to see what handshake controversy Mark Hughes has on the cards. Steve Kean wonÃ¢ÂÂt 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 wonÃ¢ÂÂt happen: Chris Samba to return the starting XI as a striker Ã¢ÂÂ those days are gone, right?
What will happen: Away win? Yeah, go on then Ã¢ÂÂ though Dempsey scores his fifth goal in five games against Blackburn
Newcastle v Everton (3pm)
Ryan Taylor will not be playing because heÃ¢ÂÂs banned. Ryan TaylorÃ¢ÂÂs band will be playing. Ryan TaylorÃ¢ÂÂs 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 wonÃ¢ÂÂt 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 wonÃ¢ÂÂt, 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 donÃ¢ÂÂt travel well Ã¢ÂÂ just the 10 of their 34 points this season have come away from home Ã¢ÂÂ but theyÃ¢ÂÂre resilient and what the Hammers donÃ¢ÂÂt do well is battle to a victory they donÃ¢ÂÂt 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 wonÃ¢ÂÂt 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: heÃ¢ÂÂll be back in the SPL next season
What will happen: Stoke to be boosted by Jermaine PennantÃ¢ÂÂs return, and grab a useful draw. If he doesnÃ¢ÂÂt play, theyÃ¢ÂÂll probably draw anyway
Manchester City v Wigan (5.30pm, ESPN & ESPN HD, TalkSPORT Radio)
After their red rivalsÃ¢ÂÂ demolition of the Latics last week, itÃ¢ÂÂs the turn of ManciniÃ¢ÂÂs 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 wonÃ¢ÂÂt happen: An upset, IÃ¢ÂÂm afraid, upset fans
What will happen: Home win
Liverpool v Manchester United (1.30pm, Sky Sports 1 & HD1, TalkSPORT Radio)
Because clichÃÂ©s are fun (and easy), weÃ¢ÂÂll go right ahead and say games donÃ¢ÂÂt 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 wonÃ¢ÂÂt 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 Ã¢ÂÂ 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 wonÃ¢ÂÂt happen: Nemanja Vidic to feature as heÃ¢ÂÂs banned, but at least he wonÃ¢ÂÂt have to continue his horrible record against LiverpoolÃ¢ÂÂs 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, letÃ¢ÂÂs not finish that analogy.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs fair to say that given their recent record against Spurs, Wolves will be disappointed not to win, and given WolvesÃ¢ÂÂ general calibre, SpursÃ¢ÂÂ will feel the same way if they fail too. At least Jamie OÃ¢ÂÂHara is ineligible to score against his parent club.
HeÃ¢ÂÂs ineligible to play, too, by the way: itÃ¢ÂÂs not like heÃ¢ÂÂs permitted to wander around for 90 minutes on the proviso he doesnÃ¢ÂÂt score or set anyone up. But since you ask, TottenhamÃ¢ÂÂs own Jermain Defoe has been playing under this rule for six months now (heigh-o!).
What wonÃ¢ÂÂt 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. TheyÃ¢ÂÂre the games you need to win, against title-chasers when youÃ¢ÂÂre not at your best. The Blues basically out-United United.
David Luiz looks an exciting prospect, although someone should remind him heÃ¢ÂÂs 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 wonÃ¢ÂÂt happen: Luiz scores three at each end
What will happen: Blackpool win and Ian Holloway dances naked through the streets