After all the recent excitements and distractions of Champions League football and the World Cup 2006 draw, it’s back to the no less heady bread and butter of domestic Premiership football.
For the second week in a row, Liverpool get the football festival started with the lunchtime visit of Middlesbrough and I predict a routine home win.
Saturday’s five afternoon games offer a mixed bag:-
Birmingham City will be looking to return to some kind of form for the visit of Fulham and I believe they will, to record a rare victory; Blackburn Rovers versus West Ham United should be a great match but I see it ending even; Bolton Wanderers should prove too strong for an improving though still weak Aston Villa; Charlton Athletic have been stumbling lately and if Sunderland have any hope of escaping the yawning pit of relegation, they’ve got to beat teams like this but I can’t see it, a draw at best but probably another home win.
Match of the day is easily Chelsea v Wigan Athletic and, although most people outside West London would welcome it, I can’t see the Northern lads going home with any points. Last but not least, West Bromwich Albion will put up a very strong fight against visitors Manchester City but ultimately be overwhelmed.
The late game is another potential thriller as Newcastle United, the hard men of England lead by Shearer and Owen, take on the continental charmers of Arsenal. I foresee fast paced attacking football, a ferocious midfield battle and a narrow victory for the Geordies.
The Sunday match is bound to produce fireworks as Manchester United host near neighbours Everton. Let’s hope United’s Wayne Rooney and Everton’s Phil Neville both remember they don’t play for their former clubs anymore. This is probably going to be the best game of the weekend and I expect the Red Devils to put recent disasters behind them and run out clear winners.
The Monday night match sees the resurgent Tottenham Hotspur host Portsmouth, who will be hoping the return of manager Harry Redknapp will bring a turn of fortune. It may well do that, but not this weekend as Spurs keep their drive for Europe rolling.
This Premiership Preview is cross-posted on my football blog About Manchester United.