Simon Bird's Premier League previews and predictions (Week 27)
Tottenham v Manchester United (Sun 4.10pm)
Sir Alex Ferguson should have a few words about the pitfalls of your likely departure from a job being made public.
A few years back when Ferguson told the world he was going to retire, a season in advance of his departure, Manchester United dipped from being their usual ruthless selves.
Now that the world expects Harry Redknapp to leave Spurs in the summer to boss England, does that mean we can expect a dip at White Hart Lane?
The concern is simple. Manager is departing, players distracted, old certainties and focuses are lost. Players' thoughts go beyond the next game and to the summer, with all the uncertainties that may entail.
It might not be that simple of course. Spurs beat Newcastle 5-0 (the high watermark of the Redknapp regime in terms of results, position and mood?) after Fabio Capello resigned and 'Arry became flavour of the month.
But the longer it goes on the England-Redknapp saga certainly could damage Spurs' pursuit of third spot.
The fretting has started because of last weekend’s heavy defeat to Arsenal. That may be because of Arsenal’s sudden brilliance. That defeat makes not losing to United crucial to muffle more alarm bells.
Liverpool v Arsenal (Sat 12.45pm)
Liverpool did their best not to win the Carling Cup last weekend, but somehow still managed to lodge it in the trophy cabinet.
Kenny Dalglish’s mantra of it being the first of a new era looks optimistic, but with the FA Cup still a target, and a top five place (perhaps even top four) possible, the next 10 weeks could indeed relight Anfield.
If they want to get to the top four, beating Arsenal is a must. But will they have the energy after two hours of play last weekend, midweek internationals and Steven Gerrard hobbling with a tight hamstring?
Meanwhile Arsenal have found their scoring boots.
Newcastle v Sunderland (Sun, noon)
I am always uneasy about rival fans claiming their local derby is bigger than the rest. But what is for sure is that the Tyne-Wear affair will send the decibel level soaring at St James’Park.
I call it that but there are rumours on Wearside that Sunderland fans will be turning up with a Sports Direct carrier bag to hold up at kick off to remind the Geordies what Mike Ashley controversially wants their stadium to be called.
Whether they pull that one off, or not, it all adds to the derby build-up.
Football-wise, it is sixth verus ninth. Both sides looked frail last weekend. It is a case of which club can hold their nerve, play their usual game, and have the bottle for the occasion.
I have a sneaky feeling Newcastle have had it so good in recent derbies that it can’t last. But I also wonder where Sunderland’s goals will come from playing a tight formation.
For the sake of diplomacy...
West Brom v Chelsea (Sat 3pm)
Andre Villas Boas remains in his job. The old guard were restored for last week’s league game, and Frank Lampard was greeted like a returning hero by the Stamford Bridge crowd.
How must that have felt for the young manager who is easing him out, but finding you can’t do without such class and goalscoring ability from midfield?
Lampard may not be everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to England, but you can’t doubt the way he makes Chelsea tick.
Villas Boas dare not drop him for this one, surely?
Manchester City V Bolton (Sat 3pm)
Give it a couple of weeks and I reckon City will be well on the way to clinching the title. The warm weather has returned this week, so expect Sergio Aguero’s goal tally to accelerate.
QPR v Everton (Sat 3pm)
When will QPR start making a fight of it? The prize for survival will be rich. More money for new players from the owner, building a squad, establishing themselves. Mark Hughes was hired for his experience and wish for a big challenge and to set down long-term roots.
It is about time his team started delivering.
Stoke v Norwich (Sat 3pm)
Norwich have one of the stars of the season in their ranks. Grant Holt. The 30-year old is the joint second-highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League with 10 goals this season. And this week he was forced to play down his England chances!
Any striker who celebrates a goal by revealing a slightly wobbly waistline is fine by me. As Mick McCarthy once said: “It’s not the size that counts, it’s what you’ve got to knock it in with.”
He meant football, I think.
Blackburn v Aston Villa (Sat 3pm)
Poor Darren Bent. Huge sympathy to the striker who is out for the season, and the Euros, after damaging his ankle.
Villa will feel the loss. Bent added an extra dimension for defences to worry about.
Wigan v Swansea (Sat 3pm)
The benchmark for relegation is said to be 40 points, so the likes of Wigan had better hurry up.
More likely this season clubs will survive if they reach 34-35 points. Perhaps fewer than that.
It will certainly be an exciting scrap between the bottom five. Wigan may be favourites to drop but this could be a good weekend for them.
Fulham v Wolves (Sun 2.05pm)
What a spirited fightback at Newcastle last weekend from Wolves. More of the same required in London.
The strange thing about relegation-threatened clubs is that sometimes you see elements that give hope. But they too often flicker out because the strength of character of belief is not there.
Wolves have to use the draw at Newcastle as a foundation.