There are several games that look like they should be pretty good this week; unfortunately, none of them involve title contenders and aside from Liverpool-Newcastle no one will watch any of them. But hey watching Manchester City make Martin O'Neill look miserable should be fun too.
Friday December 30th
Liverpool vs. Newcastle United
19:00 GMT (2:45 PM ET); Anfield
Finally, Andy Carroll will have a chance to show Newcastle what they're miss-wait Liverpool paid WHAT? Oh. Oh god. Oh my god. I can't believe I missed that. Anywho, Liverpool and Newcastle are fighting it out for what will almost certainly become a Europa League spot by the time the end of the season rolls around. Newcastle started the season brilliantly but a rash of key injuries has them struggling mightily at the moment. Liverpool will be without Luis Suarez, but not for that; for the other thing. Two good-to-very-good-but-outside-of-the-elite clubs that play decent football and lean heavily upon strong defenses; the level of hype is a little silly, but it should be a good one nonetheless.
Pick: Liverpool, 2-1
Saturday December 31st
12:45 GMT (7:45 AM ET); Old Trafford
United have their problems; no real central midfield to speak of, despite spending £18 million on Ashley Young while Scott Parker and Arturo Vidal moving for the same amount combined; major injury troubles; an early exit from the Champions League; a humiliating spanking at the hands of their cross-city rivals, in front of their home fans no less. But they've still been beaten only once and they're sitting in second place, behind City only on goal difference and seven points clear of third-place Tottenham Hotspur. Meanwhile, ewwww Blackburn.
Pick: United, 4-0
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Emirates Stadium
Remember when Arsenal was an hilarious mess? Yeah, me too. *sigh* Those truly were the days. Not that I have any particular distaste for the Gunners (far from it really) I just like it when big teams are a mess. Probably because it makes me feel better about all of the pathetic travails of my daily life, but whatever. That's what sports are for, right? Vicarious living and/or schadenfreude. Oh well. Maybe some other day.
Pick: Arsenal, 3-1
Bolton Wanderers vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Reebok Stadium
This is Philip Kaufman's favorite fixture.
He is the only one.
Pick: Bolton, 3-2
Chelsea vs. Aston Villa
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Stamford Bridge
As punishment for boring the entire nation to tears this past Monday night, Aston Villa must pay this game. But fear not Villans; surely Alex McLeish can win a tactical battle against oh god send help.
Pick: Chelsea, 3-0
Norwich City vs. Fulham
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Carrow Road
Clint Dempsey and Grant Holt on the same pitch at the same time. This should be fun. (Unless they aren't, which is possible! INTRIGUE!)
Pick: Draw, 1-1
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Britannia Stadium
Stoke will probably win this game by several goals. The match reports by at least a few journos will make thinly veiled references to the triumph of real old-fashioned Men's Football over all of that foofy short passing business. In reality Stoke will win because Tony Pulis has assembled the football equivalent of an Oldsmobile 442 (synergy!), a team designed to pulverize their opponents into a sobbing, broken mass of humanity while grabbing a goal or two off the head of some giant along the way. Roberto Martinez meanwhile has to sell all of the amazing players he digs up from nowhere because only six people show up to see Wigan and they've got to keep the lights on somehow.
Pick: Stoke, 3-1
Swansea City v. Tottenham Hotspur
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Liberty Stadium
Swansea are an interesting team; their ultimate goal is the same as many other newly-promoted sides, to win points by keeping the opposition from scoring with goals a secondary pursuit, but they do it in a completely different manner than most of their colleagues, focusing on short passing, possession and patient build up rather than bunkering, and hoofing. They've had some success as well, and for the time being look like a decent bet to stay up. Their odds won't be helped here however, as Tottenham are the most underrated team in England at the moment and are just absolutely mental to watch. There isn't a more entertaining team in the Premier League and all of their strengths are the opposite number of Swansea's weaknesses. This has the potential to be brutal.
Pick: Spurs, 3-0
Sunday January 1st
12:30 GMT (7:30 AM ET); The Hawthorns
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Here's some crap. Go back to bed.
Pick: Draw, 1-1
Sunderland vs. Manchester City
15:00 GMT (10:00 AM ET); Stadium of Light
Sunderland is better under Martin O'Neill, but they're still kind of a mess. If they get Asamoah Gyan back they could be drastically better, but that isn't happening in time for this one. West Brom showed earlier in the week that City can be held, but is that really something you want to bet on? Didn't think so.
Pick: City, 3-1