Premier League 2012, Week 9 Preview and Fixtures: Merseyside Derby, Chelsea-United Makes Sunday Treat

Mike Hewitt

It's Merseyside Derby time and there are plenty of fun and interesting matches in the middle of the table, but let's all talk about handshakes again!

Aston Villa vs. Norwich City

Villa Park; Saturday, 12:45 GMT/7:45 AM ET

Once upon a time (for about a week, perhaps) this looked like it had the potential to be quite an intriguing matchup; Norwich powered their way through the ranks with lightning speed under Paul Lambert's tutelage, only for the once proud but quickly fading Aston Villa to come and snatch him away. Now, under the guidance of the next-big-thing in English football management, Norwich would look for the chance to show that there was more to their success than the man that used to prowl the sidelines.

Well, whoops. Both of these teams are awful and uninspiring, and though there's the chance for this game to be entertaining in some kind of hilarious way, there's little chance if it actually being any good. Narratives are almost always terrible.

Pick: Villa, 1-0

Arsenal vs. Queens Park Rangers

Emirates Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

QPR is bad and Arsenal is good, but from the standpoint of an amusing narrative (forget that last bit from the preview above) QPR seems almost destined to win. They probably won't, because of the whole thing where they're bad and Arsenal is good, but it would be pretty funny.

Arsenal, 3-1

Reading vs. Fulham

Madejski Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

Reading is still looking for their first win, but they've been pretty decent (in a relative sense) at home, while Fulham has had their share of struggles on the road. None of that means that a Reading win is especially likely, but if they manage to pull it off I'll be the first to remind you that I alluded to the possibility, because analysis.

Pick: Fulham, 2-1

Stoke City vs. Sunderland

Britannia Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

I have nothing to say about this game. No one does. If anyone claims otherwise, they're lying through their teeth.

Pick: Draw, 0-0

Wigan Athletic vs. West Ham United

DW Stadium; Saturday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

The fact that Sam Allardyce is a really good manager given his charge is a really uncomfortable truth that we're all going to have to face sooner rather than later. He may very well be better at it than Roberto Martinez. I mean, if I were a well-heeled owner looking to instill a new culture of attractive football, I'd pick Martinez every time. But if I were in charge of your typical, desperate yo-yo club? It's Big Sam all the way. It's unpleasant, but credit where it's due.

Pick: West Ham, 3-2

Manchester City vs. Swansea City

Etihad Stadium; Saturday, 17:30 GMT/12:30 PM ET

MANCINI WATCH 2012

Pick: City, 2-1

Everton vs. Liverpool

Goodison Park; Sunday. 13:30 GMT/8:30 AM ET

So, we're all in agreement that Everton is just better than Liverpool and ought to be the favorite here, right? So when Everton wins we shouldn't all pretend like this is some big underdog surprise thing? Cool, glad we're all in agreement.

Pick: Everton, 2-1

Newcastle United vs. West Bromwich Albion

St. James' Park; Sunday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

If you can't bear to watch Chelsea-United, this is your "not-really-but-you-want-to-sound-well-informed" game of the week. Newcastle is better than they've been so far, West Brom isn't quite is good as they've been so far, but they're both good, exciting teams that match up in a way that would suggest a pretty fun match.

Newcastle, 2-1

Southampton vs. Tottenham Hotspur

St. Mary's Stadium; Sunday, 15:00 GMT/10:00 AM ET

If you could combine Southampton's attack with Reading's defense, you'd probably have a pretty decent team. You can't, though, so Southampton is probably pretty well boned.

Pick: Spurs, 4-1

Chelsea vs. Manchester United

Stamford Bridge; Sunday, 16:00 GMT/11:00 AM ET

Well for once, he final game of the weekend is the game that's the one that objectively looks to be the one most promising in terms of entertainment value. United has some pretty major issues for a team of their caliber but they're still pretty enjoyable to watch from a neutral perspective, while Chelsea is basically playing like you'd expect Manchester City to play with a competent manager. (That's a compliment to both Chelsea and Roberto Di Matteo, by the way.) It's early, but this seems like it has the potential to be a bit of a bellweather game. Or it could be meaningless. Sports!

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