You just can’t keep José Mourinho out of the news. Even as this weekend of Premier League football is expected to have Liverpool versus Manchester City as its feature match, up pops the Special One — or is it the Happy One, or rather the Unhappy One? — to dominate the back pages.
As salivating as the weekend’s final fixture at Anfield is, all eyes in the Sunday papers will be on Mourinho — win, lose or draw.
The latter two options do not appear to be an option as far as United fans are concerned. Having waited long enough to decipher that Mourinho’s pragmatic style of football was not for them, the fans booed United off the Old Trafford pitch at the end of a goalless draw with Valencia in the Champions League.
That might have been seen as a decent result in 2001 when Rafael Benítez was steering Valencia to the second of back-to-back runners-up finishes in the Champions League, but today’s version are fourteenth in La Liga.
The Spanish League may be the best in the world — sure to be debated in every one-eyed barroom throughout the land — but fourteenth is fourteenth!
Spats with big-money signing and now World Cup winner Paul Pogba, and the more recent social-media blooper by captain Antonio Valencia, have done little to recommend Mourinho’s man-management skills.
This could be the end of the road for him should it turn pear-shaped against a Newcastle United team whose standing in the Premier League does not fairly represent the football they have produced.
On a local note, congratulations to “Jeffrey Blingz” for winning The Royal Gazette Fantasy League’s monthly award for September. His squad, Blingz 2018/19, accrued 73 points last week to leapfrog Same Migos (D DeShield) and In Off The Post (Keith Jones), and finish the month clear by four points on 289.
North Village midfielder Jonathan Briers’s Same Dream Team retain first place overall on 489 points.
11am kick-offs unless stated
Brighton & Hove Albion v West Ham United
The form guide points to a West Ham victory at the Amex Stadium, especially after their convincing win at home to Manchester United extended the unbeaten run of Manuel Pelligrini’s men to three matches — including a goalless draw with in-form Chelsea. But Brighton enjoyed playing West Ham last season, scoring three in a season sweep against only one goal conceded. Glenn Murray to play a role in a much needed result for a Brighton side who are winless in six. Prediction: 3-1
Burnley v Huddersfield Town
A few weeks ago, this looked like a relegation six-pointer but Burnley have been on a tear, not only winning their past two but scoring with six of the last seven shots.
The signs are looking so ominous for goal-shy Huddersfield, that at this rate a third successive goalless draw with Burnley would have to be seen as progress. Prediction: 2-0.
Crystal Palace v Wolverhampton Wanderers
A team who have yet to score at home this season against one who don’t give much away. Has 0-0 written all over it. Which is probably why that should be the first result laid by punters on the betting exchange.
Wolves have taken to the Premier League like to the manner born, the style of their football easy on the eye.
So much of what Palace achieve revolves around Wilfried Zaha and you have to think, with their love of a shot, some team will be in for a pelting at Selhurst Park. Just not this week. Prediction: 0-2.
Leicester City v Everton
Both of these may have turned a corner in recent times, but it is Leicester’s recent form that is the more impressive. Jamie Vardy enjoys playing Everton, with four goals and two assists in six appearances against them, and has scored two in two. Prediction: 2-0..
Tottenham Hotspur v Cardiff City
Harry Kane and Co return to the scene where they chased around a stumpy little man for 90 minutes without ever getting anywhere near him. Cardiff City should be far more accommodating than Lionel Messi and Barcelona. They are the only Premier League side Kane has faced and not scored against, but expect the Spurs and England captain to fill his golden boots against the league’s joint worst defence. Prediction: 4-0.
Watford v Bournemouth
Watford have scored twice against Bournemouth in each of their past four meetings, although only the 2-0 result at Vitality Stadium in August 2017 resulted in all three points.
Bournemouth will never be referred to as road warriors, their last journey from the South Coast resulting in a 4-0 hammering by previously goal-shy Burnley. Prediction: 2-1.
Manchester United v Newcastle United
If ever there was a team to visit Old Trafford when the home side are in the doldrums, it is Newcastle. Their history at the Theatre of Dreams reads 26 defeats, nine draws and only a solitary win over a David Moyes-managed team in 2013.
Moyes survived another four months; Mourinho would last barely another four minutes if one of the league’s three winless teams heads back to Tyneside with anything at all. Prediction: 1-0.
Fulham v Arsenal
Fulham, the most attractive side last season in the Sky Bet Championship, are quickly discovering that they need a bit more steel to make a proper fist of the Premier League. They face an Arsenal side who have won five on the bounce after an inauspicious start under Unai Emery. Despite a rather dodgy recent away record in London derbies — one win in their past eight — expect Arsenal to keep on rolling. Prediction: 1-3.
Southampton v Chelsea
The statistics in this match-up point to nothing but an away victory. Chelsea have won the past three meetings at St Mary’s Stadium, Olivier Giroud has scored in his past four against Southampton, and Mark Hughes has lost his last six matches against Chelsea as a manager. That plus Southampton being winless in the past three, with Chelsea unbeaten for the season, suggests the St Mary’s faithful may have to wait a little longer to witness a first home win. Prediction: 0-2.
Liverpool v Manchester City
Home banker. Really. Present form has little to do with this — City just cannot buy a result from the confines of Anfield. The drought dates back to 2003, understandably before City became cash-rich.
But since the lords of Dubai began falling over themselves to make the silent neighbours noisy neighbours, it has extended to an unbelievable 17 matches — no matter how good or bad Liverpool have been.
Jürgen Klopp would want a reaction after a tepid showing in Naples on Wednesday in the Champions League — 1-0 did not do Napoli justice — but City have had an extra day’s recovery after their own European excursions.
You would think it all points in City’s favour. But no — at home and in front of the Kop, Liverpool have the wood over Pep Guardiola’s men. Prediction: 2-1.