Rafa Benítez suits up, QPR look for a first win at last, a crunch south coast clash. Oh, and a derby in Manchester
Rafael Benítez has a new Chelsea suit on order from the club's official outfitters, Dolce & Gabbana after failing to find one in the Stamford Bridge wardrobes that actually, er, fitted. Will it have arrived in time for Chelsea's visit to Sunderland? It is to be hoped so because, immediately after the final whistle, the team travel to Newcastle airport where the charter plane booked to carry them to the World Club Championship in Japan will be waiting on the tarmac. Poor Benítez; as if some disappointing results were not bad enough, he has been fretting about the suit, fearing the Dolce & Gabbana cut is designed for fit young athletes rather than slightly portly middle aged men.
Zenden has no problems looking good in Dolce & Gabbana. Indeed many Sunderland fans would rather their former midfielder was offering creative input to Martin O'Neill's struggling team rather than sitting in the Chelsea dug-out as Benítez's new assistant. The Dutchman is remembered as a fine passer, wonderful club captain and excellent professional. Indeed the question some Sunderland supporters are asking is whether O'Neill should have got in first and added the multilingual former Barcelona, Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Liverpool and Marseille winger to his staff before Benítez snapped him up? His intelligence and football knowledge aside, Zenden comes with the added advantage of being a judo black belt. With Bolo around, even Roman Abramovich might think twice about crossing Benítez.
Will Harry secure his first win as QPR manager at the third attempt when they travel to Wigan? Considering that his team – who have sensibly cancelled their Christmas Party – have not celebrated victory in the Premier League all season they are overdue three points. Roberto Martínez's side can be awkward opponents though and Martínez will have highlighted winning this game as essential if Wigan's annual struggle for survival is to, once again, prove successful.
Liverpool's Alan Harper is foremost among those leading scouts who have repeatedly watched Newcastle United's Demba Ba this season. The Senegal striker, who has a £7.5m release clause in his contract which can be activated in January, hopes to add to his haul of 10 goals for the season at Craven Cottage. His failure to agree a new contract at Newcastle suggests he could be leaving but matters are complicated by a knee condition which means Ba would almost certainly fail a medical allied to his high wage demands and additional payments demanded by agents.
Southampton v Reading looks like the perfect definition of a relegation six-pointer. Both these two, refreshingly free-scoring promoted sides could do with three points but Reading will hope to leave something in reserve for Tuesday night when they visit Sunderland for a similarly important fixture the under-pressure home manager, Martin O'Neill, is desperate to win.
Sunday sees the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium. With the race at the top currently looking an all Mancunian affair, the outcome could have a direct bearing on the title's destination. More immediately, City will want to atone for their Champions League ignominy. What price Carlos Tevez eclipsing his old friend Wayne Rooney by scoring the winner?
Might this be the last time he is seen prowling the away technical area at the Etihad on Premier League duty? With José Mourinho seemingly set to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season and Ferguson having endorsed him as his ideal successor at Old Trafford could a summer hand-over be looming? After all Sir Alex is fast approaching his 71st birthday – and Mourinho v Roberto Mancini would provide endless hours of bitchy fun in Manchester next term.
Might Aston Villa's £24m striker be on the bench for the visit of Stoke City? Could Paul Lambert shock everyone by starting him or, more likely, will Bent either watch from his private box or simply spend the afternoon out Christmas shopping?
Arsène Wenger may yet have reason to be grateful for the distracting presence of Liam Ridgewell in the West Bromwich Albion defence when Arsenal host Steve Clarke's side. Earlier this week photographs of Ridgwell appeared in tabloids showing the defender squatting over the loo in his £1.5m home surrounded by almost £1,000 in cash and using a wad of £20 notes as toilet paper. He can expect to be reminded of this tasteless and idiotic stunt by opposition fans – (not that West Bromwich supporters are overly impressed) – for months to come, starting with Arsenal's. The word regret probably does not quite do justice to what Ridgewell is about to feel and the thought of diverting potential flak from Wenger is unlikely to offer much consolation.
When Liverpool travel to West Ham on Sunday the visiting left-back, or left-winger as he sometimes is these days, will be poised for a reunion with Sam Allardyce. The West Ham manager was the wrong man for Newcastle but one of the best things he did while in charge on Tyneside was to sign José Enrique from Villarreal for £6m. After a tentative start the Spaniard excelled at St James' and, following a bit of a blip under Brendan Rodgers appears to be winning Liverpool's manager round. With a left foot the envy of many, Enrique offers proof of Allardyce's eye for a player; Rodgers must hope he will remind Big Sam of his talent by helping undo the currently high flying Hammers.