LONDON - Rafa Benítez suits up, QPR look for a first win at last, a crunch south coast clash. Oh, and a derby in Manchester
Rafa fretting about his suit
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.
Sunderland may rue failing to snap up Zenden
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.
Redknapp and QPR target win at Wigan
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.
Premier League scouts heading to Fulham on Monday night
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.
Bitten fingernails – and goals – on the south coast
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.
Tension between neighbours
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?