Spurs, Liverpool, Sunderland and Birmingham: Red-hot derbies and White Hart glamour

14 January 2011 08:49
It is a potentially pivotal weekend in the Barclays Premier League, when Tottenham will seek to end Manchester United's unbeaten run and three of the English game's keenest local rivalries will be renewed. Here, Sportsmail's expert team answer key questions about the season so far - and predict what lies ahead.

After the FA Cup, it's the return of a full league programme and this weekend includes some thrilling fixtures. If you had a golden ticket to one game (and could take your best friend), where would you go?

MATT LAWTON: Liverpool v Everton on Sunday, to see what will be an emotional return to Anfield for Kenny Dalglish. The atmosphere will be incredible; the pressure on Liverpool's players immense. They have to deliver in the absence of Gerrard and Carragher, or the fans will start to blame them.

Sharpshooter: Mikel Arteta scores against Liverpool in the first Mersey derby this season

DOMINIC KING: Anfield to see the Merseyside derby. Liverpool and Everton might have had difficult seasons but the atmosphere for the return of Kenny Dalglish, plus the intense rivalry between the sides, makes it the undisputed highlight of the weekend.

LAURA WILLIAMSON: Liverpool v Everton. King Kenny back in front of the Kop and badly in need of a win against - who else? - the boys from across Stanley Park. Mouthwatering.

COLIN YOUNG: I'd love to take my bestfriend Greg, an Everton fan, to see Liverpool win the Merseyside derbybut I have the golden ticket I want for the Wear-Tyne derby. Everyfootball fan should sample this great fixture and incredible atmosphere.

Emotional return: Kenny Dalglish

MATT BARLOW: For thrilling football, Spurs v Manchester United. For theatre, Liverpool v Everton. The noise and passion, the King Kenny love-in, the anticipation, the frenzied 90 minutes, the away win, the silence.

IAN LADYMAN: My best mate is an Everton fan so it's destination Anfield for me. Kenny Dalglish isn't the answer to Liverpool's problems in the long term but he will make sure his team beat Everton on Sunday. There should be goals at both ends, too.

JOHN EDWARDS: Kenny Dalglish'sreturn to Anfield. It's played two, lost two, both away, and if thoseMoyesie neighbours from across Stanley Park ruin his homecoming, willKing Kenny's crown start to slip?

NEIL MOXLEY: Birmingham v Villa. Twosets of supporters, players and clubs who don't have a great deal oftime for one another. The added bonus for the victors is that thelosers will be pushed towards the relegation trap door. Where elsewould a Brummie want to be?

How will the Barclays Premier League table finish?

Give us your top four.

MATT LAWTON1 Manchester United2 Manchester City3 Arsenal4 Chelsea

COLIN YOUNG1 Manchester City2 Manchester United3 Arsenal4 Tottenham

JOHN EDWARDS1 Manchester United2 Manchester City3 Arsenal4 Tottenham

DOMINIC KING1 Arsenal2 Manchester United3 Manchester City4 Chelsea

MATT BARLOW1 Manchester United2 Arsenal3 Manchester City4 Tottenham

NEIL MOXLEY1 Manchester United2 Chelsea3 Arsenal4 Tottenham

LAURA WILLIAMSON1 Manchester United2 Manchester City3 Tottenham4 Chelsea

IAN LADYMAN1 Manchester United2 Arsenal3 Manchester City4 Chelsea

  and your bottom three.

MATT LAWTON18 Wigan19 Wolves20 West Brom

COLIN YOUNG18 West Ham19 West Brom20 Wigan

JOHN EDWARDS18 Wolves19 West Ham20 Fulham

DOMINIC KING18 Fulham19 Wolves20 Wigan

MATT BARLOW18 Wolves19 West Brom20 Wigan

NEIL MOXLEY18 Wolves19 Wigan20 West Brom

LAURA WILLIAMSON18 West Brom19 Wigan20 West Ham

IAN LADYMAN18 West Ham19 Wolves20 Wigan

What or who has surprised you most so far this season?

MATT LAWTON: Blackpool. Superb team ethic and some really quite entertaining football under the guidance of the wonderful Ian Holloway.

DOMINIC KING: Everton's failure to be challenging for a top-four place and the worst Manchester United team in more than 15 years still remaining unbeaten.

LAURA WILLIAMSON: Sunderland's 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea were poor that day, but Steve Bruce's side were quite brilliant and they took full advantage.

COLIN YOUNG: Liverpool's sorry demise. We knew the squad Rafa left was bad but when will it end?

Characters: Blackpool boss Ian Holloway (left) and Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli

MATT BARLOW: Where to start? Blackpool's endurance? The Dalglish return? Blackburn's new owners? Frank Lampard is human and gets injured? Balotelli various? Most surprised that Fernando Torres still looks like an ordinary striker with an ordinary haircut.

IAN LADYMAN: Blackpool are the obvious success story. Nobody saw that coming. Chelsea's slump, meanwhile, has been astonishing. I tipped them for the title. But Wayne Rooney's continued struggles at Manchester United have shocked me more. It's getting serious now.

JOHN EDWARDS: Ian Holloway - the prolific one-liners may have been anticipated, but not almost as many eye-catching performances from his unfancied Blackpool team. Playing Liverpool off the park at Anfield stands out in the memory.

NEIL MOXLEY: Liverpool's alarming fall from grace. I really thought Roy Hodgson would knock them into shape. I never bought into Rafa Benitez and what he left behind proves what a poor job he did with sizeable resources.

You can have one football person, past or present, over for dinner. Who would it be?

MATT LAWTON: Sir Alf Ramsey. Never got the opportunity to meet him. Would be fascinated to see his reaction to the fact that England have now had two foreign managers. Talk tactics. And would have to ask his permission to write the entire evening up as an interview.

DOMINIC KING: Jose Mourinho. The conversation would be outstanding and Mrs King would have something to swoon over when she got lost in the finer points of the game.

LAURA WILLIAMSON: Brian Clough (right) would definitely be in my 'top one'.

COLIN YOUNG: I'd love to meet Brian Clough again and hear the stories but one dinner would not be enough time.

MATT BARLOW: Steve Bruce: Beer, pork pie, football. What's not to enjoy?

IAN LADYMAN: I would have two. George Best and Mike Summerbee. A double act to match any in the history of football.

JOHN EDWARDS: Sir Matt Busby. 'Can you start with the 1948 FA Cup final, please, Matt?' would be my sole contribution.

NEIL MOXLEY: Brian Clough. Genius. Failing that, Jose Mourinho.

What has been your personal magic moment of the season so far?

MATT LAWTON: Has to be Gareth Bale against Inter Milan. A magical performance from a super player. Nice, grounded lad too.

DOMINIC KING: There hasn't been much to get excited about on Merseyside but the day Steven Gerrard went through the gears against Bolton to inspire a Liverpool win reminded everyone he's still very much the best midfielder in the business.

LAURA WILLIAMSON: Listening to Ian Holloway, apoplectic with rage at the idea the Premier League could fine him after he made 10 changes and nearly pinched a point at Villa Park. Try telling him there's no passion in football any more.

COLIN YOUNG: I am sure I witnessed one of the greatest saves in the Premier League when Craig Gordon plucked that ball from under his crossbar against Bolton.

Exhilarating: Tottenham's Gareth Bale skips past Maicon

MATT BARLOW: The exhilarating sight of Gareth Bale tearing past Maicon again and again and again as Tottenham beat Inter Milan at White Hart Lane.

IAN LADYMAN: Gareth Bale's demolition of Inter Milan was thrilling and a tribute to young British talent. Interviewing Sam Allardyce and discovering how much his heart operation had rejuvenated him was encouraging, too. Until he was sacked a fortnight later.

JOHN EDWARDS: More an hour-and-a-half than a moment. Barcelona's 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid in November. El Gran Clasico, indeed. Spellbinding from start to finish, and all at Jose Mourinho's expense, too.

NEIL MOXLEY: Watching any of Gareth Bale's goals. In person, witnessing Spurs' second goal at Villa, scored by Rafael van der Vaart. Breathtaking speed on the counter, movement and finish.

Magical: Barcelona's David Villa, left, beats Iker Casillas in the 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid

 The Blackpool Mourinho! The showers at Bloomfield Road may be running cold but Ian Holloway's wit and unique style make him hotLiverpool forward Babel accepts FA charge over Twitter attack on ref WebbSunderland manager Steve Bruce admits 5-1 horror against North East rivals Newcastle was 'most difficult I've had to face' Dalglish vows to stop rot after fragile Liverpool are shocked by BlackpoolThe Insider: Gerard Houllier wants Joey Barton to save Aston Villa and Ajax striker Luis Suarez fancies Spurs move

 Explore more:People: Brian Clough, Ian Holloway, Steve Bruce, John Edwards, Kenny Dalglish, Sam Allardyce, Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard, Jose Mourinho, Craig Gordon, Matt Busby, George Best, Wayne Rooney, Roy Hodgson, Gareth Bale, Steven Gerrard, Maicon Places: Barcelona, Liverpool, Birmingham, United Kingdom

Source: Daily_Mail