Remember Tévez? It’s payback time
To borrow a turn of phrase from the legendary Bermuda radio personality Lee Harvey, “And we're back!”
After a brief hiatus to recover from the dizzying mess that was the holiday football programme in the English Premier League, the pieces have fallen into place pretty much how we left them, with Liverpool in a race of their own and now in a commanding 13-point lead with a game in hand.
A pity the same couldn't be said for the RG Fantasy League.
We left Zak Leamey (Redmen FC) and Liam Nash (Natus Deficere) tussling for the December lead after gameweek 17 but the poor lads were swallowed up and sunk without a trace in the tsunami of football that ushered in the new year.
All of which left a dodgy Manchester United fan at the top of the heap.
Managed by the rather obvious name of #ManUAllDay Harrison, Bolts concluded the month with 417 points and were well clear of TricksAllstars, who are managed by Dwayne Symonds and amassed 400.
Bangers & Smash (Ben Wilshaw) and Bermuda Ryangles (Ryan Miller) were next with 396 and 393 points respectively.
It took some digging to salvage Zak and Liam, the former having dropped to 39th place while the latter was 88th.
That's five months now in the books, and out of the four previous monthly winners, only Jaylen Martin (November) and Jeffrey Abbott (August) have claimed their prizes.
So, with Norwich City owner Delia Smith in mind, we say to Charles Talbot (September) and Aprille Gibbons (October): “Where are you? Where are you? Let's be ‘avin' you! Come on!”
Sheffield United v West Ham United
The needle in this fixture dates all the way back to the transfers of Carlos Tévez and Javier Mascherano in 2006 that were so integral to West Ham avoiding the drop and Sheffield United, then under the rambunctious Neil Warnock, going down. The Blades have lost their unbeaten run away from home over the holiday period, but get a pass in that their opponents were none other than Liverpool and Manchester City. The Hammers have returned to David Moyes after ditching Manuel Pellegrini and enjoyed the bounce factor with a thumping defeat of Bournemouth. The bounce is over.
Crystal Palace v Arsenal
Also enjoying the bounce factor were Arsenal, who beat Manchester United 2-0 last time out under new manager Mikel Arteta. Surrendering a two-goal lead at home to Palace contributed largely to getting Unai Emery the heave-ho. They are likely not to be as careless again.
Chelsea v Burnley
Frank Lampard's side should cement their place in the top four by breaking a two-match winless run at home against opponents who are struggling for form and fitness.
Everton v Brighton & Hove Albion
Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which Everton you're going to get. Will it be the side who gave Chelsea a good going-over under the caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson or the full-strength outfit who couldn't hit the side of a barn door and capitulated embarrassingly in the FA Cup against Liverpool's kids as new manager Carlo Ancelotti looked on helpelssly?
Leicester City v Southampton
With faux-defiant cries on the South Coast of “Nine-nil, you only beat us nine-nil ...” now but a distant memory, Leicester have got to get back to the business of treating Southampton like a proper Premier League outfit. It took that pasting at home to remind the Saints that they had some defensive issues. And they have righted them, with only 13 conceded in their past 11. Ayoze Pérez, though, hopes at least some history can repeat itself so he can be in line for a third straight hat-trick against this opposition.
Manchester United v Norwich City
Despite United's inconsistencies, it is difficult to see the free-falling Canaries, who are winless in eight, getting anything out of this fixture. United striker Marcus Rashford should need no further motivation to author his best season for combined goals and assists in the Premier League.
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Newcastle United
Wolves have an unconvincing home record against Newcastle but have a good chance to put that right, for all that defeat away to Watford would have sapped morale. But it's the chance to break into the top five against a side that has lost three on the bounce that should be suitable motivation.
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool
Match of the weekend. Can Spurs yank even a spoke out of the steam train that is Liverpool? They will be without captain Harry Kane, but they have been known to perform without their big gun before — see 2018-19 Champions League knockout stage — and have run Jürgen Klopp's side close in each of the past three league meetings despite losing each by the odd goal in three. But Liverpool just find a way these days, don't they?
Bournemouth v Watford
There should be a relegation six-pointer from now until the end of the season. For this one, Watford are trending up and Bournemouth trending down. How long will it be before Eddie Howe has a hitherto super-loyal boardroom breathing down his back?
Aston Villa v Manchester City
When was the last time Pep Guardiola entered a league fixture 17 points out of first place? That is highly likely if Liverpool can do a number on Spurs at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Villa have been sucked into the relegation fight and will be hoping City's historic January road woes are manifested.