Chelsea v West Ham United

Q: What connects a missing bass player, Father Dougal Maguire and Neil "Colin" Warnock? A: They all appear in Preview Percy's look at this weekend's visit to Chelsea. If you look hard enough there may be some stuff in there about Chelsea as well. But we wouldn't bank on it....

Next we face Chelsea away. For some odd reason kick-off is at 4:30pm. Usual stuff going on on trains into Liverpool Street if you're not making the journey on one of the boats that will be doing the trip. Tubes in and around the area are ok though. Well as ok as they get I suppose. Check before you leave. As ever.

Before I get on with the usual stuff one ought to pay one's respects with regards to the untimely demise of the late Ray Wilkins who passed away during the week. It seems that the chap was pretty much universally liked in the world of football though it was for one of his unguarded moments for which he will be remembered in these parts as an effects mic picked up his instruction to "give us the ****ing ball" barked at an unfortunate ball boy whilst on international duty. Tellingly it was a tale that made him smile as much as we all did whenever it was raised with him in conversation. No doubt the chap will be honoured in some manner or other at the match on Sunday. Have some respect if you're going.

So there they are in 5th spot with 56 points from the 31 played so far. That's 8 points behind Spurs to whom they went down 3-1 at home last weekend. That defeat means that they will almost certainly be vying with Arsenal for the coveted 5th spot for Thursday Night League qualification. They could, of course, also qualify for the same competition (otherwise known as "the having to play a lot of games on a Sunday League") through the FA Cup, where they have been drawn against Southampton in the semi-finals. Or "given a bye to the final" as it is otherwise known. As usual there are probably other permutations based on the league position of whoever wins the Cup but since the work-experience kid of as yet to be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises is using his or her laptop to keep track on Chelsea's loan stock we won't have enough computer memory to go through the possibilities for a few weeks.

They are, for the time being, managed by Antonio Conte who is in the odd position of having a year left on his contract but being less likely to be in position in 2 month's time than an opponent with only two months left on his contract. The spoils of the Aluminium Wars mean that they can throw money around during the window if they feel like it. Thus it was that they spent a combined total of ?50m in January in an attempt to boost their so-called Champions League chances. As things stand it seems that the money has not been particularly well-spent.

?15m of that wedge went on Ross Barkley. Apparently. Since his arrival he's made just the three appearances, that tally being comprised of one each in the League, Cup and League Cup. His transfer prompted the mayor of Liverpool to whine to the police about suspected fraud. Plod looked at it for all of 5 minutes before deciding that they had better things to do, though it appears that arresting the mayor for wasting police time wasn't among them. Lovers of irony will, of course, be feasting on the concept of someone from Liverpool complaining about possible transfer fraud.

?17m give or take was enough to prise Emerson out of Roma. The midfielder is actually Brazilian by birth but, having got some Italian in the family he acquired Italian citizenship last year and is now on the fringes of selection for the Azzuri. So he has got the summer off then. The best thing about the player has got to be his name which the work experience kid of as yet to be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises assures me is Emerson Palmeri Dos Santos. You can't help but feeling that his parents ought to have thrown in a "Lago" in between the Emerson and the Palmeri just to complete the trio.

Olivier Giroud was the third arrival of the January window having been part of the "Will he wont he" conversations that dominated both players and manager at the library. He ha netted just the once in 9 league and cup matches since his arrival. Another test for our "sequence-buster" reputation then.

On the injury front there may be a return for Thibaut Courtois between the posts. He's been out for a while with a hamstring problem. If he's still not quite there Wally Caballero will continue in his stead. An extra test then in the unlikely event that the ref is brave enough to award us a penalty against a team owned by a Russian who is on Putin's favoured list.

They will be missing Sideshow Bob aka David Luiz. There were rumblings of a contretemps between Luiz and Conte at the turn of the year and it looked as if he might be on his way. However, he stayed put only to damage his ankle ligaments so we will never know if he would have been picked or not.

Elsewhere in the wild and whacky world of Association Football it was noted that supporters of Liverpool - in an apparently organised event - smashed up the Manchester City coach in the lead up to the so-called Champions League match the other night. Or, as the national press would have you believe "created a great atmosphere". The forthcoming fine from UEFA will be the fourth in two years that this odious club will have received for the actions of its supporters.

Maybe if the journos in our national press could stop crawling up their backsides for a minute and start reporting things as they are on Merseyside it might help matters somewhat. In the meantime, if I were one of those people described as a hooligan in the aftermath of the similar incident that occurred on the last night of the Boleyn a couple of years back I would seriously think of suing for libel on the grounds that I had just been creating a great atmosphere by lobbing a bottle at the Man Utd team.

Incidentally thanks to all who forwarded the "I haven't seen a scouser getting that excited over one leg since McCartney met Heather Mills" text over the last few days. Amusing though it is you can stop sending it now thanks.

And we had more Irony on Friday night as Neil Warnock accused Wolves manager Nuno Espirito of a lack of class after their match. Yes I did get that the right way round!

Meanwhile Accrington Stanley have been warned about their owner's habit of treating his players to a McDonalds when they win. Rumours that Lampard Junior might come out of retirement are, of course, scurrilous in the extreme.

And so (and for a change not reluctantly) we move to us. Now, yes, Southampton showed all the gumption of Donald Trump trying to tie his own shoelaces in presenting us with one of the worst visiting performances for a long time and, yes, I've seen more backbone in an earthworm but to focus on the shortcomings of our opponents for once does the team a real disservice.

I said, nay hoped, last week that the protests might act as a kick up the posterior of the team. Whether that was the case only the players will know but, whatever the reason they were most definitely up for it right from the start. Noticeably so. Sharp to the tackle and harrying at every point it was a total contrast to the fare we had been served up in recent weeks, much, no doubt to the relief of them in power who, as a result, didn't have to run the gauntlet of supporters "creating a great atmosphere" as the supporters were busy creating a great atmosphere.

Minor gripes? Well Antonio's hamstring was a bit of a downer and the fact that we declared at half time rather than really going for broke was also a tad disappointing from a goal difference point of view (though there is an element of churl in that comment given how good we were in the first half). But overall it was much, much better. Fernandes did well in replacing Antonio and that was young Rice's best performance in the shirt - in a week that followed his full Irish debut.

So let's have a look at the injury list then:

1) Andy Carroll (foot). Still looking at Arsenal away for his potential return.

2)James Collins (hamstring). Improved but rated 50-50 for this one.

3) Manual Lanzini (knee). Rated 50-50 but that's what they said last week.

4) Javier Hernandez (ill) Much better now and will be available for selection.

5) Michael Antonio (hamstring). Looks like he is out for the season. No wonder he was in tears on Saturday.

6)Sam Byram Out for the season.

7) Winston Reid Out for the season.

8) Pedro Obiang Out for the season.

So it's time for a prediction then. Well they will be on a bit of a downer having seen their chance of qualifying for the so-called Champions League go up the swannee at home to Spurs last weekend. So it's probably not a bad time to be playing them. However, this is another ground where the home side traditionally gets a helping hand from the officials. There's also the fact that we rarely string together two decent performances in a row at present.

The team is capable of proving me wrong so I will err on the side of pessimism in the hope that they will do just that. So the ?2.50 I was going to put towards a dictionary to give to Warnock so he can look up the word "class" will this week be wagered at Winstones The Turf Accountants on a 2-1 home win.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At Their Place: Lost 2-1 (Premier League August 2016)

A Hazard penalty gave them the lead early on. Collins's equaliser looked to have gained an unlikely point with 13 minutes to play only for Costa - who shouldn't have been on the pitch following a string of red and yellow card offences when already on a yellow - to net late on. Ref Taylor's inaction against the since-departed Costa went unpunished whilst PGMOL wonder why none of their membership will be in Russia this year.

Referee: Kevin Friend

Ironically-named official who wanders around with all the air of Father Dougal Maguire without quite ever having the same sense of reliability.

Danger Man: Edin Hazard

The combination of skill and unsteadiness often proves to be our downfall.

Percy's Poser:

Last time out we asked why people were likely to have more cause for complaint and refund than usual against the local bus company in Southampton. Congratulations to Mrs Annabel Above-Bar who was first out of the digital hat with the following response: "As if waiting an age for a bus that looks and sounds like it was made in the 1970's wasn't bad enough, some passengers found themselves being "serenaded" by someone called Craig David whose tuneless whimperings were briefly popular in the hit parade on the wireless a few years ago. David it seems has a new wax cylinder or somesuch to promote so he thought it a good idea to board an omnibus and strum his guitar at the occupants, who, in true bus driver stylie, were refused the opportunity to escape because the bus wasn't parked up at a proper stop. It is thought that the resulting compensation claims are likely to bankrupt the bus company. Well done Annabel!

For this week we give you the following list of clubs: Partizan, Woking, Vitesse. Swansea, Huddersfield, Groeningen, Rostov, Forest Green, Hull, Crystal Palace, PSV Eindhoven, Barnsley, Charlton Stoke, Chelsea, Chippenham Town, Birmingham City and Stevenage.

And our question is simply: Which is the odd one out? Answer next week!

Good luck everyone!

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