Premier League preview: Chelsea v. Liverpool; thieves in the temple…

It is of course a coincidence that during the week of the Liverpool game, my thoughts have turned to theft and skulduggery. Have you noticed how much pilfering has been going on of late?

From the grand level of pinching whereby an insouciant Frenchman seems to have ‘lost’ his employers a few billion Euros, to a spot of pastry theft in the European City of Culture, someone, somewhere has been on the take. In fact, I’ve had your wristwatch while you’ve been reading this.

But the best 21st century thefts are always the ones which are spun as progress. News emerged yesterday that all 20 Premier League clubs had gathered round their communal trough and pondered how to get their hands on some more cash.

Well, you have to fund your star player’s next hyper-expensive sports car, tasteful 48 bedroom dwelling and pay-off for the old slapper he shagged up the arse while off his noggin in a nightclub toilet somehow, don’t you?

Apparently, the few million Brits whose hard-earned cash is dwindling faster than the number of people with any principles in the beautiful game simply aren’t sufficient to keep pace with such strenuous financial demands.

That includes those of you that supported your team and the national game during the years when the mention of English football teams travelling abroad was either banned completely or viewed more as a threat than a business opportunity. Thanks for your support.

So the proposal (still in its infancy, we are assured) is that they play some games in such locations as China, the Middle East and the good old US of A. Sadly, I’ve looked at my Travelcard and it appears that I can’t get to the Shanghai Stadium or Wrigley Field on my Zone 1-6 ticket.

But of course, we now have the marvellous option of consumer choice to soften the blow – should we spend our hard-earned income on a season ticket, Sky with the sports package, Setanta or just the occasional £14.95 to view Chelsea v. Arsenal kick off at 2am in Peking?

Similar to the NHS Patient’s Charter whereby one can choose which hospital you want to contract C.difficile in, but without the added entertainment of a bed bath at half time.

Several Premiership figures, including idiot in chief Richard Scudamore and porn king David Gold have made the inevitable noises about it being ‘the right time’ for the scheme which is a ‘logical progression’, presumably oblivious to a few hundred thousand dissenting voices. I do so love being told its raining whilst someone is pissing down my back.

Unfortunately, it seems that the growing sound of a few hundred million Chinese eager to consume Premiership product is clearly loud enough to drown us out.

We would hope that this frankly obscene suggestion by the bean counters would attract the attention of Sepp Blatter, so often a critic of the evils of big money and its polluting effect on the beautiful game, to make a suggestion that might focus the minds of those intent on franchising the national sport out to the highest bidders.

Would it not be a good idea for global football’s most powerful man to insist that the richest league on earth donate a large portion of the receipts from the Manchester United v. Liverpool clash in Dubai to the local football association to aid such luxuries as development, decent facilities, training and funding for stadia refurbishment and building? How about compensating the local clubs whose attendances will inevitably suffer when the Premiership Globetrotters roll into town?

An event about as likely as spending this coming Sunday afternoon at the Bridge and not hearing words ‘history’, ‘five times’ or ‘Istanbul’, I’d imagine.

Which brings us nicely on to Sunday’s opponents, who have also suffered at the hands of thieves this week as previously mentioned.

News of the theft of Jamie Carragher’s 30th birthday cake didn’t come as a huge shock, it has to be said. But aside of the obvious regional stereotypes, it might be an idea to ignore the usual suspects and employ a spot of Cracker style psychological profiling in order to catch the culprit.

We’re clearly looking for someone with a huge appetite for cake. Someone who is a bit overweight, possibly? Could be comfort eating to mask disappointment or stress? Trying to hide any tell-tale signs of weight gain (as a friend of mine remarked, men in their forties only indulge in odd goatee beard type experiments to cover up an extra chin or two)?

So has anyone actually checked Rafa’s office for tell-tale chunks of marzipan? That’s all I’m saying.

After such sorry tales, a small beam of light appeared in the form of Fabio Capello, a man who clearly retains a few old-fashioned values and principles. The England boss apparently isn’t keen on losing football matches, bad manners, lateness, WAGs or boozing. Does he view the England job as aversion therapy?

But welcome to England Fabio – if you haven’t been hounded out of the job by the xenophobes in two years, enjoy the flight to Peking to watch half of your squad knacker themselves out before the next tournament you’ll be slated for exiting at the quarter-final stage.

Team news for Sunday is, as ever, on the BBC website if you want chapter and verse, but as far as we’re concerned Mikel should be back, Lampard could appear at some point while Drogba, Kalou and Essien are presumably still in Africa licking their collective wounds and hoping to restore some pride by clinching third place in the Africa Cup of Nations. Shevchenko is still an expensive, malingering pillock who needs a 5-wood shoving firmly up his fairway.

For the visitors, who last scored at Stamford Bridge about five years ago, Torres is out with hamstring trouble joining Agger, Voronin, Arbeloa and Aurelio in a fairly crowded treatment room. Alonso is suspended while the Cake Thief is hoping that someone remembers to take Mascherano out of the overhead locker when his flight from Los Angeles lands sometime today.

Prediction: Rafa will be first to the post match buffet, but he’ll be disappointed and comfort eating again.