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By Jonathan Stevenson
1835: That, my friends, is that. A day which started in the morning
with football in mourning after the sad passing of the legendary Nat Lofthouse at 85
ends with Manchester United top of the Premier League and only 17 games away from ending the season undefeated. Watch the team that may come to be known as the IncRedDevils at 2255 GMT on Match of the Day 2 on BBC One and online, and join
for some FA Cup replays on Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm off for a while now, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day...
From ElliotDX_Sims on Twitter:
"My number one wish is that Blackpool are the first team to beat United. What a statement that'll be, alongside staying up!"
From Tom, Leeds, on text: "There's a fine line between United and Spurs these days, but United have the edge because they play without fear against any opponent. I think Spurs were a little too concerned about what United could do to them rather than what they could do to United."
Spurs boss Harry Redknapp: "Both teams defended well, both sets of central defenders did their jobs and kept the strikers quiet. I thought we were marginally the better team and if anyone was going to score it would've been us. We gave it everything and it was an interesting game without being a classic."
Tottenham captain Michael Dawson: "When they went down to 10 men we thought we could win the game but they defended well. We played well too but we are disappointed not to win it. When you are a defender you always like clean sheets. Credit to their defence as well, they were backs to wall when they went down to 10 men."
Man United boss Sir Alex Ferguson: "It was a tough game, but they didn't create many chances against us and we should take credit for that. We were a bit careless with the ball, but it's a good point and we can't complain. Our defenders were particularly good. I don't need to discuss the red card, you can see for yourself what happened."
1821: Wow, coding disaster for Saj Chowdhury's entry, below. Thankfully the match report is much better.
Tottenham 0-0 Manchester United Phil McNulty reports:
"Spurs and Manchester United not quite living up to the billing at White Hart Lane. Manchester United will be satisfied with the draw but it is unlikely Harry Redknapp will be desperately disappointed either."
Liverpool 2-2 Everton Marc Vesty reports: "Still no win for Kenny Dalglish but a point apiece from a hard-fought Merseyside derby was a fair result. The relegation zone is still too close for comfort for both sides, though."
Sunderland 1-1 Newcastle Saj Chowdhury reports:
"Disappointing day for the north-east rivals. Newcastle will rue not having been able to hang on, while Sunderland played poorly and will think themselves lucky to have taken away a point."
Birmingham 1-1 Aston Villa Phil Dawkes reports: "A point apiece does little to help either side in their quest to pull away from the bottom of the table, but is a fair reflection of an entertaining second-city derby that both teams created enough chances throughout to win."
1815: Let's hear from our team of match reporters, then...
1810: If you fancy venting your spleen on BBC Radio 5 live, 606 with Alan Green has just opened for business. "Could West Ham treat Avram Grant any worse?" asks the host. I'm going to say no. You?
From Phil, Chelmsford, on text: "As a Spurs fan, this is the first time in 10 years I'm disappointed with the result against Man Utd. It was Tottenham's game to win."
Graham Taylor on BBC Radio Five Live: "The position that Spurs are in at the moment, I think it might have been as well for them to throw the lot at Manchester United. But perhaps they did that too early, and when they were against 10 men were even more worried about being caught by a quick counter-attack. But I enjoyed that game because these two teams both try to attack when they get the ball and you don't always see that in the Premier League."
1803: Full-time Tottenham 0-0 Manchester United Manchester United return to the summit of the Premier League and they remain unbeaten in the division after 21 games. Spurs might wonder what would have happened had they given it a real go.
1801: Peter Crouch commits the cardinal sin of being offside and with two minutes left Man United are holding on for a point at Tottenham. Now Rio Ferdinand is limping as well as Nemanja Vidic.
1759: Another ball pumped into the United box is headed over by William Gallas, but again there was some serious pressure being exerted by the wonderful Nemanja Vidic. Into four minutes of stoppage time at White Hart Lane now, still 0-0.
1758: Brilliant tracking back from Javier Hernandez, going toe-to-toe with Aaron Lennon as the winger burst into the United box. A Spurs win a corner, but the visitors have defended magnificently and get it clear once more.
1756: There's some panic inside the United box, but after a flick on by William Gallas, Edwin van der Sar's half-punch does the job and now Nemanja Vidic is getting so aid from a team-mate for cramp.
Graham Taylor on BBC Radio Five Live: "I think defensively Manchester United have done really well but Spurs are coming at them now in the last few minutes."
1755: Nemanja Vidic is adjudged to have brought down Jermain Defoe about 35 yards out and the Serbian gives the assistant referee and earful by the touchline. The free-kick is whipped in, but Michael Dawson cannot get the flick on and United clear their lines.
1752: Jermain Defoe drags a left-foot shot wide from about 22 yards and Gareth Bale is not a happy man - he's got Darren Fletcher playing at right-back against him and he wants a run at the makeshift defender.
BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at White Hart Lane:
"Reaching the business end now. Paul Scholes was getting ready to come on for Manchester United but after Rafael's sending off Javier Hernandez was told to replace Dimitar Berbatov. Positive thinking as ever from Sir Alex Ferguson. And why, by the way, did Wayne Rooney feel the need to rant at referee Mike Dean after the red card? A nonsense."
1749: Spurs play another corner short down their right and when United have the chance to clear Javier Hernandez's pass to Ryan Giggs is short - it falls perfectly for Rafael van der Vaart, 15 yards out on his left foot, but he can only curl over the bar. What an opportunity that was.
From Nidzumist on Twitter:
"I'm a Spurs fan and Rafael didn't deserve that. Saying that, about time we got some luck against United."
1747: Aggressive change from Harry Redknapp for the last 12 minutes, with Jermain Defoe on for Wilson Palacios. Man United respond as the lethal Javier Hernandez comes on for Dimitar Berbatov.
Graham Taylor on BBC Radio Five Live: "Well done Mike Dean. What happened to that Respect thing? Man United are now playing a 4-4-1, with Giggs on the left and Rooney on the right."
1744: A Spurs ball into the United box ends with a Peter Crouch shot flying over the visitors' crossbar. Wayne Rooney was also booked in that Rafael sending off for a frankly unacceptably furious reaction to the red card up close and personal with referee Mike Dean.
Red card: Rafael looked like a sending off waiting to happen, and now he's gone. He's unlucky though - he was tracking back trying to catch Benoit Assou-Ekotto and must have caught the full-back's heels, bringing him down and earning a second yellow card.
1742: SENDING OFF Rafael, Manchester United
From Darren in Plymouth, on text: "If you want to be the best you have to beat the best."
1739: More on the trouble at the Wear-Tyne derby earlier and Northumbria Police say there were 24 arrests in total before, during and after the game, which was attended by a crowd of 47,864. The offences includes drunk and disorderly, disorderly conduct and going into the playing area.
1738: About a quarter of this match left and TV replays show that Nemanja Vidic had a whole load of Rafael van der Vaart's shirt inside the Man United penalty area just then.
Graham Taylor on BBC Radio Five Live: "Van der Vaart is very much involved. It looks like Manchester United have gone to five in midfield with Rooney on the right. I think Sir Alex Ferguson will not be happy that Spurs have come into this and he'll still look upon a draw as a good result."
1734: Question: Do Spurs have to win to keep their title hopes alive?
1733: Wayne Rooney has moved out to the right since Nani went off and he gave the ball to Gareth Bale a moment or two ago before playing a hugely ambitious pass crossfield intended for Ryan Giggs that flies out of play. From 25 yards, Wilson Palacios then fires a shot 10 yards over. Why does he bother shooting?
1730: Man United bring on Anderson for the ineffective Nani.
1729: A quick look at our incoming missives suggests that Man United fans want to see Anderson on for Michael Carrick and Spurs fans want Jermain Defoe on for Peter Crouch. We're at the hour mark now, still 0-0.
1726: Patrice Evra is booked for a foul on Aaron Lennon after the Spurs winger drives at him just outside the Man United box. The free-kick, yawn, is curled into the arms of Edwin van der Sar by his fellow Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart.
1724: Rafael van der Vaart slaps a left-foot free-kick into the Manchester United wall. The search goes on. Anderson is warming up for the visitors.
Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish: "After five minutes of the second half we were 2-1 down but the players' attitude and desire to get back in the game was really something. It was fantastic. We could have been more than one up but we were really pleased with the way we played and that's great credit to the players who have had to adjust to the new ways of playing and training. I've not spoken to the owners about money. I said to them when I took the job, if this is the squad I've got to work with, I'll still take it."
1722: It's all Manchester United at the start of the second half and Wayne Rooney finds some space outside the Spurs box, goes past the sliding challenge of Alan Hutton and hits a fizzing low drive that Heurelho Gomes does superbly well to push behind.
1721: Meanwhile, more injury woe as Birmingham boss Alex McLeish says defender Scott Dann is unlikely to play again this season because of a hamstring problem that will require surgery. "It is not totally confirmed yet but we are going to miss him for a long time and it is a big blow," said McLeish.
1719: Ryan Giggs whips in a corner from the Man United right and Michael Carrick rises at the near post, glancing it on and just past the far post, with Luka Modric flinging himself at the ball in case it was going in. Carrick looks more dangerous with his head than his feet today - he's given the ball away a lot, uncharacteristically.
1717: Rafael goes on another superb run at the Spurs defence, only foiled on the edge of the box by a Michael Dawson tackle. Soon after referee Mike Dean ludicrously waves play on when Luka Modric had been fouled by Michael Carrick, before Ryan Giggs tees himself up and volley wide from 20 yards. There's plenty going on.
1715: Meanwhile, BBC Radio 5 Live are reporting that Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen will undergo surgery on a torn Achilles tendon on Tuesday and is expected to be out of action until March.
1714: Manchester United's players are first out, Spurs are not far behind them, there aren't any half-time substitutions and we are back under way at White Hart Lane, where it's 0-0.
From faranjiniho on 606:
"If United want to win this they need to get Nani involved more, not been a big influence thus far."
From kevhawker on Twitter:
"Fergie should pretend to sub Rafael for his identical twin at HT, but keep him on and not need to worry about his booking!"
From Terence, Rome, Italy, on text: "Re: 1647 How did you know that the imaginary card was yellow?" Haha, you've done me.
Graham Taylor on BBC Radio Five Live: "I've enjoyed the first half, but it definitely needs a goal. The second period of the first half fell away in terms of quality but it's still a very very interesting game for me."
1657: Darren Fletcher lets the ball run too far away from him and Gareth Bale is in as quick as a flash, nipping the ball away from Fletcher and drawing the foul for which the Scot is booked. The ball in is punched away by Edwin van der Sar.
1656: Peter Crouch slides in on Ryan Giggs and it's a free-kick to United as we move into first-half stoppage time - two minutes of it.
1654: Class from Gareth Bale, who produces a really good burst to beat Rafael on the inside and then again on the outside before flinging in a quality cross, but Rafael van der Vaart can only head wide at the near post, about a yard off target.
1652: Two balls pumped into the United box and twice Nemanja Vidic gets up superbly to head the ball away from danger. Masterclass defending from the Serbian.
1651: The Spurs players seem to have taken to going down a touch easily at the moment, which is a bit of a shame. Rafael goes on a marauding run down the United right and gets into the box, but his pass to Wayne Rooney lacks power and Tottenham manage to clear.
Graham Taylor on BBC Radio Five Live: "The game has lost some quality in the last 10 minutes. It's a bit rushed at the moment, they're not wanting to hold on to the ball, the players are not controlling it and having those passing movements they did in the first few minutes."
1647: Rafael's turn to be fouled and it's a lunging tackle on him from Wilson Palacios - Rafael goes up to the referee and waves an imaginary yellow card, and Palacios is promptly booked.
1646: Rafael goes in hard but fair on Gareth Bale - he's got to be so careful now, the Brazilian full-back. Spurs are still enjoying most of the possession, but they haven't created any chances for a while.
Everton boss David Moyes on Steven Pienaar: "We've had one offer from Chelsea which has been accepted. The offer we have had from Tottenham hasn't been accepted. He spoke to me yesterday and said he didn't feel his head was right to play in the game."
BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at White Hart Lane:
"After an opening 10 minutes that hinted at a classic ahead it has all gone off the boil a bit at White Hart Lane. Spurs, understandably, are probing down the flanks but Manchester United holding firm. Wayne Rooney not able to stamp his authority on proceedings yet."
1642: Gareth Bale's 30-yard free-kick bounces gently into the arms of Edwin van der Sar and I'm not going to see a good free-kick all weekend, I fear.
1641: Half an hour gone at White Hart Lane and somehow it's still
Tottenham 0-0 Manchester United.
Nemanja Vidic fouls Peter Crouch 30 yards out and Gareth Bale wants this one.
1640: Transfer news: Everton have accepted a bid for South Africa winger Steven Pienaar from Chelsea but rebuffed interest from Tottenham, manager David Moyes has confirmed.
1638: Rafael goes sliding in on Wilson Palacios and it's a bit reckless from the Brazilian, who just pushed the ball a little too far ahead of him. Rafael is booked and Gareth Bale might just want the ball now, with his marker one bad foul away from an early bath.
1636: Tottenham play a corner short again on the right and Rafael van der Vaart has a left-foot shot blocked by Dimitar Berbatov, before Spurs skipper Michael Dawson slams a right-foot shot wide from the edge of the box.
From DashingDuane on Twitter:
"Re: 1603, it's Giggs' 600th league appearance not EPL, he's played 560 EPL games, 13 short of equalling David James' record!"
1633: Fine one-two between United's two strikers and after Dimitar Berbatov picks out a pass back to Wayne Rooney, the England man's right-foot shot from 20 yards is well saved with his right hand by Heurelho Gomes, low down.
1632: United are trying to take the sting out of Spurs' fine start, knocking the ball around the pitch and having some possession of their own. Wayne Rooney goes down under a challenge from Rafael van der Vaart and the Dutchman is annoyed, kicking the ball away and picking up a needless booking.
1630: Brilliant stuff from Gareth Bale, who has a little run on Rafael and shows great pace to get around the outside of the Brazilian, who is no slouch, but the Welshman's excellent cross flies beyond Peter Crouch. Didn't seem to me like the striker was really prepared to throw himself at that one, oddly.
From Rachel Tyrrell, Lincoln, on text: "Beckham has had a massive effect. The Spurs players look VERY well groomed."
1627: Gareth Bale picks up the ball on the Spurs left and Rafael is in quick as a flash, winning the ball and almost knocking Bale off his feet. There are so many interesting battles all over the pitch, it's like a footballing banquet at White Hart Lane. Super atmosphere too.
From 4-5-none on 606:
"Massive difference in quality already in this game compared to the earlier fare..."
1624: Spurs are having a good spell, getting crosses into the United box from the left and the right - and they've barely even got Gareth Bale into the game as of yet.
1622: Man United defender Rio Ferdinand might be struggling - Chris Smalling is warming up on the touchline. Luka Modric fools Darren Fletcher from a corner and sneaks into the United box, but Ferdinand is fine enough to get in a fabulous clearance.
Graham Taylor on BBC Radio Five Live: "This has the makings of an exciting game, it is going end to end and both teams are looking positive and going onto the attack."
1620: What a move, champagne football from Spurs. Luka Modric finds Alan Hutton down the right and his fine cross sees Peter Crouch get in front of Rio Ferdinand, diverting the ball inches wide of Edwin van der Sar's left-hand post. So close.
1619: It's real end-to-end stuff and this time United get forward, first Alan Hutton preventing Dimitar Berbatov from getting in a header at the back stick from Nani's cross before Wayne Rooney's 20-yard strike is well saved by Heurelho Gomes.
1618: Rafael van der Vaart curls the free-kick into the arms of Edwin van der Sar.
1617: Spurs are quite obviously going to pose a significant aerial threat today but they are also hugely dangerous running at the United defence with pace - and Wilson Palacios is fouled 22 yards out by Michael Carrick. Decent opportunity, this, right of centre.
1613: Dangerous. United send Spurs a warning as Dimitar Berbatov peels off the defence to play a pass in for Wayne Rooney and he goes round William Gallas before lashing a right-foot shot wide of the far post from a tight angle on the right of the area.
1612: Boo update: Many, many more for Dimitar Berbatov than Michael Carrick.
1611: Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney get us under way and within seconds United give the ball away and Gareth Bale sprints down the left, the Welshman's cross-shot collected by Edwin van der Sar.
1609: The players are led out by Tottenham captain Michael Dawson and Man United skipper Nemanja Vidic and we're not far off getting under way at White Hart Lane. Up in the stand, England manager Fabio Capello is sharing a lovely big hug with David Beckham.
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson: ""Spurs have been been fantastic this season and the boy Rafael van der Vaart has been fantastic and Luka Modric too. They've got a good team but we've got the experience to deal with it. In this game you usually get more goals here than at Old Trafford and I hope we get more this afternoon, hopefully for us!"
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp: "We haven't got a great record against Manchester United but this looks like a more even-matched game and we're playing with lots of confidence, so it should be a cracking game for sure."
1603: Congratulations to Ryan Giggs, too, as the Manchester United legend plays his 600th Premier League game this afternoon in north London.
Tottenham v Manchester United team news: Phil McNulty reports:
"Harry Redknapp and Sir Alex Ferguson field two line-ups filled with the sort of quality that only adds to the anticipation ahead of this eagerly-awaited encounter. Spurs have plumped for Peter Crouch ahead of Jermain Defoe as support for Rafael van der Vaart up front while Wayne Rooney has recovered from his ankle injury to partner Dimitar Berbatov in attack for Manchester United."
1600: Reaction to come from Anfield, but no time to breath - we're on the move to White Hart Lane as Tottenham prepare to entertain Manchester United.
1559: Full-time Liverpool 2-2 Everton Not the victory Kenny Dalglish would have wanted, but at least he's stopped the run of defeats. Everton were very, very impressive in the second half, and probably a point apiece is the fairest result.
1558: Marouane Fellaini heads away and Glen Johnson hits it straight to Tim Howard. That might just be that.
1557: One minute left. I fear I'm flogging a dead horse, but it's never stopped me before so I'll continue. Pepe Reina's going to boot this one long...
1556: It comes to nothing.
1555: Is there one last chance left? Everton are about to pump it long.
1554: Into injury time at Anfield and the electronic board goes up showing four minutes.
1553: Gosh, Pepe Reina knows where his off stump is. An Everton corner is half-cleared to Seamus Coleman and his right-foot shot takes a deflection, with Reina and Martin Kelly both confidently letting it go behind as the ball bounces about a yard wide.
1551: You could give a football fan the moon and the stars, and still they'd wonder what happened to the sun. Signs that the teams are both settling for a draw at Anfield as we approach injury time.
From LEGIN99M on 606:
"Moyes looks like he wants to win this whereas Dalglish seems to want to survive 90 minutes and not lose. Very, very disappointed with Kenny so far."
1548: Six minutes to go at Anfield and it's still Liverpool 2-2 Everton. Are we going to have some late drama, like we did at the Stadium of Light earlier? A place in derby folklore awaits.
1545: Everton send on the Russian flier Diniyar Bilyaletdinov for Victor Anichebe.
1544: Kenny Dalglish seems to quite like this boy - he brings on young Jonjo Shelvey for the last 10 minutes, with Raul Meireles replaced.
From jackhyom on Twitter:
"Re: Matt, Essex, hasn't Crouch set up most of RVDV's goals? I'm backing the rampaging super spider to be a match winner!"
1541: Fernando Torres latches on to a Martin Kelly pass towards the right of the Everton penalty box, but instead of putting his foot through the ball he tries a delicate chip and it flies behind. Used a nine-iron when a wedge would have done. Everton bring on Jack Rodwell for Leon Osman.
1539: It's gone a bit scrappy at Anfield for the moment, presumably both teams saving themselves for one last almighty go at winning all three points.
1537: A change for Everton, with James Vaughan coming on for Jermaine Beckford.
From Matt, Essex, on text: "Crouch? CROUCH? You'd better tell me Defoe's got man-flu, Stevo, otherwise there'll be some serious toys coming out of the collective Spurs pram."
1535: Twenty minutes left in a Merseyside derby, both teams going for the win and still Spurs v Man United to come. Life does not get any better than this.
1533: This game is anyone's now. Leighton Baines swings in a free-kick from the right and Victor Anichebe gets his header all wrong, nodding it further away from goal. Still dangerous from set-pieces though, Everton.
Reds goal: Crikey did they need that. It's a sloppy goal for Everton to concede as, after some pinball inside the visitors box, Tim Howard dives in on Maxi and brings him down, it's a definite spot-kick, no arguments. Dirk Kuyt takes penalty duties in the absence of Steven Gerrard and coolly slots low into the corner.
1532: GOAL Liverpool 2-2 Everton (Kuyt)
1531: PENALTY TO LIVERPOOL
1530: Two very, very strong teams picked there at White Hart Lane, and a return for Man United striker Wayne Rooney. Kick-off there at 1610 GMT.
1529: Tottenham v Man United line-ups: Tottenham: Gomes, Hutton, Dawson, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Palacios, Modric, Bale, Van der Vaart, Crouch. Subs: Cudicini, Jenas, Pavlyuchenko, Defoe, Bassong, Kranjcar, Corluka. Man Utd: Van der Sar, Rafael Da Silva, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs, Berbatov, Rooney. Subs: Kuszczak, Owen, Anderson, Smalling, Hernandez, Scholes, Evans. Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
1527: First yellow of the game and that's a telling sign of Fernando Torres' frustration, the striker petulantly clipping the heels of Johnny Heitinga after the ball had run away from him.
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce on the Steve Harper incident: "I saw Steve lying down, but thankfully he's not bad. A big well done to the Sunderland fans who gave up the supporter to the police. When I saw the age of him it looked like he's still in school. Unfortunately it's the society we live in at the moment."
1525: Liverpool work it into the box from the right and there's a half-chance at best for Maxi, the Argentine having to get all the power on the ball himself as he heads goalwards, with Tim Howard catching above his head.
1523: Bit of pressure from Liverpool but they cannot get the ball to Fernando Torres and Everton look quite comfortable, hitting their hosts on the break when it suits them to do so. Can't remember the last time a game changed course quite so quickly.
1519: Decent hit from Raul Meireles on the left of the Everton box, hitting a left-foot shot that forces Tim Howard to save low down to his left. There's plenty of juice left in this one.
1518: There you go - the curse of the 1-1 banished. Everton are flying - Liverpool need to show some character if they are going to get a foothold in the game.
Everton goal: Quite brittle, you'd have to say. Everton lead, and that has put the cat amongst the pigeons. A ball down the left is headed on by Victor Anichebe to Leon Osman - the midfielder does really well to find Jermaine Beckford inside the box and he holds off Raul Meireles before slamming past Pepe Reina's left hand into the net. What a turnaround.
1516: GOAL Liverpool 1-2 Everton (Beckford)
1513: That goal was absolutely not Sotiros Kyrgiakos's fault, poor lad. But it has changed the atmosphere at Anfield and Everton are playing like a dog with a bone at the moment. Kenny Dalglish has talked a lot about confidence, but we might be about to see how brittle Liverpool's is.
Everton goal: Credit to David Moyes? What a half-time teamtalk that must have been as it takes Everton 43 seconds to get level. Mikel Arteta floats over a corner from the left and with Pepe Reina missing it there is Sylvain Distin at the back stick to nod into the ground and in, despite Glen Johnson's best attempts to head it off the line.
1510: GOAL Liverpool 1-1 Everton (Distin)
1509: Back under way at Anfield and there is a change at the break as the big Greek Sotiros Kyrgiakos comes on to replace the ill Daniel Agger.
From Ed Gutteridge, on text: "With all of the goings on at Anfield this season nobody seems to have noticed the rather worrying situation that Everton are in. Defeat today would put them just three points off relegation and in desperate need of some inspiration in the transfer/loan market. Anichebe and Beckford would struggle to frighten many Championship defences."
1506: Line-ups and team news to come from White Hart Lane, but there's the Demolition Derby part of the day to finish before we move on to the White-Hot White Hart Lane bit. Partly I'm hoping today's football doesn't ever end - anyone fancy a bit of La Liga straight after the Premier League?
From Medieval-Evil on 606:
"That goal seems to have knocked the stuffing out of Everton. Torres is the difference at the moment - by contrast, Fellaini has looked Everton's best attacking threat."
Tottenham v Manchester United
to come, as if you'd forgotten. That gets under way at 1610 GMT, a couple of minutes after this one is due to finish. Surely we aren't going to get four 1-1s?
Liverpool 1-0 Everton Marc Vesty reports: "Whether whipped up by Kenny Dalglish's return to Anfield, the fact it's a local derby or just the desperate need for three points, Liverpool have edged out Everton with a show of steely determination. Raul Meireles may have scored the goal but it's the return to form of Fernando Torres which means Liverpool look likely to push for more in the second half."
1451: Fernando Torres is seriously up for this. He causes Johnny Heitinga all sorts of problems down the right and clips a cross to the back post that Seamus Coleman manages to head behind, with Maxi lurking. A magnificent striker's display so far from the Spaniard.
1451: Into first-half stoppage time at Anfield and we'll have a minute of it. Marouane Fellaini gifts possession away on the edge of his own area and Maxi's shot flies low into the arms of Tim Howard.
1448: Lovely stuff from Liverpool as Dirk Kuyt plays a super pass on the inside right channel to Raul Meireles, the Portuguese with a taste for goals firing in a shot from an angle that Tim Howard saves. Liverpool are well on top right now, they won't want the half to end.
1446: The Liverpool fans are furious as they think Johnny Heitinga has fouled Fernando Torres 22 yards out. No free-kick given and then a moment later the Dutchman executes a brilliant tackle on Dirk Kuyt, as if to rub it in. Torres and Heitinga have some afters, moments later. Good derby day battle.
1442: Liverpool are countering Everton very well at the moment, soaking up their pressure and hitting them on the break with pace. Fernando Torres has a chance to play Dirk Kuyt through, but when the Dutchman eventually gets himself onside the pass is too far ahead of him.
1440: Liverpool might be leading, but Everton are still very much in this game. Jermaine Beckford and Victor Anichebe are both quiet, though - David Moyes will want much more from his front two.
From Kate, on text: "Greetings from Whistler, Canada! Jet lagged so wide awake since 4am waiting for the Merseyside derby... Unbelievably no EPL live footy on any of the numerous TV channels so am relying totally on you for regular updates on a fantastic win for the Reds!"
1437: Could have been 2-0 to Liverpool there as Fernando Torres forces another save from Tim Howard and then Maxi heads over the Everton bar. Howard is apoplectic - he wants more help from his defenders, who have gone missing in recent minutes.
Reds goal: Kenny Dalglish has just gone crazy because Liverpool lead in the derby. A Glen Johnson cross from the left is headed goalwards by Dirk Kuyt and after Tim Howard saves his effort and then blocks the Dutchman's follow-up shot, the ball falls to Raul Meireles 18 yards out, the Portuguese rifling his first Reds goal into the net.
1435: GOAL Liverpool 1-0 Everton (Meireles)
1434: Everton's set-pieces do look dangerous today and there's another one as a corner from their right is allowed to travel through the Liverpool box, with only Martin Skrtel getting anything like a proper touch on it.
1431: There's that aerial threat for Everton, even without the absent Tim Cahill. A free-kick pumped into the Liverpool box is headed towards goal by Marouane Fellaini, and Jermaine Beckford is only centimetres away from getting a potentially decisive touch.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew: "It was brilliant, passionate - the noise levels were fantastic. We just slipped up at the end but four points from two derbies is good for us. We played really well, had a good gameplan and made it difficult for Sunderland. We looked comfortable and could have got second goal but there were lots of injury time and we just switched off a bit and they got a break - perhaps one they didn't deserve."
1428: A corner from the Liverpool left is flicked on by Maxi, but it's just a few inches too high for a leaping Dirk Kuyt at the far post. Decent start to the 215th Merseyside derby, about halfway through the first half.
1425: The Press Association are reporting that a fan was arrested on the pitch after a confrontation with Newcastle keeper Steve Harper late in the game at the Stadium of Light. More on that as and when we get it.
Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier: "If there's got to be a winner it has to be Aston Villa today. We created a lot of chances and hit the bar four times. The minimum the players deserve is a draw. Some time ago we would probably have lost that game. But the character of the players was good, to come back from 1-0 down in a derby. We've got a difficult January in terms of fixtures, but we will be up for it."
1423: Wow. There's the real Fernando Torres. He shows great power and pace to shrug off the not inconsiderable challenge of Sylvain Distin on the right and he surges into the box, cutting on to his left foot and slamming a sweetly struck shot against the far post, with a sliding Dirk Kuyt only able to blaze the rebound over.
1421: There's a late challenge from Phil Neville on Fernando Torres, but David Moyes is furious about a foul that wasn't given when it looked like Victor Anichebe was brought down just outside the Liverpool box. Don't worry Dave, the free-kick would only have been ballooned over anyway.
From Tim in Marlow, on text: "Furtively checking footie scores via live text, on BlackBerry while should be doing family duties. Reminds me of listening to Liverpool v St. Etienne in bed in the 70s on a crystal earpiece and a cheap radio when I should have been asleep. Guilty pleasures!"
1417: That's got the crowd going at Anfield - Martin Kelly goes on a super run down the right, taking Leighton Baines on on the outside and beating him for pace, his cross well defended by Sylvain Distin. Soon after Glen Johnson's fine pass finds Fernando Torres just inside the box, but his snap-volley flies over.
1415: Some early news from Spurs, not of the team variety. Tottenham High Road has been shut off for an hour with 500 Spurs fans protesting about the proposed move to Stratford. They want the stadium redeveloped in north London. Police have arrived and there's major disruption, with directors getting there late and players using a different entrance.
1414: Fernando Torres is hanging on the last defender, but he goes a little too early and is flagged offside. Today's crucial battle will be in the midfield - can Liverpool gain control over what is a more experienced Everton line-up?
From DanielCurry14 on Twitter:
"More flags on the Kop than I've seen for a while. Less quality on the pitch, too. Money needs to be spent on this team."
1410: Jay Spearing gives the ball away in the Liverpool midfield and Jermaine Beckford, from 40 yards, tries an ultra-ambitious chip over Pepe Reina, getting his shot hopelessly wrong. Full marks for confidence, though.
Birmingham boss Alex McLeish: "I think it was an open game. There was some excellent football at times. We started shabbily with six or seven poor pass-backs in the opening 10 minutes. We came back strong and claimed a deserved lead but it was a bit of stupidity again from us which gave the goal away. We know we have dropped another two points at home."
1408: First sighter from the visitors at Anfield as Everton's Seamus Coleman bundles his way through a couple of tackles and punts a shot wide from 20 yards.
1407: Looks like it's a bit edgy in the stands at Sunderland, with Newcastle and Sunderland fans goading each other. Let's hope it doesn't turn into anything worse.
1406: Fernando Torres and Raul Meireles get us under way at Anfield and within nine seconds Torres has fired in a shot from an angle on the right that Tim Howard saves.
From Jamie, Crawley, on text: "Has there ever been a season where so many derby rivals are neck and neck in the table?" Not in the Championship, though...
1403: Great ovation for the legendary Kenny Dalglish, back in the dugout at Anfield. With You'll Never Walk Alone blaring out for the Scot, it's like travelling back in time. Very close to kick-off on Merseyside.
Everton boss David Moyes: "Our focus has been on the game, that's all. The media focus has been on Kenny and rightly so, but not ours. We'll try and play as well as we did against Tottenham a few days ago."
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish: "It's going to be an emotional day, but it's more important that the players give us effort and commitment and it's not about me. I'm encouraged by the first two games, but they need some confidence."
1358: You just knew today wouldn't be dull, didn't you? Seven minutes before we get started in
Liverpool v Everton,
1356: Full-time Sunderland 1-1 Newcastle Asamoah Gyan did absolutely nothing for 93 minutes today, but when his team needed him most he was in the right place at the right time. Sunderland didn't deserve that equaliser, but they won't care.
Sunderland goal: Now that is drama of the very latest variety. The Stadium of Light goes mental as their boys get a last-gasp equaliser - Phil Bardsley's shot from 20 yards is parried by Steve Harper into the path of Asamoah Gyan and the ball hits the striker before ricocheting into the Newcastle net. Heartbreak for the visitors, jubilation for the hosts.
1354: GOAL Sunderland 1-1 Newcastle (Gyan)
1352: Full-time Birmingham 1-1 Aston Villa Probably not what either manager wanted at the start, but a point apiece is the fairest result from a game that kept threatening to but never quite burst fully into life.
1351: Dan Gosling comes on for his Newcastle debut and there's a few minutes of injury time left in the north-east yet. Can Sunderland salvage something?
1350: I do not know how that didn't go in. A long ball pumped into the Villa box is headed on by Birmingham's Nikola Zigic with Brad Friedel flapping and the ball sails about six inches wide of the post. The place would have erupted.
1349: Into injury time at St Andrew's, where it looks like we are heading for a share of the spoils. They're a couple of minutes behind at Sunderland.
1347: There's a Mackem and a Magpie in the office, and they both reckon Sunderland might have played worse today than when they were drubbed 5-1 at Newcastle in October. Crikey.
BBC Sport's Guy Mowbray at Sunderland: "Two midfield dogs of war - Barton and Nolan - have been instrumental for Newcastle, while not much has got past Coloccini."
1344: I'm surprised the crossbar didn't break, my word Nathan Delfouneso must have something against it. The Villa striker lets fly from 25 yards and it's a screamer of a hit, Ben Foster getting the slightest of touches as the ball thumps against the woodwork. Stunning.
1343: Sunderland are still really struggling, their passes in the final third are being easily cut by Newcastle, who are hanging on quite comfortably right now.
1341: A Villa corner is half-cleared, but when Barry Bannan tees up Marc Albrighton to cross, he's got team-mates queuing up at the back post. Richard Dunne gets there first and has a header nodded off the line by Liam Ridgewell, before James Collins boots the rebound wide. All from inside the Blues' six-yard box.
1339: Free-kick to Birmingham, 22 yards out, left of centre. David Bentley territory...
Liverpool v Everton team news: Marc Vesty reports: "For the 215th Merseyside derby, Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish makes two changes to the side which lost to Blackpool in the week. Local boy Jay Spearing makes only his second league start for the Reds, while Maxi Rodriguez also comes in. Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic miss out. After beating Tottenham in their last league outing, Everton also make two changes with want-away midfielder Steven Pienaar and striker Louis Saha replaced by Leon Osman and Victor Anichebe."
1336: Matt Derbyshire and Craig Gardner are denied by fabulous blocks by Villa players - the first from Richard Dunne, the second from James Collins. It's a really, really good game now in the Midlands.
1334: My goodness, Villa are nearly in front. Gabby Agbonlahor's pace gets him away down the right and after his cross and Nathan Delfouneso's lay-off, Stewart Downing sees his well-struck left-foot shot superbly saved by Ben Foster. Birmingham respond by bringing Nikola Zigic on.
1332: Newcastle striker Leon Best turns Titus Bramble in the area and fires a low shot a foot wide as the Magpies go close to doubling their lead.
Villa goal: Inspired substitution? We're level at St Andrew's. Kyle Walker lays the ball back to Marc Albrighton on the right and his cross is touched on by Gabby Agbonlahor, with James Collins catching a right-foot shot sweet as you like, the ball taking a deflection off Liam Ridgewell on its way in, though it would have gone in anyway.
1331: GOAL Birmingham 1-1 Aston Villa (Collins)
1330: Newcastle's Jonas Gutierrez gives the Sunderland fans a heart-in-mouth moment, cutting into the box from the left and blasting a right-foot shot wide of the far post.
1329: Aston Villa make a double substitution, with Barry Bannan and Nathan Delfouneso on for John Carew and Nigel Reo-Coker. There's enough time in the game, that's for sure.
From Robo, in Hartlepool, on text: "The Mackems will be accusing us of playing 12 men if that magpie doesn't get off the pitch."
1326: Closest Sunderland have come to an equaliser, though that's not saying a great deal. A ball from the left finds its way outside the area to Ahmed Elmohamady, but he drags his shot wide and even a touch off Kieran Richardson cannot divert it on target.
1325: Barry Ferguson shows his class, playing a gorgeous ball over the top down the Birmingham right for Roger Johnson, but the big defender can only spoon his attempted cross into the crowd.
From kaufman39 on 606:
"Sunderland must be the most frustratingly inconsistent team in the league this season. Some brilliant performances mixed with some woeful ones."
1322: Villa are stepping up their efforts to find a leveller and Marc Albrighton's fizzing cross from the left is fingertipped over the bar by Ben Foster. Soon after Stewart Downing cuts in from the right and his low shot forces a decent save from a diving Foster.
1319: Sunderland are struggling to get it together on Wearside, they aren't testing the Newcastle defence often enough. Asamoah Gyan has been very quiet today and there's much for Steve Bruce to ponder on the touchline.
1317: Matt Derbyshire is released down the right of the Birmingham box and his right-foot shot forces a fine low save from Brad Friedel. Moments later Craig Gardner's left-foot volley from 15 yards flies wide. It's lively again.
1316: The magpie is back on the pitch at Sunderland. Now if that isn't pouring salt into an open wound...
1314: Villa almost level immediately after going behind. Ciaran Clark's cross deflects off Roger Johnson, but the ball bobbles narrowly wide of the far post.
Magpies goal: Game on in the Midlands, game on on Wearside. Joey Barton floats over a corner from the right, Shola Ameobi, in amongst a pile of bodies, gets his head on it and there, three yards out, is Kevin Nolan to backheel the ball into the Sunderland net.
1312: GOAL Sunderland 0-1 Newcastle (Nolan)
1310: Chance for Sunderland now. Phil Bardsley plays a pass forward to the inside left channel, where Darren Bent has got ahead of his marker, and with Steve Harper racing off his line, Bent lobs the keeper with the outside of his right foot, the ball landing about a yard wide of Harper's right-hand post.
Blues goal: Now we've got a game on our hands in the Midlands Clasico. David Bentley tees up Craig Gardner with a free-kick from 30 yards - he strikes it well but it's flying wide until David Murphy clips it into the mixer and from 12 yards Roger Johnson does superbly to direct a volley into the bottom right-hand corner of Brad Friedel's net.
From Ruairi, on text: "It's just not fair. I'm in the library writing a criminal law essay while my mate Mickey drinks merrily away in the Canterbury sunshine watching his beloved Sunderland. Up the Toon!"
1259: Either someone's kidnapped our usual audience, or you lot are awful quiet today. Hangover, is it? Look, I've just seen pictures of Kenny Dalglish walking into Anfield. He's the Liverpool manager, and his team are playing against Everton in a little over one of your Merseyside hours.
Sunderland 0-0 Newcastle Saj Chowdhury reports:
"Derbies are usually scrappy and this one is no exception, although it hasn't been aided by the swirling wind. Both sides have had a good chance each, but the first half will be remembered for misplaced passes and biting tackles."
Birmingham 0-0 Aston Villa Phil Dawkes reports: "A goalless, but thoroughly engrossing half of football at St Andrew's. Villa have struck the bar three times, while Birmingham have attacked the other end with gusto. Surely, there can't be another 45 score-free minutes like this?"
1247: Better from Sunderland as they put some pressure on the Newcastle defence, but Jordan Henderson's shot is blocked by Kevin Nolan.
1245: ... Joey Barton curls it about five yards over the bar. I officially give up. Into injury time at the Stadium of Light and St Andrew's now.
1244: Now here's a chance. Or it would be, if anyone in the Premier League could take free-kicks these days. Steed Malbranque fouls Shola Ameobi and Newcastle have a set-piece 20 yards out, right of centre...
1242: Better from Birmingham, and a shot to end the move with. Steven Carr's low cross from the right it met first-time by Alex Hleb, with his effort kicked away by a Villa defender. At Sunderland, Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi heads a Joey Barton corner over the crossbar.
1241: At the moment, the ball is just bouncing off John Carew at Birmingham - the Villa hitman cannot hold the ball up for love or money. Both games need a goal, to be fair to them.
From Ross, London, on text: "Yet more proof (if it were required) that Dave Bentley shouldn't play for London clubs. Fantastic so far - Blackburn have missed a trick here."
1237: David Murphy goes down inside the Aston Villa box under a challenge from Marc Albrighton and Mark Clattenburg gives a corner. Some of the Birmingham players were convinced that was a penalty.
1236: Alan Smith limps off with an injury at Sunderland and Danny Guthrie comes on in his place. Soon after, Joey Barton is booked, either for handball of back-chat, take your pick.
1234: Alex Hleb's English is probably pretty good, but he obviously hasn't learned the word 'shoot'. With most of St Andrew's and some of his team-mates egging him on, 18 yards out with a clear sight of goal, he passes sideways and Birmingham don't get an effort in.
1233: The wind is a factor at Birmingham too, where Villa are still going in hard on David Bentley when they get the chance. At Sunderland, a ball into the hosts' box sees Kevin Nolan go to ground, but the free-kick is given to the Black Cats by referee Howard Webb.
1229: Not a great deal going on in the feisty atmosphere of the Stadium of Light at the moment. Ahmed Elmohamady is having some joy down the Sunderland right, but his low cross is well gathered in by Steve Harper. The wind, which almost knocked me off my bike this morning, is playing havoc.
1227: Just showing signs of slowing down a little in both games. Nothing more than a lull though, I'd have thought. Birmingham play it neatly from their right and pull the ball back to Keith Fahey 22 yards out, but his side-foot effort lacks power and it's an easy save for Brad Friedel.
1222: The woodwork graphic's certainly earning its keep today. Ciaran Clark swings over a cross from the Aston Villa left... and he's over-hit it... and it cannons back off the Birmingham crossbar yet again! Goodness me.
1222: Seriously, how have we not had a goal? Craig Gardner crosses from the Birmingham left and if Matt Derbyshire gets a touch it's a goal - but the former Blackburn and Olympiakos man cannot quite do so.
1220: Villa look unplayable in the air, but John Carew is penalised for a foul on Roger Johnson after manhandling the defender out of the way and thumping another header against the Birmingham crossbar.
1219: And still no goal... Sunderland play a corner from the left short to Steed Malbranque and he hits a right-foot shot through a pile of bodies, Steve Harper getting down well to his right to push the ball away from danger.
Fraser from Birmingham, on text: "Birmingham need to do more than our usual boot the ball up the field and make the striker chase it; whoever our lone striker is."
From Will, London, on text: "Newcastle playing well and creating chances. Should have been ahead with Ameobi's chance. This can only mean one thing; defensive error coming up..."
1215: There's a nice amount of aggro bubbling under, especially in the north-east. Alan Smith grapples with Titus Bramble, the Newcastle midfielder leaving the incident with a beaming smile on his face.
1214: Cracking one-two at Birmingham, with Alex Hleb playing the fine return pass to Keith Fahey and the midfielder skewing his right-foot 22-yard shot off target. Cannot believe we haven't had a goal anywhere yet.
1212: Great chance for Newcastle and they nearly go ahead. A Joey Barton corner isn't cleared and Fabricio Coloccini fires it goalwards, with Kieran Richardson booting it off the Sunderland line.
1211: We've had claret in both derby games so far, probably to no-one's surprise. Birmingham's Craig Gardner is bleeding from a facial wound and needs some treatment, while Ahmed Elmohamady similarly required some early attention at Sunderland.
From Football_UK on 606:
"Birmingham will improve in the second half of the season. Bentley was frustrated at Spurs, but he can shine again at Birmingham. He could improve their game, moving forward, massively."
1208: Drama. Kyle Walker sends over a fine cross from the Villa right and Gabby Agbonlahor heads it goalwards - John Carew gets a flick on it too and the ball bounces off the top of Ben Foster's crossbar and away to safety.
1207: It's chance o'clock. At Birmingham, Roger Johnson and then Richard Dunne head wide at either end, before, at Sunderland, Steed Malbranque's pass finds Darren Bent in the Newcastle box on the right and he cuts inside and shoots goalwards, Steve Harper making a fine save with his legs.
BBC Sport's Guy Mowbray at Sunderland: "It's a horrendous error by Titus Bramble and Shola Ameobi really should have done better. He's scored in his last four Tyne and Wear derbies and should have made it five."
1204: Fabulous pass from Joey Barton at Sunderland, the Newcastle midfield carving the home defence open with a ball through to Shola Ameobi, but the big striker, clean through, can only slot inches wide of Craig Gordon's left-hand post.
1203: Welcome to the Midlands, sunshine. Richard Dunne gets there a little late on Blues new boy David Bentley and takes him out completely, giving the ref no choice but to flash an early yellow card. From the free-kick, the ball falls for Craig Gardner 20 yards out, but he slams just over.
1202: What a start for Villa. John Carew holds the ball up neatly on the edge of the Birmingham box and tees up Stewart Downing, linked with a £10m move to Liverpool. The winger slams a low right-foot shot just wide.
1201: Madness. Ben Foster dallies and ends up giving the ball away, Gabby Agbonlahor nips in and drives into the Blues box, rifling a right-foot shot over the fortuitous keeper's crossbar. Villa nearly ahead in 30 seconds.
1200: It's high noon, which means we've kicked off in the Premier League in the Midlands Clasico between Birmingham and Aston Villa and the Tyne-Wear Clasico between Sunderland and Newcastle. Demolition Derby Day is very much under way, folks.
From olliescrim on Twitter:
"Extremely nervous about Villa today. Don't think I'm exaggerating when I say this is in our top five biggest games this decade."
1156: The players are out at St Andrew's... and moments later they appear from the tunnel at the Stadium of Light. Good grief, I can hardly contain myself.
From Dave from Kent, on text: "I am on a train from London, one of only two Evertonians on a train full of Liverpool fans heading to the derby... And it is so quiet, I can smell the fear!!! 2-1 the Blues."
1151: It's all kicking off at the Stadium of Light right now. Sunderland mascot Samson the cat is currently chasing a... duh duh duh... MAGPIE around the pitch. The pesky little bird isn't going anywhere, though. Great drama.
From marcflannery on Twitter:
"Make or break for Houllier with the fans. Win, we reclaim the city, jump the Blues and leave the relegation zone. If not..."
1146: If you get chance,
check out our gossip column today.
Will Spurs spend £30m on Andy Carroll? Do Bolton really want £20m for Gary Cahill? Has Steven Pienaar chosen Spurs over Chelsea? Are Liverpool keen on Stewart Downing and Mark van Bommel? Can Sunderland sign Michael Owen? And are the Qatari royal family really ready to make a £1.3bn offer for Manchester United?
From John Kennedy on 606:
"Three home wins and a scoring draw at the Lane? Stevo's predications are far too safe. I think he'd do a better job in picking numbers out from the sky." Uh-oh, I've been rumbled...
Birmingham v Aston Villa team news: Phil Dawkes reports: "On-loan Tottenham midfielder David Bentley makes his Birmingham debut in place of Sebastian Larsson, who is on the verge of a move to Newcastle. This is one of three changes, with David Murphy coming into their defence for the injured Scott Dann and Matt Derbyshire starting as lone striker in place of Cameron Jerome. Aston Villa make four changes to the side that beat Sheffield United 3-1 in the FA Cup. With winger Ashley Young suspended there is a slight change of tactic, with John Carew coming in to partner Gabriel Agbonlahor in attack. Stewart Downing and Stiliyan Petrov come into midfield in place of Robert Pires and Barry Bannan, while James Collins takes Carlos Cuellar's place in defence."
Sunderland v Newcastle team news: Saj Chowdhury reports:"Sunderland defender Nedum Onuoha returns to the starting XI after recovering from a hamstring injury. However, Lee Cattermole and Danny Welbeck fail to make the line-up. Newcastle forward Shola Ameobi has overcome an ankle problem to start alongside Leon Best in attack. Left-sided players Jose Enrique and Jonas Gutierrez also return."
From caeathro1978 on Twitter:
"Alex Ferguson is set to rest Howard Webb for today's trip to Spurs." Please laugh. It's just a joke. PS FA - Ryan Babel made me do it...
From Chris, Leeds, on text: "If there's one thing that'll stop me from doing my media law revision it's a line up like this. Curse you fixture computer why not next weekend! On the plus side, I'll happily point out any defamatory statements you make Stevo." Haha. In which case we're both in for a busy day...
From GraymeadYNWA on 606:
"If Man United play like they have been since Christmas, then I think Spurs will win comfortably. That is a big if though."
Tottenham v Manchester United scene-setter: Phil McNulty reports:
bold claim that Tottenham can be serious title contenders
faces its sternest test today when Manchester United visit White Hart Lane. Victory and the doubters may just start to share Redknapp's confidence in his talented and maturing squad. United, for all the accusations that they have not hit top form, remain unbeaten in the league, but this may also represent their closest examination. If Sir Alex Ferguson's side emerge unscathed, it will only increase the belief that a record 19th title is on the way to Old Trafford."
Liverpool v Everton scene-setter: Marc Vesty reports: "If Kenny Dalglish had written a script prior to his return as Liverpool boss, it has quickly been binned in favour of improv. The Kop King heads into his Anfield return off the back of two defeats out of two and without suspended talisman Steven Gerrard. As if the game wasn't big enough for the struggling Reds, fixture fate throws up Everton, on the hunt for a first league double over their Merseyside rivals since 1984/85. With key midfielder Tim Cahill missing for the Blues, the two could not be more evenly matched.
A quick glance at the league table confirms this.
Birmingham v Aston Villa scene-setter: Phil Dawkes reports: "New Birmingham signing David Bentley
has heard second-city derbies are "quite a passionate affair".
Unless his cheek contained a significant amount of tongue, the on-loan Tottenham man could just have hit upon understatement of the season. His new club may have beaten Villa in the Carling Cup last month, but they've not recorded a league victory over their fierce local rivals in six years. Throw into the mix that this is your archetypal relegation six-pointer and St Andrews is clearly the only place to be today... I mean, it's not like there are any other big derbies or key title clashes going on."
1118: So, on Demolition Derby and White-Hot White Hart Lane Day (as it has been dubbed), here's what our awesome foursome of match report writers make of today's action...
From Nick, Surrey, on text: "Villa fan waiting nervously in the away end at St Andrews. Dare I say this a more important derby than it usually is? Heart says 2-1 Villa , head says 2-1 Blues. Come on Villa!"
1114: Before I go any further, a moment of your time, please. English football lost one of its greatest ever figures when
Nat Lofthouse sadly passed away last night at the age of 85.
If you, like me, used to drown in copious amounts of footballing trivia when you were younger, you'll have learned enough about The Lion of Vienna to know we've lost a true superstar of the game. An amazing 285 goals in more than 500 games for Bolton and 30 goals in 33 caps for England.
Please pay your tributes here.
1108: God bless you, Fixture Computer, and all those matches that sail out of you. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, a very warm welcome to each and every one of you to our coverage of the Premier League on Sunday, 16 January 2011. On paper, it looks like a bona fide classic.
1105: I can hear the Fixture Computer spluttering into life. I imagine it looks a bit like
for those of you of a certain age. Hang on, what's this...
1100 Greenwich Mean Time, London: Dear Fixture Computer, On a shatteringly dreary Sunday in January in England, can you please find it in your motherboard to give us, the loyal football folk of Blighty, three deliciously drool-inducing derbies and a white-hot humdinger from White Hart Lane to finish? Yours hopefully, Stevo
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