Pretending it’s great day of Premier League action is more of a lie than Wayne Rooney’s hairline, but it’s football and that certainly beats being dry-humped around Marks and Spencers as you scramble around for Chrimbo presents.
It could be an important day however as Manchester City host Reading at the Etihad. A win would close the gap on Manchester United to three points and with United facing a tricky Swansea shaped banana skin tomorrow, there’s no guaranteed that will be extended back out to six points
You’d expect it to be something of a cake-walk for City against a Reading team so bad they’re below QPR. But you never know – they might be able to pull something out of the bag. I’ll be here for the afternoon to keep you up to date if they do manage any feats of bag-pulling-out.
4.53pm: FULL TIME! City withstand some late pressure from Reading to claim all three points. The gap to United is down to three points too, but it’s not a performance likely to worry the red side of the city.
4.50pm: GOAL! MAN CITY! Well, it was about as surprising as Ricky Martin coming out of the closet, but after a lot of huffing and puffing, City get their goal. Gareth Barry is the scorer.
4.49pm: We’re into to injury time. City have four minutes to find a winner. Aguero fires into the side-netting.
4.47pm: David Silva gets on the end of a cross, but he’s only small and he can’t get up to direct his header on target.
4.45pm: SUB! Harte-broken? That feels better. Ian Harte goes off injured and Nicky Shorey comes on to help the defensive effort.
4.43pm: It’s been massively disappointing. A ‘Harte’ and a ‘Hart’ on the pitch and not once has the commentator used a ‘heart to heart’ pun.
4.42pm: SUB! James Milner comes on to replace Rekik.
4.40pm: Reading have spent most of the game defending, but they’re looking dangerous on the break. From the resulting corner, Alex Pearce wastes another half decent headed chance.
4.37pm: It says a lot about modern fancy dan footballers that Leigertwood stands out from the crowd as he’s about the only player wearing black boots. By gum. it used to be different in my day etc. etc.
Newcastle have taken the lead against QPR. Shoala the Goala Ameobi would you believe?
Romelu Lukaku has given West Brom the lead at home to Norwich.
4.32pm: SUBSTITUTION! Roberto Mancini calls Carlos Tevez ashore and Scott Sinclair comes on.
Meanwhile Reading break and have a penalty appeal turned down. It would have been very harsh to give it, but Brian McDermott is standing on the sideline gobsmacked with a look on his face as if he’s just been told he’s adopted.
4.30pm: Steven Pienaar has put Everton ahead at Upton Park.
4.28pm: YELLOW CARD! Yaya Toure goes into the book for a tackle that barely looked like a foul. He was tracking back, seemed to win the ball from McAnuff but the referee thought otherwise. The fact he launched himself into it didn’t help his cause.
4.24pm: CHANCE AND YELLOW CARD! Dzeko gets his head on the ball this time, but it goes narrowly over. Leigertwood gets booked for a trip on Rekik.
4.23pm: And Carlton Cole has been sent off for West Ham. It was for a high foot that was high and a foot, but probably not malicious.
4.20pm: City go close again. This time a Zabeleta cross goes inches above Dezko’s head when he’s standing four yards out with pretty much an open goal in front of him. Elsewhere, presumably inspired by £1 Fish Man, Victor Anichebe has equalised for Everton at Upton Park.
4.19pm: Half an hour to go at the Etihad. It’s 2/5 for a City win, 9/4 the draw and 13/1 for Reading.
4.17pm: SUB! Supersub who doesn’t like to be called a supersub, Edin Dzeko comes on and Javi Garcia goes off.
4.16pm: City exert more pressure, but a Yaya Toure cross for Carlos Tevez is just slightly too high.
4.12pm: CHANCE FOR READING! Yes, that’s not a typo. Ian Harte picks out Alex Pearce from a corner, but the central defender’s header is a bit crap and it floats over the bar.
4.04pm: Reading start the second half, but there’s a mass outbreak of nosebleeds as they actually enter the Manchester City half.
4.02pm: HUGE BREAKING NEWS! Apparently £1 Fish Man was the half-time entertainment at Upton Park. All we got was Brian Kerr moaning about stuff and Matt Holland looking suspiciously youthful.
3.52pm: The match odds are very different after the opening half. City are now 2/7 for the win and the draw is now a 16/5 shot. Reading are still rated as the big outsiders at 13/1, which actually makes them slightly smaller outsiders than they were before.
3.49pm: HALF TIME! It’s scoreless at half-time. Manchester City have looked pretty, but lacked substance. They’re a bit like football’s version of The Wanted.
Reading will be pretty chuffed with themselves as they move the team bus down to the dressing room for the half-time bollocking. Aside from Brian McDermott applying to FIFA for permission to stick 30 men behind the ball, there’s not much more he can do right now. The Royals are hanging on in there.
3.48pm: Aguero nearly creates something after a long run, but none of his team-mates can get on the end of his cross.
3.44pm: Zoltan Gera puts West Brom back on level terms with Norwich.
3.42pm: Steven Fletcher has put Sunderland 1-0 at Southampton. A terrible attempted shot from Stephane Sessegnon supplied the assist.
3.40pm: Some lovely passing and movement from City nearly carves out a chance for Yaya Toure. There are some half-hearted appeals for a penalty, but as everyone expects City to score soon anyway, no-one is overly moany.
3.34pm: Gareth Barry goes close with a firm header from about 11 yards out. There was some power behind it, but Federici didn’t really have to move to stop it, which suits him down to the ground.
3.31pm: Manchester City are in control and Reading are making life slightly more difficult than it needs to be by treating the ball as if it’s a live grenade and giving it away for cheap. ‘A Roy Chubby Brown joke’ cheap.
3.28pm: YELLOW CARD! Alex Pearce goes into the notebook for Reading. It’s harsh because it was Chris Gunther who actually committed the foul. It’s a case of mistaken identity. It would have been decent play if he was a linebacker in the NFL, but it’s a card all day long on this side of the pond.
3.24pm: Goal for Norwich. Robert Snodgrass is apparently the scorer unless Alan McInally is a compulsive and convincing liar.
3.22pm: BOOKING! Sergio Aguero goes into the book for … not much really. ‘Not making a tackle’?? Is that a rule? He didn’t seem to do much wrong there to be fair.
3.21pm: In response to the pressure, Reading have reverted to the tried and trusted 9-0-1 formation.
3.18pm: Javi Garcia goes close with a deflected shot that loops narrowly over the Reading crossbar. The Royals are getting hammered, but their sheet somehow remains clean.
3.16pm: Good save from Adam Federici. Carlos Tevez is six yards out and hits his shot straight at the Reading goalkeeper.
3.14pm: Carlton Cole as put West Ham 1-0 up against everything only a couple of minutes are Everton had a goal controversially ruled out. Kick in the nuts for the Toffees.
3.12pm: There’s sustained pressure from City, but still no clear cut chances. Silva drills a cross towards Javi Garcia and as he’s not renowned for his deft touch, he hoofs it well over on the volley.
3.05pm: City said this game was a sell out, but judging by the amount of blue seats visible, they’re liberally massaging the figures like Jimmy Carr’s accountant.
3.03pm: YELLOW CARD!! Adrian Mariappa goes right through the back of Carlos Tevez and within two minutes the ref flashes his first card of the afternoon.
3.01pm: After a minute’s applause, Manchester City kick off.
2.52pm: The Setanta commentator reveals that Samir Nasri is injured and my be out ‘until the New Year’. With all of nine days to go in 2012, that is possibly the least helpful clarification I’ve ever heard.
2.39pm: There’s some good news and some bad news if you’re a Reading fan. The good news is Mark Lawrenson is tipping up a Manchester City 2-0 win and his record for making accurate predictions rivals the Mayans. The bad news is he might be right because the odds of 1/6 for a City victory are pretty overwhelming.
Reading did win at the Etihad in 2007, but that was when Darius Vassell and Georgios Samaras counted as City’s ‘attack’. The Royals are 15/1 to win today with the draw 13/2.
2.27pm: MORE, SLIGHTLY LESS INTERESTING TEAM NEWS
Yes, that’s right, the Reading team is in and it looks as uninspiring as a Reading team normally does. 82 year old Ian Harte is getting wheeled out to take free-kicks and Pavel Pogrebnyak is on leading the line duty.
Federici, Gunter, Harte, Mariappa, Pearce, Leigertwood, Karacan, Tabb, McAnuff, Kebe, Pogrebnyak
2.21pm: No word on why Gael Clichy is unavailable for today’s game, but there are strong rumours he’s suffering from an acute case of mortification after posing naked with his oar out for the Stade Francais smut-calendar:
2.10pm: TEAM NEWS
Right, as promised, here are the teams for today’s light spanking. Mario Balotelli is once again omitted from the match day squad, but this time it’s due to a virus rather than punishment for being so damn enigmatic. Dutch born teenager Karim Rekik makes his league debut for the club, filling in for the absent left backs, Clichy and Kolarov.
Hart, Zabaleta, Kolo Toure, Nastasic, Rekik, Garcia, Barry, Silva, Yaya Toure, Aguero, Tevez
I’ll have Reading team news as soon as anyone gives enough of a crap to tweet the line-up out. We might be waiting a while.
2pm: The team news for today’s game should come along soon enough, but until then, you can amuse yourself with Aleksandar Kolarov sternly taking all the fun out of Jingle Bells.