By John McGregor

No competition for the Priceless Prize Pillock of the week – Joey Barton! Joining such illustrious-but-dirty company as Roy Keane, Patrick Viera, Richard Dunne, Lee Cattermole and Nicky Butt, Pal Joey has now been sent off seven times. Can there have been a more ridiculously stupid exhibition? As team captain Barton was ‘responsibly’ going to protect a younger team member from the wrath of both the referee and opposing team members, who were complaining and trying to get the lad sent off. But Cap’n Crackpot then deemed it necessary to whack Hull’s Tom Huddlestone in the Max Walls, conveniently right in front of the ref and 50 million TV viewers: straight red and off. Oh, how Quaintly Pursuing Relegation need Barton so badly at the moment ,it hurts; three teams equal on 22 points in the bottom four – and time is running out in the DDD.

On Tuesday night, ITV showed Man City v Barcelona in the Champions League. As the Spanish stars ambled out, the usual suspects were identified: Messi, Neymar, Iniesta, Pique… and at the back, hardly mentioned, his trademark pre-match scowl glaring around was a face until recently regularly recognised on UK TV. Within 30 minutes – Wham, Bam, thank you Man City! Yes, Luis Suarez was back in town, reminding all we Ingles again of his lethal finishing: two viper strikes, two goals, two nil – wow! City fans will point to the omission through suspension of dynamo YaYa Toure, who certainly made a big difference last Saturday against Newcastle. YaYa’s back from the Africas cup, and Silva, Nasri and 24 carat striker Aguero are all playing superbly. Even Noel Gallagher was purring – well Mancunian growling… The Northern Blues murdered the ‘pathetic and embarrassing’ Magpies side – hurt Geordie pundit Alan Shearer’s words. Guess what? City are at Anfield on Saturday. What’s that in my ribs? Oh, yes, a Bony nudge, I’d forgotten him. Bring it on…

Man United got theirs, some would say ‘at last’ in the wet valleys, as Swansea stormed back from recent lethargy to overturn Ander Herrera’s opener for United. Ki Sung-Yueng quickly equalised, but then the Shelvey/Gomis winner was a cracker, returning the Bonyless Swans back up to ninth. But the result soaked open the papered cracks in United’s spine. Where will the goals come from to keep United up in the top four? Falcao was rightly dropped to the bench, Rooney is marooned in midfield and Van Persie limped out of the Liberty stadium on crutches. Grey rinse RVP should read Tony Cascarino‘s book ‘Full Time’ about dying his hair black to look younger – it could similarly prolong the Dutchman’s career. Did you catch naughty Noel Gallagher’s TV quip about lofty Louis showing the press pictures of his long balls? At this rate the Dutchman will soon be losing the plot (see over) Mourinho-style, and questions asked in the Old Trafford house about lofty Louis’ future. The Red Devils should see off suffering Sunderland at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday, but the Black Cats are a bogey side to United. With Arsenal going third it was a good job for United that Southampton lost to a resurgent Liverpool – but they must be worried at Old Trafford.

The must-win dream looked on for Tim Sherwood and everyone at Aston Villa, and for the second week Scott Sinclair scored, to put Villa ahead against Stoke. But the plucky Potters have now unbelievably won seven games away from home to stay up in the top half, and stormed back to win 2 – 1 with a 90th minute Moses penalty. Sparkie Hughes has done a great job, but Testy Tim has a massive one to do, There’s only poor old Leicester below the Villains with 12 games to go – can Tim turn Villa round in time?

Even with that haircut, Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud was voted the prettiest in the Prem by an American women’s survey. It didn’t do him, or the Gunners much good at the Emirates on Wednesday against modest-these-days Monaco, going down 3 – 1 with an away mountain to climb in the second leg. In the Prem, a Cazorla penalty and a second from the catwalk King (Giroud now has 50 Prem goals in 119 games, respect) left Crystal Palace too much to do. A grandstand finish from Pardew’s Eagles saw Glenn Murray score and then hit the post in the dying seconds. Selhurst Park was rocking, but the fervent fans weren’t ‘Glad All Over’ this week. After a longish period of walking through a storm, post-Suarez, sin Sturridge, and with King Con Balotelli firing blanks, Liverpool supporters are now holding their heads high again as the Reds hit sixth place, only three points behind third-placed Arsenal. The latest conquests were sad Southampton who welcomed (?) back old boys Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren. But hey, youse, there’s a huge game on Sunday at Anfield as mighty Man City come to town – we’ll see how real the Red revival is, the needle being Liverpool were just pipped for the Prem title last year by the Blues. So who’ll be singing ‘Ya Ya Ya’?