Hold The Back Page: 15/01/2011

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The Independent Online

It's a big weekend for...

Incongruous Derbies

Having three of the Premier League derbies spread across tomorrow lunchtime is interesting enough in itself, but two of them come to in forms far removed from what we are used to.

At midday Birmingham host Aston Villa with both teams in a fraught scramble to stay in the top flight. A set of almost-plausible results today; home wins for West Ham, Wigan and West Brom, and a steal for Wolves at Eastlands, could see the tie pit the league's two bottom teams against each other. Suddenly the recent Carling Cup quarter-final looks like a warm-up. The Merseyside derby is similarly unusual, but for the opposite reason that so little rests on it: rather than the usual struggle between Champions and Europa League hopefuls, it's 13th hosting 12th. Of the six north-western clubs, only Wigan lie below them.

And a testing moment to be...

A footballer on Twitter

Maybe last weekend will be seen in retrospect as the high-water mark of free footballer engagement on Twitter. For some of us, the 2010-11 season has been made so much richer by players, unmediated by club press officers, taking to their iPhones and letting us know how they feel about recent matches, as well as updates on injuries and selection. But with Ryan Babel charged by the Football Association for implying that Howard Webb was a Manchester United fan, and with Neil Warnock banning his QPR players from discussing club matters on the site, we may have seen the golden age of direct football-focused communication between players and fans come and go. Now it will be back to Call of Duty.

Plus the stories you may have missed

Ronaldinho tries to play dumb

"I didn't expect such a big party", claimed Ronaldinho after 20,000 fans greeted his arrival at Flamengo this week. As he partied so much he lost his Milan place, he cannot have been too shocked.

Michael Vick's award

In a touching example of the redemptive power of sport, dog-fighting ex-con quarterback Michael Vick has been named the NFL's comeback player of the year by Sporting News.

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