Football: Kendall waits for late fillip from Ferguson

Either Tottenham's or Everton's Premiership status may depend on their meeting today. Nick Harris looks at that contest and analyses the weekend's other matches
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The Independent Online
HOWARD KENDALL must rue the February day when he said that a sound defeat had been a good way to motivate his flagging side.

On that occasion, the Everton manager said that being left at the bottom of the Premiership after some dismal results had shocked his side into performances that propelled them to a somewhat safer 13th.

This morning, as he considers Everton's position (fourth from bottom) and opponents (an improving Tottenham), he must be less than enthusiastic that the sustain-a-thrashing tactic will work again.

"I saw the white flag from some of my players last week and I was bitterly disappointed," he said yesterday, referring to last weekend's 4-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa.

"Afterwards I tried to defend the lads in public, but their heads dropped. I can't afford to have that.

"It's now up to me to select a side who can get us a result and if that means disappointing a few players, it must be done."

Kendall would dearly like to be able to select his side's motivational captain and leading goalscorer, Duncan Ferguson, but must wait for tests on a knee injury. "That will be a very, very late decision," Kendall said.

"Obviously I want him to play and he wants to play, but it's something that has to be considered carefully because of the long-term effects of another breakdown.

"If Duncan is fit, it will give everyone a massive boost, but it will be a decision only made after a chat between myself, the medical people and Duncan."

Teenagers Richard Dunne and Gavin McCann could both come into the reckoning, but Kendall will be wary of using too many youngsters in such an important game.

Today's fixture is no less important for the home side, but after last week's morale boosting win at Crystal Palace, Tottenham are likely to at least start the game with the greater confidence. Christian Gross not only had 23 senior players in training this week - more than in any week since he arrived at the club in November - he will also definitely recall the flamboyant David Ginola after suspension.

"It has been a new experience for me," said Gross of his selection options, which also include Darren Anderton, Les Ferdinand and Steffen Iversen. The latter is not fully fit, but Anderton and Ferdinand may yet make it as far as the bench this afternoon.

"It is important that our destiny is in our own hands," Gross said. "We prefer to dictate things ourselves rather than hope other teams get a result for you."

One team who will be feeling rather fortunate that fate had a hand in their futures this week are Leeds, who escaped unscathed from a plane crash.

Following the emergency crash landing at Stansted Airport on Tuesday morning, George Graham is hoping his team's football will not be unduly affected.

"We now have to try and put that behind us and get on with our season. A European spot is still up for grabs, so we have to be positive and go for it," he said yesterday.

Monday night's 3-0 defeat at West Ham came as a surprise after 4-0 and 5-0 victories over Blackburn and Derby respectively, but Graham hopes that a result in the Yorkshire derby against relegation-threatened Barnsley today will maintain the challenge for a Uefa Cup place.

Barnsley, who saw three men sent off in last week's 3-2 defeat against Liverpool and who then lost in midweek to a late Blackburn winner, must feel that they are due some good fortune soon. If Leeds have problems recovering from their Stansted ordeal, today might be the day that Barnsley finally manage to pull clear of the bottom three, however briefly.

With Crystal Palace not playing again until next weekend, the only other team that can make progress from the relegation zone are Bolton, who travel to Wimbledon.

Despite losing 1-0 in midweek to Arsenal, the Wanderers still believe they can avoid the drop. The South African defender Mark Fish was especially pleased with the midweek game in light of what he sees as the Gunners' Premiership credentials.

"I thought Arsenal were very good and had the look of champions, but I also believe we are capable ourselves and that we can stay in the Premiership," he said.

That notion that will be given more credibility if they can come away with a result today against opponents who have struggled themselves recently, and whose 0-0 draw with Newcastle in midweek did little but illustrate that they are not clear of danger yet.

Elsewhere the Premiership has a distinctly mid-table flavour, with Southampton travelling to Sheffield Wednesday, and Leicester playing hosts to Coventry. West Ham's game at Aston Villa and Chelsea's at Derby tomorrow are notable mainly for the visitors' chase for Uefa Cup places.

Aston Villa v West Ham

Yorke 11 Leading scorer Hartson 22 Last season: 0-0

Aston Villa will be encouraged by the availability of striker Savo Milosevic for today's game. The Yugoslavian international, enjoying a renaissance at Villa Park under the new manager John Gregory, returns to the squad after missing last weekend's 4-1 win at Everton through suspension and could be part of a three-man attack along with Dwight Yorke and Julian Joachim. Gregory has secured four Premiership wins in five games since he took over from Brian Little and is likely to continue with an unchanged side for today, apart from perhaps including Milosevic.

Andy Impey has recovered from a groin strain to return to West Ham's squad. The Hammers also welcome back Steve Lomas and Frank Lampard, who both missed the 3-0 win over Leeds on Monday through suspension. Striker Paul Kitson is still troubled by his groin injury and will not play, while goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko is out with a calf injury. Harry Redknapp must decide whether to keep the same attacking formation as on Monday, or bring in Lomas, Lampard or both. John Moncur is the most likely to be replaced as West Ham look stretch their Premiership unbeaten run to eight games. Striker John Hartson will be looking to complete a seasonal hat-trick of braces against Villa, having scored against them twice in the Upton Park fixture in November and twice as the Hammers won 3-0 in the Coca- Cola Cup in October.

Leeds v Barnsley

Hasselbaink 16 Leading scorer Redfearn 12 Last season: No fixture

Leeds' Australian international striker Harry Kewell is likely to return to the side for today's Yorkshire derby, after being forced to miss the 3-0 defeat at West Ham on Monday. A Fifa-enforced five-day ruling (following complaints from the Australian FA after Kewell withdrew from a three-game friendly series with Brazil through injury) led to him watching the Upton Park match from the stands. Centre-back Lucas Radebe completes a two-match ban, while captain David Hopkin remains unavailable with an eye injury. Leeds have won three of their last five Premiership matches and a win today would cement their European aspirations and take them to fourth in the Premiership.

Barnsley manager Danny Wilson, knowing a win might take his side out of the relegation zone, should have a full complement of strikers to choose from today. Jan-Aage Fjortoft is fit again after missing Tuesday's 2-1 defeat at Blackburn with flu, while John Hendrie is available following five weeks out with ankle ligament damage. Clint Marcelle, who suffered double vision and needed an overnight stay in hospital following a bang on the head during the game at Ewood Park, is likely to be on the bench. Centre-back Arjan de Zeeuw may come into contention after just 60 minutes of first-team play in the last seven weeks due to a nagging groin injury. Fellow defenders Peter Markstedt (neck) and Ales Krizan (knee) are still missing.

Leicester v Coventry

Marshall 8 Leading scorer Dublin 19 Last season: 0-2

Leicester midfielders Neil Lennon and Muzzy Izzet face late fitness tests on ankle injuries before the Midlands derby against in-form Coventry at Filbert Street. Northern Ireland international Lennon is the most doubtful starter, having been hurt in the 2-0 defeat at Bolton last weekend, but Izzet is expected to return after serving a two-match suspension. The Foxes are still without Steve Walsh and Ian Marshall but striker Tony Cottee (calf) comes into contention for a place today after proving his fitness in a reserves game. Leicester's recent form (including three consecutive defeats in their last three matches) has seen them fall well out of contention for a European place next season, but they remain the only Premiership side to have beaten Coventry at Highfield Road this season.

Coventry go into today's game with the best recent form in the Premiership - seven League wins in their last eight games and an unbeaten spell of 12 matches in all. Manager Gordon Strachan is likely to drop leading scorer Dion Dublin into his emergency defensive role again to counter Leicester's aerial threat this afternoon. If so, it could mean a first-team recall for Romanian international striker Viorel Moldovan, with either Richard Shaw or Gary Breen making way for Dublin at the back. England Under-21 international Marcus Hall, who is still suffering with a calf strain, is Strachan's only major injury doubt for today's game.

Sheff Wed v Southampton

Di Canio 13 Leading scorer Davies 12 Last season: 1-1

Sheffield Wednesday's Goce Sedloski is likely to make his home debut. The Macedonian will partner Des Walker at the heart of defence, allowing Andy Hinchcliffe to switch from the three-man back line to his usual spot at left-back. Italian striker Francesco Sanetti will be a surprise inclusion in the squad if his international clearance arrives in time. The 19-year-old impressed Ron Atkinson in training, but Atkinson is likely to rely on his two other Italians, Benito Carbone and Paolo Di Canio, to help Andy Booth in attack. Petter Rudi (hamstring) is out for a fourth game in a row.

England Under-21 striker Kevin Davies returns to Southampton's squad for the first time in two months. He is expected to be named on the substitutes' bench with Norwegian striker Egil Ostenstad and David Hirst continuing in attack. Kevin Richardson returns. Carlton Palmer serves a one-match ban. Ken Monkou is recalled after missing last weekend's 2-1 win against Newcastle through suspension. Midfielder Matthew Oakley is doubtful with a twisted knee while David Hughes is battling to recover from a dead leg.

Tottenham v Everton

Ginola 9 Leading scorer Ferguson 9 Last season: 0-0

David Ginola returns to the Tottenham team for today's match against Everton, Spurs' second consecutive relegation six-pointer following their 3-1 win at Crystal Palace last week. The influential Frenchman missed last week's game through suspension. England hopefuls Darren Anderton and Les Ferdinand are both in contention for a place on the bench after recovering from injury. Christian Gross' side are now three points clear of the bottom three, having played the same number of games.

Howard Kendall will make a late decision on the fitness of captain Duncan Ferguson. The Scottish striker could return if he recovers from a knee ligament injury. Kendall could bring in on-loan winger Peter Beagrie, after the 32-year-old began his second Goodison Park career as a late substitute in last week's 4-1 home defeat to Aston Villa. Slaven Bilic and Carl Tiler are both still suspended, but Kendall could play teenager Richard Dunne alongside veterans Dave Watson and Craig Short. Another teenager, midfielder Gavin McCann, may make a full debut after five substitute appearances.

Wimbledon v Bolton

Euell 8 Leading scorer Blake 12 Last season: No fixture

Wimbledon will be without their ex-England under-21 defender Ben Thatcher again for this relegation game against Bolton. The former Millwall player may be out for a fortnight with a ruptured thigh muscle. The Dons welcomed back defender Dean Blackwell in their midweek 0-0 draw against Newcastle following his recent injury and he is expected to continue again today. Wimbledon have won just one Premiership game in their last five, but they have a five-point cushion to the relegation zone and have a game in hand on all the sides below them.

Bolton manager Colin Todd has to decide whether to pick pounds 3.5m striker Dean Holdsworth, who has not scored since October, or on-loan striker Bob Taylor for today's match. Taylor was preferred to Holdsworth in Bolton's 2-0 win against Leicester last week when the former replaced the latter, who was taken off after just 30 minutes of the game. Todd is also missing defenders Gerry Taggart, who has a groin strain, Mike Whitlow and Robbie Elliott, who will both be out for the rest of the season.

TOMORROW

Wanchope 15 Leading scorer Vialli 17 Last season: 3-2

Robbie van der Laan (ankle) could make his first Derby appearance since October. The Dutch midfielder could replace Darryl Powell, the latest recruit to Jamaica's World Cup campaign, who damaged an ankle at Coventry last Saturday and could be out for a month. Igor Stimac is suspended, so Gary Rowett is likely to replace him. Jim Smith also has to decide whether to recall goalkeeper Mart Poom and the Italian Stefano Eranio. Poom missed the defeat at Coventry with a shoulder injury and Eranio was out with a hamstring tear, but both have been training this week. Striker Dean Sturridge is likely to be recalled after completing a two-match ban and Lars Bohinen makes his Pride Park debut after his move from Blackburn.

Dmitri Kharine's likely return in goal for Chelsea will be one of a series of changes Gianluca Vialli will make to his Chelsea side following their tiring 1-0 defeat in the Cup-Winners' Cup on Thursday. Tore Andre Flo and Mark Hughes seem certain to replace Vialli and Gianfranco Zola up front, while Frank Sinclair, Jody Morris, Danny Granville, Laurent Charvet and David Lee could all feature.

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