Ball has Georgia on his mind

Adam Szreter on the struggle for survival in the Premiership basement
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The Independent Online
Georgia, the former Soviet republic that nestles on the banks of the Black Sea, has probably not been the subject of so much transfer activity since Jason and the Argonauts nipped in and took the Golden Fleece back to Greece a few seasons ago.

However, Alan Ball has been so enchanted by Georgi Kinkladze's contribution that this afternoon the Manchester City manager will have two Georgians in his side for the relegation battle at Burnden Park, Bolton. If Mikhail Kavelashvili, who played against Liverpool for Spartak Vladikavkaz in the Uefa Cup earlier this season, does not start on the bench after his pounds 1.4m transfer, another of City's imported brigade, Uwe Rosler, may be the one to make way for him.

Meanwhile an injury to Bryan Small, the full-back signed from Aston Villa last week, may prevent an intriguing combination - Small, Green, Paatelainen - sitting on the Bolton bench once again.

Southampton's vast experience of fighting relegation should be put to good use over the next few weeks, nowhere more so than at Loftus Road today. A second suspension of the season for Matt Le Tissier will not make life any easier for them but, if Dave Merrington could have chosen one game for Le Tissier to miss, then the visit to Queen's Park Rangers would probably have been it.

Coventry, beaten at Southampton on Monday, meet a Spurs side this afternoon doubtless still fuming at the injustice of it all after their 1-0 defeat by Manchester United last weekend. Ron Atkinson is set to recall Peter Ndlovu in place of John Salako in the Coventry attack.

Howard Wilkinson does not have to worry about the prospect of relegation but, after last Sunday's dismal showing in the Coca-Cola Cup final at Wembley, his job is possibly less secure than any of his rivals.

This afternoon Wilkinson meets another of his erstwhile rivals for the England job, Bryan Robson, as Leeds and Middlesbrough try to bring Elland Road back to life.

The injury that kept Alan Shearer out of the England side on Wednesday may also deny him his 100th consecutive game for Blackburn this afternoon, against Everton. A first appearance for Garry Flitcroft should make up for Shearer's absence.

Nottingham Forest, for whom humiliating defeat by Bayern Munich was followed by glorious victory over Liverpool, today visit Wimbledon. Some things just have to be done.

The battle for survival

Premiership bottom seven

P W D L F A Pts

Sheff Wed 32 9 8 15 43 51 35

Wimbledon 31 7 9 15 46 63 30

Man City 32 7 9 16 26 49 30

Southampton 30 6 10 14 29 43 28

Coventry 31 5 12 14 37 56 27

Bolton 32 7 4 21 35 62 25

QPR 32 6 6 20 28 50 24

Remaining fixtures

SHEFFIELD WED: 5 Apr Middlesbrough (A). 8 Arsenal (H). 13 Manchester City (A). 17 Chelsea (H). 27 Everton (H). 5 May West Ham (A).

WIMBLEDON: Today Nottingham Forest (H). 6 Apr West Ham (A). 8 Manchester City (H). 13 Middlesbrough (A). 17 Blackburn (A). 27 Coventry (H). 5 May Southampton (A).

MANCHESTER CITY: Today Bolton (A). 6 Apr Manchester Utd (H). 8 Wimbledon (A). 13 Sheffield Wednesday (H). 27 Aston Villa (A). 5 May Liverpool (H).

SOUTHAMPTON: Today QPR (A). 3 Apr Leeds (A). 6 Blackburn (H). 8 Aston Villa (A). 13 Manchester Utd (H). 17 Newcastle (A). 27 Bolton (A). 5 May Wimbledon (H).

COVENTRY: Today Tottenham (A). 6 Apr Liverpool (H). 8 Manchester Utd (A). 13 QPR (H). 17 Nottingham Forest (A). 27 Wimbledon (A). 5 May Leeds (H).

BOLTON: Today Manchester City (H). 6 Apr Everton (A). 8 Chelsea (H). 13 West Ham (A). 27 Southampton (H). 5 May Arsenal (A).

QPR: Today Southampton (H). 6 Apr Newcastle (A). 8 Everton (H). 13 Coventry (A). 27 West Ham (H). 5 May Nottingham Forest (A).

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