Battle of England captains

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The Independent Online
Two former England captains will be involved in a battle of tactical wits today. Kevin Keegan, Newcastle's manager, is aiming to steer the club towards their fourth successive victory at the expense of Middlesbrough, who won promotion in Bryan Robson's first season in charge.

"Kevin has done a great job, although Sir John Hall deserves credit for sorting out boardroom problems and allowing him to get on with the job," Robson said. "I did not really see Kevin coming back as a manager after he retired. You would have thought he would find it very difficult stepping back into the game from Marbella. But he has proved everyone wrong. What he has done at Newcastle is unbelievable. We will be playing against currently the best team in the country.

"I have always been a Newcastle fan but all that concerns me this time is that we take three points. It will not bother me if we turn them over! Newcastle have top quality players but I will not make special plans. We made no plans when we faced Arsenal and Chelsea.

"It is another tough task for my players but they are looking forward to the challenge. They will not need any motivation for a game like this. Newcastle have done well and their confidence must be sky high. But they have not shrugged off Leeds and Manchester United, who are level on points."

Lee Clark suffered a hip injury during Newcastle's 2-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday, but Keegan thinks he will be fit to play. Middlesbrough's Nick Barmby is expected to recover in time from an ankle injury - as is Jamie Pollock.

Despite his massive transfer fee, Stan Collymore will not figure in Liverpool's match against Queen's Park Rangers as he is still troubled by an ankle injury. Roy Evans, Liverpool's manager, will stand by the side that destroyed Tottenham at White Hart Lane with Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler leading the attack.

"We need maximum points tomorrow and will only achieve that by producing the effort and application which was first-class on Saturday," Evans said.

Ray Wilkins, QPR's manager, is also expected to reward a winning team by selecting the same line-up that brought Rangers their first success of the season at the weekend, when they beat Manchester City 1-0.

Gary Charles is expected to return to Aston Villa's defence against Bolton, who aim to build on their victory over Blackburn. Charles has recovered from a mouth infection and Ian Taylor will revert to midfield with Dwight Yorke partnering Savo Milosevic in attack.

"It has been a tough start but the players must dig really deep and find something extra when it is asked of them," Brian Little, Villa's manager, said.

Alan Ball has doubts about Paul Walsh (ankle injury) and Ian Brightwell (back injury) as he picks his Manchester City side to face against Everton at Maine Road. Everton have defender Andy Hinchcliffe on standby to replace Earl Barrett, who is struggling with a knee injury.

Leeds, hit by a shortage of goalkeepers, have drafted the 16-year-old trainee Nicky Byrne into their squad as cover for John Lukic at Southampton. Lukic is certain to play, but Byrne has been called up because the second choice, Mark Beeney, is suspended for one match after being sent off in a reserve game. With the third choice, Paul Pettinger, on loan to Rotherham, Howard Wilkinson is likely to name three outfield players on the bench as Leeds look to match their best start to a season since 1984.

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