Football: Cantona put straight back into the fray: Premiership managers start to ring the changes as returning strikers challenge for first-team places

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The Independent Online
ERIC CANTONA returns to action tonight, having served a three- match suspension for being sent off in a pre-season match. He has been named in the squad to face Wimbledon at Old Trafford, although the Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, would not say who would make way for him.

However, Ferguson, who refused to name his line-up, may drop the out-of-form Ryan Giggs. Both Roy Keane and Paul Parker are definite non-starters - Keane, is receiving treatment for a thigh strain and Parker has an ankle injury. Ferguson said: 'With the European Cup close at hand I don't want to take any unnecessary risks with any of my players.'

Niall Quinn, the Manchester City striker, is also close to making a first-team comeback. Quinn, who has recovered from a knee injury which kept him out of action for 10 months, will be on the substitutes' bench again against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Uwe Rosler and Paul Walsh have scored six goals between them in the last two matches, so Quinn will have to wait until Rosler's one-match suspension, for the game against Crystal Palace, to make his first start of the season. Terry Phelan and Andy Hill are in the City squad, but neither is fully fit so Steve Lomas is likely to keep his place at left back.

Robert Fleck has been added to the Chelsea squad after scoring twice for the reserves on Monday night and may be a candidate for a place on the substitutes' bench.

But, after coming from 2-0 down to beat Leeds 3-2 last Saturday, Chelsea are likely to be unchanged, with Paul Furlong and John Spencer leading the attack.

Fleck, bought for pounds 2.1m from Norwich two years ago, made only eight first-team starts last season, and was sent to Bolton on loan. But with Mark Stein and Scott Minto both injured, there could yet be a chance of Fleck re-establishing himself in the side, especially with the club's extra commitments in the European Cup- Winners' Cup.

Henning Berg, who missed Blackburn's 4-0 win against Coventry with flu, is set to return against Arsenal at Highbury and demote Paul Warhurst. All eyes will be on Rovers' strike force of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, but their manager, Kenny Dalglish, said: 'Goalscorers always tend to grab the headlines, but I am pleased with the contribution being made by everybody in the team.'

There will be a reunion at The Dell, but Ian Rush insists there will be no old pals' act when he comes face to face with Bruce Grobbelaar on the pitch when Liverpool visit Southampton.

Rush cannot wait to have one of the few Premiership goalkeepers he has yet to beat picking the ball out of the net. He said: 'I might not have scored against Bruce, but I know a few people who have.

'He is being quoted as saying he feels bitter about leaving Liverpool. I think he thinks he has something to prove against us. We'll just have to make sure he doesn't succeed.'

Grobbelaar and his defence are recovering after conceding five goals against Newcastle while Liverpool are full of confidence after their 3-0 defeat of Arsenal, inspired by Robbie Fowler's five- minute hat-trick.

Leicester's record signing Mark Draper is doubtful for the match against Queen's Park Rangers. Draper, a pounds 1.25m buy from Notts County, limped off with an ankle injury during the defeat at Nottingham Forest last Saturday.

He is having intensive treatment, but the Leicester manager, Brian Little, said: 'Although he wants to play, I'm not hopeful that he will be fit. But I'll wait until as late as possible.'

The left-back, Mike Whitlow, also took a knock on his leg, but should be fit. Little plans changes after three defeats left Leicester as the only team in the Premiership without a point.

(Photograph omitted)

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