Football: Match-by-match guide to the Premiership - Sport - The Independent

Football: Match-by-match guide to the Premiership

Arsenal v Leeds United

Last season: 3-1

ARSENAL'S FRENCH midfielder Patrick Vieira is available again after missing seven matches through suspension. Arsene Wenger, for one, will be happy to see him back. "When you have an important player like Vieira out of the side and you lose, everybody says, `It's because he wasn't playing'," Wenger said. "I think we have done well without him but I am happy he is back because he is a winner and from a mental and physical point of view he will be fresh. He has a great presence and a huge desire to succeed. He has been impatient while out of the side but now he is happy to be back and will play against Leeds." The Gunners will be without Vieira's countryman, Gilles Grimandi, who suffered a kick on the ankle in Sunday's defeat at Coventry.

Leeds' manager, David O'Leary, could face a striking problem if Darren Huckerby fails to shake off an ankle injury. O'Leary is already without Alan Smith, also with an ankle problem, which leaves Michael Bridges as the only recognised forward, who could be asked to play on his own at Highbury. Leeds are still without the midfielder David Batty, who has a calf injury.

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Arsenal: Kanu, Overmars (10). Leeds: Bridges (13).

Referee: G Poll.

Bradford City v Everton

Last season: No fixture

BRADFORD'S MANAGER, Paul Jewell, has no new injury problems after his side's 4-0 defeat at Manchester United. Having played Lee Mills on his own up front at Old Trafford, Jewell should restore Dean Saunders to the starting line-up today as the Bantams try to keep above the relegation zone.

Everton seem unlikely to make any changes from the side that thrashed Sunderland 5-0 on Sunday. Walter Smith even had the luxury of being able to take off Francis Jeffers and Nicky Barmby with 15 minutes left, to give them a rest in preparation for the Bradford trip. Morale at Goodison is high now that the club's takeover has been completed. "As long as we continue to be mentally prepared for the Premiership as players, we could be looking at the top six soon," Don Hutchison said yesterday. Everton started their revival with a 3-1 win at Watford earlier this month, and will now be looking to build on the win against Sunderland. "We've got well into the top half of the table and a win at Bradford could see us sixth," Hutchison said. "We are still unbeaten at home in the League and that's a proud record."

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Bradford: Mills (5). Everton: Campbell (9).

Referee: U Rennie.

Leicester City v

Newcastle United

Last season: 2-0

LEICESTER CITY'S Steve Guppy, Andrew Impey, Neil Lennon, Ian Marshall and Steve Walsh were all missing for Sunday's defeat at Leeds and are not expected to return today. Pegguy Arphexad will continue to deputise in goal for Tim Flowers, who sustained a knee injury in training last week.

Kieron Dyer is Newcastle United's main doubt, having suffered a groin injury in the 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Boxing Day. The Portuguese defender Helder is out for a fortnight with a similar problem. Alan Shearer, who took his goal tally for the season to 21 against Liverpool, is hoping that this may be his best-ever season. Shearer is three ahead of Sunderland's Kevin Phillips in the race for the golden boot and has his sights on bettering the career-best 37 goals in all competitions achieved with Blackburn in the title-winning year of 1994-95. "From memory, this is only the second time that I have passed 20 goals by Christmas," Shearer said. "Bobby Robson has got the club buzzing and we are really looking forward to the match with Leicester."

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Leicester: Cottee, Izzet (9). Newcastle: Shearer (21).

Referee: P Durkin.

Liverpool v

Wimbledon

Last season: 3-0

LIVERPOOL, WITH only one defeat in their last 10 matches, have Stephane Henchoz back in the squad after suspension. Gerard Houllier has to decide whether to risk Robbie Fowler, who came on for the last seven minutes of Sunday's 2-2 draw at Newcastle, in place of Danny Murphy. There is less chance of Vladimir Smicer and David Thompson having recovered from injury.

Wimbledon will be without John Hartson, who underwent exploratory knee surgery on Christmas Eve and has been ruled out for up to two months. Egil Olsen will be hoping Carl Cort will be fit after missing the Boxing Day draw with West Ham. Neal Ardley, who has been told his future lies away from Selhurst Park, will continue to deputise if Cort is out.

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Liverpool: Owen (8). Wimbledon: Cort (14).

Referee: N Barry.

Sunderland v

Manchester United

Last season: No fixture

SUNDERLAND HOPE to have Kevin Phillips available as they look to bounce back after Sunday's 5-0 thrashing at Everton. The prolific goalscorer missed his first game of the season at Goodison Park with a hamstring injury. New signing Kevin Kilbane made his first appearance in the starting line-up but is likely to revert to the substitutes bench.

David Beckham, who missed the Bradford game with a hamstring injury, is United's biggest doubt. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, both of whom started on the bench against Bradford, look likely to start. If Ryan Giggs is out with flu, either Quinton Fortune or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could fill in on the left-hand side of midfield.

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Sunderland: Phillips (18). Man Utd: Cole (15).

Referee:J Winter.

Watford v Southampton

Last season: No fixture

THE WATFORD manager, Graham Taylor, is still struggling with injury problems but he has the French striker, Xavier Gravelaine, available again after a three-match suspension.

Southampton are almost certain to be without their Latvian striker, Marian Pahars, and the midfielder Matthew Oakley. Pahars has had a precautionary X-ray on an ankle injury while Oakley has a knee problem. Dave Jones may recall Mark Hughes, and Kevin Davies could start in place of Pahars. Dean Richards will play despite a nagging Achilles problem and Claus Lundekvam will have a painkilling injection to ease the discomfort from a broken toe.

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Watford: Ngonge (5). Southampton: Pahars (8).

Referee: M Riley.

West Ham v Derby County

Last season: 0-0

WEST HAM'S Neil Ruddock is very unlikely to play because he suffered a badly swollen eye after colliding with Wimbledon's Carl Leaburn in the Boxing Day draw at Selhurst Park. Harry Redknapp has Igor Stimac fit again as a ready replacement but knows that the Croatian is one booking away from another suspension. John Moncur is out with flu, Paul Kitson has a back injury and Steve Lomas has a groin problem.

Derby's wing-back, Rory Delap, missed the Boxing Day defeat against Aston Villa through suspension and is struggling to shake off a virus. Manager Jim Smith has his Israeli international, Avi Nimni, fit again and available for selection.

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: West Ham: Di Canio (10). Derby: Strupar (10).

Referee: A Wiley.

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