FOOTBALL TEAM NEWS

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The Independent Online
Arsenal v Ipswich

Merson is expected to shrug off a knee injury for Arsenal while full- back Dixon returns after missing Wednesday's 1-0 home defeat by Liverpool with a virus. Striker Hartson, who was only a substitute in that game, could also be back to partner Wright while Kiwomya, with only one start in the last nine games, hopes for a chance against his old club. Ipswich's crippling casualty list is headed by Canadian goalkeeper Forrest (torn ligaments in foot) while understudy Baker will be handicapped by a knee injury. Striker Mathie (knee) faces a late check and Wark is still suspended.

Chelsea v Aston Villa

Norwegian centre-back Johnsen returns from a two-match ban for struggling Chelsea. Manager Hoddle could recall £2.3m striker Furlong, but Kharin is likely to stay in goal after returning from a shoulder injury to end Hitchcock's 10-match first-team run. Saunders may be fit for Villa after a bout of bronchitis. The 11-day break between games has at least ensured the fitness of skipper Staunton, who limped off with a hamstring injury against Crystal Palace.

Coventry v Sheffield Wed

Wegerle is named by Coventry after a six-week injury lay-off and could feature for the first time under Ron Atkinson's reign. The Sky Blues may be without Achilles tendon-troubled Rennie. Borrows returns after a one- match ban. Wednesday are set to recall Hyde in place of suspended midfielder Williams. Hyde was one of six players axed by manager Francis after the 7-1 thrashing at home to Nottingham Forest, while Bart-Williams and Petrescu are others back in favour. The squad also includes teenage striker Barker, who has hit 11 goals, including three hat-tricks, in the last five reserve games.

Leeds v Blackburn

Deane is determined to disappoint a clutch of Leeds' rivals by shrugging off a knee injury suffered at Anfield, where he maintained his club's European push with his first goal in a dozen games. White, on target twice for the reserves in midweek, Whelan and Masinga are replacement contenders should Deane fail to make it against the champions-elect. Blackburn's forgotten man, England midfielder Batty, is set to play his first Premiership match for a year - against his former club. Batty, who left Elland Road in a £2.75m move last season, has been sidelined since last April with a broken foot, but could now replace Atkins. Another long-term absentee, Gallacher, out since breaking his leg 14 months ago, could be on the bench having figured in recent squads.

Leicester v Manchester United

Leicester, who were relegated on Thursday night, may promote their midweek substitutes, Lawrence and Blake, to the starting line-up for the sell- out clash. United will be without semi-final offender Keane, who is sidelined by an ankle wound that required seven stitches and Giggs (hamstring) is another absentee, but £7m striker Cole returns after being cup-tied.

Southampton v QPR

Beasant stood firm against former club Chelsea in midweek when Saints rested regular goalkeeper Grobbelaar after his return from an African Nations' Cup match in Zimbabwe. The result was a first clean sheet in six matches and Beasant, a member of England's 1990 World Cup squad, could now be asked to frustrate more west London opposition. Benali returns after a three-match ban, probably in place of calf injury-victim Maddison. QPR skipper McDonald and midfielder Holloway are both suspended, and that should mean recalls for Bardsley and Maddix. Former England player Hodge, fit after a foot injury which has restricted him to just 14 games since his £300,000 move from Leeds, could also figure in his first outing since January as Ray Wilkins' side pursue a Uefa Cup place.

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