Football: Teamsheet: Guide to the top football action on Boxing Day
Sunday 26 December 1999
Coventry's emergency ward could put the set of the Casualty Christmas Special to shame with seven defenders on the treatment table. The Sky Blues' new Swede, Tomas Gustafsson, signed from AIK Stockholm, will step in for his debut in English football but Arsenal's own problems in the physio department are receding fast. Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman should all return. Dennis Bergkamp will have to wait until Tuesday's visit from Leeds as will Patrick Vieira, who completes his seven-match ban today. Ray Parlour is still out.
Branko Strupar, who came off the bench for the final 12 minutes at Leicester, is in line for a full debut for Derby. He will partner Deon Burton in attack, with Marvin Robinson dropping to the bench. Georgi Kinkladze has flu, while Rory Delap is suspended. Vertically challenged Villa will field the diminutive duo of Julian Joachim and Benito Carbone up front in the absence of leading scorer Dion Dublin, who broke bones in his neck against Sheffield Wednesday, as John Gregory's side aim for successive Premiership victories for the first time since August.
How do you stop Kevin Phillips? Richard Gough has enough experience tucked away, and the return of the veteran Scot after a thigh injury may be Walter Smith's major fillip. Perhaps Bill Kenwright, the prospective new chairman at Goodison, has the answer. For Sunderland, Niall Quinn is rated extremely doubtful with an ankle injury. Peter Reid may decide to use Phillips as a lone front man. Kevin Kilbane could make his first start, on the wing or possibly in tandem with Phillips, with Stefan Schwarz switching to central midfield.
With Leeds' championship credentials being severely examined over the next eight days, David O'Leary could do without injuries to key players. David Batty's calf is still no better, and strikers Michael Bridges and Alan Smith, along with Jonathon Woodgate, are rated doubtful. New Fox on the block Darren Eadie will start and Martin O'Neill is confident that Emile Heskey, Frank Sinclair and Neil Lennon are on the mend - Andrew Impey is more uncertain. O'Neill may well need that gang of four on board to gain even a point at Elland Road.
Man Utd v
Struggling Bradford are in good heart following only their second home victory of the season against Newcastle - but the prospect of a trip to the European champions, whom they have beaten only twice in 21 League visits to Old Trafford (both 1-0, the last time in 1932), hardly makes for a happy Christmas. Dean Windass's ankle will have a late fitness test, Neil Redfearn returns, but Isiah Rankin is suspended. Mark Bosnich is fit to return in goal as United aim for a productive three days before jetting to Brazil for the World Club Championship.
After the romp comes the reality. Newcastle may have hit sorry Spurs for six but Liverpool can now boast the meanest back line in the top flight - although Stephane Henchoz is suspended, bringing to an end a run of seven clean sheets in 12 games alongside Sami Hyypia. Bobby Robson, who opens contract-extension talks next month, has an injury list as long as the Tyne, with Franck Dumas, Didier Domi, Alessandro Pistone, Helder and Steve Howey all out. Robbie Fowler may return for the Reds, but a midweek reserve game sharpener was called off.
Sheff Wed v
Owls manager Danny Wilson could be forgiven for thinking he is on the panel of the Boxing Day revival of New Faces with youngsters Derek Geary, Kevin Nicholson, Tony Crane and Mark McKeever all included. Andy Hinchcliffe, Petter Rudi and Lee Briscoe are all again extremely doubtful and Emerson Thome has headed for the London limelight. Boro are missing Gary Pallister, Colin Cooper, Dean Gordon, Paul Gascoigne, Christian Ziege and Paul Ince but pounds 1.5m Argentine teenager Carlos Marinelli could have his first taste of Premiership action.
Southampton v Chelsea
Emerson Thome, signed for pounds 2.7m from Sheffield Wednesday, is a shoo-in as Marcel Desailly has a damaged shoulder and Jes Hogh is hamstrung, but for which Chelsea will he debut? The European aristocrats or the Premiership also-rans? Saints goalkeeper Paul Jones has been unable to train with a fractured eye socket, Neil Moss stands by. Claus Lundekvam (toe) and Dean Richards (Achilles) are doubtful, but what the sell-out Dell crowd want most is Matt Le Tissier ghosting in, as in Christmases past, though he could be left to warm the bench.
Not a child, but a new website was born this Christmas - www.sugarout.co.uk - in a cyberspace stable somewhere in North London. Two abject cup exits at Fulham and Newcastle and no wins in six games have riled the Tottenham fans. Luke Young (hamstring) is the main injury doubt. If he fails to make it, Mauricio Taricco will switch to right-back, with Justin Edinburgh returning on the left. Watford, without Nick Wright (knee) and Xavier Gravelaine (suspended), will bid to end their own run of 13 games without a win. Something has to give.
Defenders Ben Thatcher (ankle) and Dean Blackwell (thigh) are Egil Olsen's major injury concerns, though front-three Marcus Gayle, Carl Cort and John Hartson all play despite carrying knocks. West Ham's Joe Cole has recovered from an ankle injury but skipper Steve Lomas is suspended and Manny Omoyinmi is spending Christmas in Scunthorpe. Paul Kitson faces a late fitness test with a back problem, John Moncur has a chest infection while Ian and Stuart Pearce are long-term absentees. Igor Stimac and Gary Charles return to the squad.
West Brom v
West Bromwich Albion, still smarting from their extra-time FA Cup exit at Blackburn, have defenders Daryl Burgess and Larus Sigurdsson returning from suspension. They also have a new chairman in millionaire businessman Paul Thompson, who took the reins on Christmas Eve. City manager Joe Royle is without Kevin Horlock due to a one-match ban, but he may opt to throw midfielder Tony Grant straight into the starting line-up after his pounds 450,000 move from Everton was sealed in time for the Christmas programme.
The last time Ipswich visited Craven Cottage in the League, 36 years ago today, the Beatles were No 1 and the Suffolk club needed someone "to hold their hand" after a 10-1 drubbing. This time Ipswich travel on the back of an eight-game unbeaten streak but hope David Johnson - top scorer with 13 - will be returning from a thigh injury. Mark Venus has an ankle problem so Wayne Brown may deputise. Fulham are without defender Alan Neilson (hamstring) and midfielder Sean Davis (groin).
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