Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

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Nottm Forest v Man United

Last season: No fixture

ALEX FERGUSON (right) will try to ignore speculation over his future as his table-topping side travel east to take on the table-propping Forest, who will be trying to do the unlikely and secure a second consecutive win under Ron Atkinson (left).

The Manchester United manager has been linked with the England post vacated by Glenn Hoddle this week, but will be focusing all his attention on the Premiership. Ferguson believes his team will be in for a hard game against Atkinson's men following Forest's victory - their first win for 19 matches - at fellow relegation candidates Everton last Saturday. "You don't get easy games anywhere, and we are expecting a tough match," Ferguson said yesterday.

"Forest have a new manager in Big Ron, and he will have everybody thinking they can win the World Cup. You know what Ron's like, but we'll be ready for it." Ferguson rejected suggestions that statistics point to an easy victory for his side. "It doesn't really matter much at this stage of the season, it is what you end up with that is important. It is important to take something from every game and that is what we are trying to do."

Current form still suggests that the three points will be going to Old Trafford, and history also points to the visitors, who have not lost any of their four Premiership meetings at the City Ground.

This game is given extra significance as Atkinson is a former United manager, and was succeeded by Ferguson 12 years ago. A win for United will see them move on to 50 points, but they will remain top of the table regardless of the outcome tomorrow.

Forest will move off the bottom, at least under Monday, if they can upset the form book. However, there are doubts about England winger Steve Stone (thigh), Pierre Van Hooijdonk (ribs) and on-loan Norwegian Stale Stensaas (thigh).

For United, David Beckham and Andy Cole are set to start after being rested in the 1-0 win over Derby on Wednesday night. Henning Berg, who missed the game with a knee injury, should also be available.

However, Ryan Giggs will not be available because of a hamstring injury which restricted him to just 10 minutes against Derby. Ferguson's team go into this game groaning under the weight of recent plaudits; Dwight Yorke won the Player of the Month for January, and Ferguson himself has been named Manager of the Month. New Old Trafford No 2, Steve McClaren is likely to be in the dug-out for the first time today.

MANCHESTER UNITED (from) Schmeichel, G Neville, Johnsen, Stam, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Butt, Blomqvist, Cole, Yorke, Scholes, Solksjaer, P Neville, May, Brown, Berg, Van der Gouw.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (from): Beasant, Harkes, Palmer, Hjelde, Stensaas, Stone, Johnson, Gemmill, Rogers, Van Hooijdonk, Darcheville, Chettle, Porfirio, Bart-Williams, Woan, Lyttle, Gray, Shipperley, Freedman, Quashie, Bonalair, Armstrong.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: P Alcock.

Aston Villa v


Last season: 0-4

THE BLACKBURN striker Chris Sutton could make a timely return to Premiership action today, given the departure of Glenn Hoddle as England manager. Having fallen out with Hoddle over his repeated selection for the B team, Sutton seemingly now has the chance to rebuild his international career. However, as it will be Sutton's first appearance for over two months, he may have to settle for a place on the bench. Kevin Gallacher faces another month out with a calf injury, Keith Gillespie (ankle) and Nathan Blake (neck) are also injured, while Jeff Kenna and Stephane Henchoz are both suspended. Darren Peacock could be recalled.

Aston Villa are missing six players, with Lee Hendrie banned, Stan Collymore still undergoing counselling and central defender Ugo Ehiogu suffering from a fractured eye socket. Midfielders Alan Thompson and Mark Draper are recovering from ankle injuries and goalkeeper Mark Bosnich is still battling to shake off a shoulder problem. There is good news for Villa, though, with Dion Dublin available again after injury. Simon Grayson could make a rare appearance in midfield.

ASTON VILLA (from): Oakes, Watson, Scimeca, Southgate, Barry, Wright, Taylor, Merson, Grayson, Dublin, Joachim, Hughes, Ferraresi, Vassell, Lee, Rachel.

BLACKBURN ROVERS (from): Filan, Davidson, Broomes, Peacock, Taylor, Duff, Dunn, McAteer, McKinlay, Wilcox, Ward, Jansen, Davies, Sutton, Flowers, Croft, Dailly, Marcolin.

Suspensions: Aston Villa: Hendrie. Blackburn: Kenna, Henchoz.

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

Chelsea v


Last season: 4-2

CHELSEA'S SPANIARD Albert Ferrer (calf) is doubtful. Fellow defender Bernard Lambourde will definitely miss the game with a groin problem but Michael Duberry is back in contention after being injured at Arsenal last weekend. Gianluca Vialli must decide whether to restore himself up front alongside Gianfranco Zola or keep the teenage striker Mikael Forssell in the line-up after his two goals against Oxford in midweek.

Southampton's new signing, Chris Marsden, is likely to make his debut. Marsden, who completed his pounds 800,000 move from Birmingham at the start of the week, is in contention as Matt Le Tissier is expected to be out for a month after tearing a hamstring during the 3-0 win against Leeds last week. Mark Hughes (heel) is expected to recover in time to face his old side, and winger Stuart Ripley should be fit after a calf problem. Defender Scott Marshall is out with a stomach bug. Defender Richard Dryden is out for three weeks with an ankle injury, Francis Benali is still two weeks away from returning from a broken arm, and David Hirst and John Beresford are out with long-term knee injuries.

CHELSEA (from): De Goey, Hitchcock, Leboeuf, Babayaro, Desailly, Le Saux, Ferrer, Duberry, Myers, Petrescu, Di Matteo, Wise, Goldbaek, Newton, Nicholls, Morris, Terry, Percassi, Vialli, Zola, Forssell.

SOUTHAMPTON (from): Jones, Hiley, Dodd, Lundekvam, Colleter, Kachloul, Marsden, M Hughes, Oakley, Beattie, Ostenstad, Ripley, Monk, Bridge, Howells, Warner, Stensgaard.

Suspension: Southampton: Monkou.

Referee: R Harris.

Leeds v

Newcastle United

Last season: 4-1

BOTH SIDES enter today's match with injury problems affecting their line-ups. The Leeds manager, David O'Leary, is denied the services of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink through suspension, and Stephen McPhail and Bruno Ribeiro with injury, who are this week's most notable absentees from a first-team squad decimated by injury in recent months. Jimmy's fellow Dutchman, Clyde Wijnhard, could earn a rare start up front alongside the 18-year-old Alan Smith, while new signing Willem Korsten could also appear in an attacking role.

Newcastle must do without the services of the England captain, Alan Shearer, who is suspended for the first time in his career. Also missing for the same reason is Nikos Dabizas, and the new French defender Didier Domi is unlikely to play because of a hamstring injury. Rob Lee, who could have played his last match for the Magpies after speculation linking him with a move back to London, has Achilles tendon trouble, but Laurent Charvet, Andy Griffin and on-loan Metz striker Louis Saha are all in the squad after recovering from knocks.

LEEDS UNITED (from): Martyn, Haaland, Radebe, Wetherall, Korsten, Wijnhard, Ribeiro, Bowyer, Hopkin, Granville, Halle, Kewell, Harte, Woodgate, Jackson, Smith, Robinson.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (from): Given, Harper, Barton, Griffin, Charvet, Howie, Hughes, Hamann, Speed, Glass, Solano, Brady, Geordiadis, Ketsbaia, Andersson, Saha, Pearce, Dalglish.

Suspensions: Leeds: Hasselbaink. Newcastle: Shearer, Dabzias.

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).

Leicester v

Sheff Wed

Last season: 1-1

LEICESTER'S NEW pounds 2m Icelandic international signing from Bolton, Arnar Gunnlaugsson, joins the squad immediately. If Emile Heskey does not pass a late fitness test on a groin injury, the iceman may maketh his home debut. Neil Lennon returns from suspension while Frank Sinclair and Muzzy Izzet have recovered from the injuries that kept them out at Middlesbrough last week. Should the Foxes win today, it will complete their first seasonal League double over the Owls since 1970-71.

Sheffield Wednesday's results have begun to show an improvement in recent weeks, and their manager, Danny Wilson, has virtually a full squad to choose from for today's trip down the M1. With the exception of two long- term absentees with knee-injuries, Earl Barrett and Ian Nolan, Wilson has no further problems, with midfielder Danny Sonner available again. Wednesday are still hoping to have their goalkeeper Pavel Srnicek's three- match ban, for his sending off against Derby last week, commuted to one game. He plays for the last time before suspension today.

LEICESTER CITY (from): Keller, Arphexad, Guppy, Sinclair, Walsh, Elliott, Ullathorne, Taggart, Kaamark, Impey, Zagorakis, Savage, Campbell, Parker, Izzet, Lennon, Heskey, Cottee, Wilson, Fenton, Gunnlaugsson.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (from): Srnicek, Atherton, Jonk, Newsome, Walker, Carbone, Booth, Sanetti, Cobian, Humphreys, Briscoe, Stefanovic, Oakes, Hinchcliffe, Emerson, Rudi, Alexandersson, Sonner, Morrison, Pressman.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: G Willard.

Liverpool v


Last season: No fixture

STEVE McMANAMAN will get a rare chance to show the red faithful why he is worth the pounds 14m Real Madrid will pay him to desert them when he starts only his second game for Liverpool since the beginning of November. Patrik Berger's hamstring injury allows manager Gerard Houllier to reinstate fit-again McManaman into his midfield without changing his 5-3-2 formation. Jamie Redknapp is expected to have recovered from a slight groin strain, and Jamie Carragher will return after a one-match ban. Rigobert Song, who played in the reserves on Tuesday along with McMamaman, will probably have to wait for his full Anfield debut. He started last week's 2-1 defeat at Coventry, but is still not considered fully match fit by Houllier.

Middlesbrough's striker Hamilton Ricard is doubtful through injury. The Colombian damaged an ankle during last weekend's 0-0 draw with Leicester at the Riverside Stadium, and will be replaced by the Dane Mikkel Beck if he fails a late fitness test. Manager Bryan Robson has no other injury worries as Boro seek their first League win at Anfield since a 2-0 victory in March 1976.

LIVERPOOL (from): James, Heggem, Carragher, Staunton, Babb, Matteo, Harkness, Bjornebye, McMamanan, Ince, Redknapp, Gerrard, Owen, Fowler, Riedle, Song, Thompson, Friedel..

MIDDLESBROUGH (from): Schwarzer, Beresford, Fleming, Festa, Cooper, Vickers, Pallister, Gordon, Stamp, Mustoe, Maddison, Gascoigne, Townsend, Beck, Ricard, Deane, Moore.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: P Jones.

Tottenham v Coventry

Last season: 1-1

DAVID GINOLA has been named in a 19-man Tottenham squad but manager George Graham may decide it is too soon to recall the French maestro after a hamstring injury. Ginola missed last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Blackburn through suspension and was not fit enough to reclaim his place in midweek against Wimbledon in the FA Cup, having limped off against the same opposition after an hour a week earlier. He is back in training and Graham insists that the injury is not as bad as first suspected, but Andy Sinton looks likely to retain the left-wing role - with Ginola being saved for next Saturday's FA cup tie at Leeds. Graham has increased his midfield options with Tim Sherwood's pounds 4m arrival but the former Blackburn captain has to challenge either Allan Nielsen - who scored twice in midweek - or Steffen Freund for a place. It is more likely he will start on the bench.

Coventry have midfielder George Boateng suspended for the match at Tottenham, along with full-back David Burrows. Paul Telfer steps into the breach after his one-match ban. Marc Edworthy is expected to take over from Burrows at left-back.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (from): Walker; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Edinburgh, Young, Fox, Taricco, Anderton, Freund, Sherwood, Calderwood, Nielsen, Sinton, Ginola, Ferdinand, Armstrong, Iversen, Baardsen (gk).

COVENTRY CITY (from): Hedman, Nilsson, Shaw, Williams, Edworthy, Telfer, McAllister, Soltvedt, Froggatt, Whelan, Huckerby, Clement, Breen, Gioacchini, Aloisi, P Hall, Ogrizovic (gk).

Suspensions: Coventry: Boateng, Burrows.

Referee: S Lodge.

West Ham v Arsenal

Last season: 0-0

IAN WRIGHT will not play for West Ham against his old club as he is still recovering from a knee operation. Eyal Berkovic and Samassi Abou have both recovered from illness while Ian Pearce and Trevor Sinclair are both eligible after suspension. Steve Lomas and Stan Lazaridis have both had flu and will not figure. Still on the injured list are Richard Hall, Marc Keller and Javier Margas, who is still in Chile receiving treatment.

Arsenal's Patrick Vieira returns from suspension and will replace Remi Garde. Nigerian striker Nwankwo Kanu, signed from Internazionale three weeks ago, will not arrive in the country until today and does not figure in Arsene Wenger's plans. Dennis Bergkamp and Nicolas Anelka will again spearhead the Gunners attack despite an impressive substitute appearance by another new French signing, Kaba Diawara, in last Sunday's win over Chelsea. Diawara will be on the bench again. Steve Bould (knee), Gilles Grimandi (ankle) and Fredrik Ljungberg (ankle) are being given another week to fully recover from their injuries. Portuguese forward Luis Boa Morte is still out after a cartilage operation last month.

WEST HAM (from): Hislop, Breacker, Dicks, Ruddock, Sinclair, Kitson, Di Canio, Ferdinand, Moncur, Lampard, Pearce, Abou, Hodges, Foe, Berkovic, Omoyimni, Minto, Cole.

ARSENAL (from): Seaman; Dixon, Keown, Adams, Winterburn, Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Overmars Bergkamp, Anelka, Garde, Hughes, Diawara, Upson, Vivas, Manninger (gk).

Suspensions: West Ham: Pearce, Sinclair.

Referee: J Winter.


Derby County v Everton

Last season: 3-1

DERBY'S JAMAICAN striker Deon Burton could be recalled against Everton tomorrow. Burton had a positive effect when he replaced Kevin Harper at Old Trafford on Wednesday and, with Dean Sturridge doubtful with a hamstring strain, could partner Paulo Wanchope up front. The Rams' Italian duo Stefano Eranio and Francesco Baiano could also be recalled by manager Jim Smith. The home side will be looking to improve upon a poor recent record of having scored only six goals in their last 10 home matches.

The Merseysiders have only lost twice in their last 12 visits to Derby, but will be without the suspended Danny Cadamarteri and Marco Materazzi for the trip to Pride Park. Walter Smith will also be without striker Michael Branch, and the former Derby defender, Craig Short who are both out through injury. John Collins, Alex Cleland and Slaven Bilic remain long-term absentees. Everton have gone six League games without a victory, scoring just two goals. They have gone five hours and 29 minutes without a goal, but if there is any grain of hope to grasp as they travel tomorrow it is that they have found the net four times in their last seven Premiership away matches, which is a rate above their overall average this season.

They need a rapid improvement to avoid yet another fight against relegation and manager Smith is expected to put Don Hutchison up front with 18-year- old England Youth striker Francis Jeffers on the bench. Olivier Dacourt and Ibrahima Bakayoko are expected to start after being named as substitutes for last week's 1-0 home defeat by Nottingham Forest.

DERBY COUNTY: Hoult, Prior, Carbonari, Stimac, Laursen, Carsley, Powell Bohinen, Dorigo, Burton, Wanchope, Baiano, Eranio, Harper, Hunt, Knight, Schnoor, Sturridge, Elliott.

EVERTON: Myhre, Ward, Unsworth, Watson, Dunne, Ball, Grant, Dacourt, Hutchison, Barmby, Oster, Bakayoko, Jeffers, Jevons, Milligan, Simonsen.

Suspensions: Everton: Materazzi, Cadamarteri.

Referee: G Poll.


Charlton v Wimbledon

Last season: No fixture

CHARLTON HAVE taken just three points from their last 13 Premiership matches and have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 11. Last Sunday, Manchester United looked like being held to a draw before Dwight Yorke scored a last-minute winner, which just goes to show that Alan Curbishley's side can defend like demons for 89 minutes but it will all be for nothing if they succumb at the death. While The Addicks will take heart in the knowledge that Wimbledon have not scored a goal in more than three hours of football, they themselves have never scored more than one goal in any League game against the Dons.

Joe Kinnear's side are seventh despite their recent poverty in front of goal, and with one route into Europe having been closed by their 3- 0 defeat at Tottenham in the FA Cup, the Dons will redouble their efforts to take at least a Uefa Cup place through the Premiership runners-up spots. Record signing John Hartson has been given a three-match ban for the training ground incident with Eyal Berkovic while at West Ham, but the Welshman is available for selection for this match.

SQUADS: to be announced.

Suspensions: Wimbledon: Hughes.

Referee: D Elleray.