Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

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Arsenal v Coventry City

Last season: 2-0

ARSENAL WILL be at full strength for the visit of the Sky Blues, but Emmanuel Petit will be playing his final game before his latest suspension starts. The Gunners have only three players ruled out through injury - Remi Garde (ankle), Matthew Upson (hamstring) and Stephen Hughes (broken arm) - but none of them are first-team regulars. Arsene Wenger remains fully confident that Petit will be in the right frame of mind to face Coventry despite renewed speculation over his future at the club and his frustration at refereeing decisions. With Arsenal lying in second place in the table, Wenger knows that his side must continue their fine recent run to maintain a title challenge.

Coventry's manager Gordon Strachan has to find ways of covering for strikers Noel Whelan and John Aloisi, who are both suspended. Darren Huckerby is expected to team up with the Italian loan striker Stephano Gioacchini in attack, but the absence of the two suspended players will be keenly felt. Coventry's Mick Quinn, in 1993, was the last man to score a hat- trick at Highbury.

ARSENAL (from) Seaman, Dixon, Winterburn, Adams, Keown, Petit, Vieira, Overmars, Parlour, Anelka, Bergkamp, Manninger, Vivas, Diawara, Kanu, Bould, Grimandi, Ljungberg.

COVENTRY (from): Hedman, Nilsson, Shaw, Konjic, Burrows, Boateng, Telfer, McAllister, Froggatt, Huckerby, Gioacchini, Soltvedt, Clement, Quinn, Ogrizovic, Edworthy.

Suspensions: Coventry: Whelan, Aloisi.

Referee: P Alcock.

Blackburn Rovers v Wimbledon

Last season: 0-0

BLACKBURN'S MANAGER Brian Kidd will have Darren Peacock and Keith Gillespie back. The veteran centre-half Peacock returns from a one-match ban while Gillespie is poised for a recall after shaking off an ankle problem. Striker Nathan Blake has undergone surgery on a troublesome Achilles complaint, which puts him out of the reckoning. Kidd has plenty of cover, however. Chris Sutton and Ashley Ward are set to start up front, with Matt Jansen and Kevin Davies on the bench. Rovers can take some heart from the fact that Wimbledon have failed to score in six of their league visits to Blackburn.

The Wimbledon centre-half Chris Perry has a thigh muscle injury. Co-coaches David Kemp and Mick Harford are concerned over his fitness as they are desperate to turn around the Dons' recent mini-slump which consisted of a 1-0 defeat to Leicester and a 3-1 home humiliation at the hands of struggling Nottingham Forest. Gareth Ainsworth is still out with a groin injury while Michael Hughes looks set to be drafted into the first team ahead of Mark Kennedy.

BLACKBURN ROVERS (from) Filan, McAteer, Henchoz, Peacock, Taylor, Davidson, Gillespie, Johnson, Dunn, Marcolin, Wilcox, Duff, Sutton, Ward, Jansen, Davies, Coughlan, Williams.

WIMBLEDON (from): Sullivan, Heald, Cunningham, Kimble, Perry, Blackwell, Thatcher, Jupp, Pearce, C Hughes, Earle, Euell, M Hughes, Roberts, Ardley, Fear, Hartson, Kennedy, Ekoku, Gayle, Goodman, Leaburn, Cort.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: G Willard.

Nottingham Forest v Middlesbrough

Last season: 4-0

NOTTINGHAM FOREST'S Welsh international midfielder Andy Johnson is almost certainly out today against Middlesbrough after suffering a dead leg in last Saturday's 3-1 victory over Wimbledon at Selhurst Park. He is included in the squad, despite not training this week, alongside former Scottish international defender Richard Gough, who is hoping to recover from a back injury picked up in his debut against Newcastle. If Johnson steps down, Chris Bart-Williams or the versatile Frenchman Thierry Bonalair are poised to take over. Forest, bottom of the table and still six points adrift of the nearest rivals Southampton, can take some consolation from the fact that they have not lost in the league to Middlesbrough, home or away, in 24 meetings since 1973.

New signing Keith O'Neill goes straight into the Boro squad. The former Norwich winger, bought for pounds 700,000, is joined by fit again Alun Armstrong and midfielders Paul Gascoigne and Andy Townsend - both back from suspension - but defender Gary Pallister is out with a back problem.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (from) Crossley, Louis-Jean, Rogers, Gough, Chettle, Palmer, Edwards, Mattsson, Johnson, Freedman, Van Hooijdonk, Shipperley, Beasant, Bart-Williams, Bonalair, Stensaas, Darcheville, Quashie, Gemmill, Woan, Harewood.

MIDDLESBROUGH (from): Schwarzer, Beresford, Stockdale, Cooper, Vickers, Festa, Gordon, Harrison, Mustoe, Gascoigne, Townsend, Maddison, Summerbell, Beck, Deane, Ricard, O'Neill, Armstrong.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: S Dunn.

TOMORROW (3 PM)

Man Utd v Everton

Last season: 2-0

MANCHESTER UNITED will be without the suspended Roy Keane and Paul Scholes tomorrow. Keane picked up his eighth yellow card of the season in the FA Cup tie against Chelsea a fortnight ago and Scholes was sent off after a second booking in the same game. Phil Neville, Ronny Johnsen and Nicky Butt are in contention for two of the places in midfield with David Beckham and Ryan Giggs looking certain to take the others.

Everton will confront the Champions' League semi-finalists without their young Irish defender Richard Dunne, who aggravated a hamstring problem last week in the home defeat by Arsenal. Nicky Barmby, who has calf and ankle injuries, should have recovered in time for the daunting Old Trafford clash. Don Hutchison, following his first full international call-up for Scotland, will play up front in his last game before an almost certain three-match ban. Fellow Scot David Weir will switch to full-back in place of Barmby, with either Tony Grant or John Oster the candidates to take over in midfield.

MANCHESTER UNITED (from) Schmeichel, G Neville, Berg, Stam, Irwin, Beckham, Johnsen, Butt, Giggs, Cole, Yorke, Solskjaer, P Neville, Sheringham, Blomqvist, Brown, Curtis, Greening, van der Gouw.

EVERTON (from): Myhre, Weir, Materazzi, Watson, Short, Ball, Barmby, Dacourt, Unsworth, Grant, Oster, Bakayoko, Hutchison, Cadamarteri, Jeffers, Simonsen, O'Kane, Branch, Jevons.

Suspensions: United: Keane, Scholes.

Referee: M Riley.

Leeds United v Derby County Last season: 4-3

LEEDS' YOUNG striker Alan Smith will miss the visit of Derby as he sits out his second suspension of the season. Smith's place up front is likely to go to Harry Kewell, with on-loan Willem Korsten filling in for the Australian international on the wing. It is likely to be the only change for manager David O'Leary's side, who go in search of a sixth successive league win in the top flight for the first time since the days of Don Revie.

Derby County are without six senior players. Paulo Wanchope, who scored twice against Liverpool last week, is away with Costa Rica, and Dean Sturridge is suspended. With Rory Delap already ruled out for the rest of the season by a knee injury, manager Jim Smith also has wing-backs Tony Dorigo and Stefano Eranio out of contention due to hamstring problems. Midfielder Lee Carsley is in talks with Blackburn, and Smith said yesterday: "We are down to the bare bones." Greek wing-back Vasilis Borbokis makes his full debut, and Kevin Harper partners Deon Burton in attack.

LEEDS UNITED (from) Martyn, Haaland, Radebe, Wetherall, Korsten, Wijnhard, Hasselbaink, Ribeiro, Bowyer, Hopkin, Granville, Halle, Kewell, Harte, Batty, Woodgate, McPhail, Jones, Robinson.

DERBY COUNTY (from): Hoult, Prior, Stimac, Laursen, Borbokis, Bohinen, Powell, Baiano, Schnoor, Burton, Harper, Poom, Carbonari, Christie, Elliott, Launders, Robinson.

Suspensions: Leeds: Smith. Derby: Sturridge.

Referee: P Jones.

Southampton v Sheffield Wed

Last season: 2-3

THE SOUTHAMPTON manager Dave Jones will give a fitness test to midfielder David Hughes before naming his squad. He has been struggling with a hamstring injury suffered in training this week but expects to recover in time to face Wednesday as the Saints attempt to climb out of the Premiership relegation zone. The Norwegian international striker Egil Ostenstad, on the bench for last weekend's 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough after recovering from a groin injury, could start if Jones decides to rest England Under-21 international James Beattie. David Howells has returned to full training after surgery on his injured knee but is not yet fit enough to return to first-team action.

Sheffield Wednesday welcome back Benito Carbone from a one-match suspension. The Italian will replace Richie Humphreys up front as the Owls look to end a run of three straight defeats and a slide towards the relegation scrap. Danny Sonner should recover in time from illness which forced him off after 30 minutes of last week's loss to Leeds.

SOUTHAMPTON (from) Jones, Benali, Dodd, Colleter, Lundekvam, Monkou, Oakley, Le Tissier, Marsden, D Hughes, M Hughes, Kachloul, Ostenstad, Beattie, Bradley, Williams.

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

Suspensions: None.

Referee: R Harris.

West Ham United v Newcastle United

Last season: 0-1

PAOLO DI CANIO is fit to face Newcastle at Upton Park today, having trained this week after the groin problem which ruled him out of Saturday's win over Chelsea. Also available again is Joe Cole, who was not involved last weekend because of his England Under-18 duties. But the pair may have to settle for a place on the bench. John Moncur is doubtful with a muscle strain.

Newcastle travel to London without the services of suspended German midfielder Dietmar Hamann. Defender Steve Howey, midfielder Stephen Glass and striker Duncan Ferguson are all missing through injury, but manager Ruud Gullit otherwise has a full squad from which to choose. Gullit criticised his players after last week's 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United for showing Alex Ferguson's side too much respect. He said yesterday, however, that he is confident that they can bounce back in London. "Things are still looking good for us," he said. "We've worked hard to get there. We've had some bad moments, but that's normal in football. It's happening now with Aston Villa. Everyone said they would win the championship - now they fear they might not qualify for Europe."

WEST HAM (from) Hislop, Pearce, Ruddock, Ferdinand, Minto, Lomas, Lampard, Foe, Keller, Sinclair, Kitson, Forrest, Potts, Berkovic, Lazaridis, Di Canio, Cole, Moncur, Dicks, Coyne, Holligan.

NEWCASTLE (from): Given, Harper, Barton, Charvet, Dabizas, Domi, Speed, Solano, Lee, Georgiadis, Maric, Brady, Ketsbaia, Shearer, Saha, Hughes, Griffin.

Suspensions: Newcastle: Hamann.

Referee: P Durkin.

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