Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

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THE PROMOTION RACE

Manchester United v Aston Villa

Last season: 1-1

ALEX FERGUSON has doubts over Jaap Stam and Ryan Giggs, although the Manchester United manager is confident they will make Wednesday's game at Liverpool. Stam missed last Sunday's draw at Leeds with a recurrence of ankle ligament trouble and Giggs has not played since taking a knock on the ankle during the FA Cup semi-final replay win over Arsenal. If Giggs fails to make it then Jesper Blomqvist will step in, with Wes Brown or David May lining up in defence should Stam also stand down. United have Roy Keane suspended. United will regain top spot in the Premiership from Arsenal if they beat Villa. Ferguson insists he is calm about the title run-in because his side can control their own destiny. "I think we have to win our five games - that's the way I look at it," he said yesterday. "If we do that we will win the league regardless of anyone else. It's not asking a lot and we've won plenty of matches this season. Our form is good, that's the important thing, while we're playing well and we're confident." United are unbeaten in 26 games in all competitions. "This has already been a fantastic season for the club and the build-up to European Cup final in Barcelona should be emphatic," Ferguson said. "We want the atmosphere [from now on at Old Trafford] to be like what it is for European nights."

Aston Villa hope to have a pair of England internationals available. Dion Dublin (knee) and Gareth Southgate (ankle) have all been under treatment this week but should be fit. Mark Bosnich (foot) will not travel. Ugo Ehiogu is in the running to start his first senior game for three months after a successful midweek outing in the reserves. Alan Thompson is also pressing for a return after a two-match absence with a hamstring strain. Lee Hendrie will be out for the second successive match due to the ankle injury that he suffered at Liverpool two weeks ago.

MANCHESTER UNITED (from): Schmeichel, G Neville, Stam, Johnsen, Irwin, Beckham, Butt, Scholes, Blomqvist, Cole, Yorke, P Neville, Brown, May, Giggs, Sheringham, Greening, Curtis, Van der Gouw.

ASTON VILLA (from): Bosnich or Oakes, Watson, Southgate, Calderwood, Ehiogu, Wright, Draper, Taylor, Merson, Stone, Taylor, Thompson, Dublin, Joachim, Vassell, Delaney, Barry, Enckleman.

Suspension: Man Utd: Keane.

Referee: K Burge.

Chelsea v Everton

Last season: 2-0

THREE DRAWS in Chelsea's last three Premiership games culminated in player-manager Gianluca Vialli announcing at Hillsborough last Sunday that: "I think the League has gone now. I think it is all about Arsenal and Manchester United". That speech was not an Alex Ferguson mind game but an admission that Vialli's players have hit the fatigue barrier. Goalkeeper Ed De Goey is hoping to shake off a toe injury, with Kevin Hitchcock on stand-by, and Tore Andre Flo is expected to shrug off a bout of flu. Gustavo Poyet is doubtful with a rib injury.

Everton are a mirror image of their hosts at Stamford Bridge - starting to fizz with purpose after a season of toil and looking, but for the odd point, safe from relegation. Manager Walter Smith will be without the suspended midfielder Scot Gemmill and defender Marco Materazzi, but veteran defender Dave Watson will be fit despite a chipped bone in his right foot.

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

EVERTON (from): Myhre, Weir, Short, Watson, Unsworth, Ball, Dacourt, Hutchison, Jeffers, Grant, Campbell, Simonsen, Barmby, Bakayoko, Cadamarteri, Ward, Milligan, Oster.

Suspensions: Chelsea: None. Everton: Gemmill, Materazzi.

Referee: D Gallagher.

Coventry City v Wimbledon

Last season: 0-0

COVENTRY WILL recall Gary McAllister after his one-match ban. Marcus Hall is expected to play on the left side of midfield, with Barry Quinn making way for McAllister. Noel Whelan is available after suspension and is expected to take over from John Aloisi. A win for the Sky Blues today would give them 40 points and - depending on results elsewhere - make it mathematically impossible for them to be relegated. A draw would not be a surprise, given that Wimbledon's last four visits to Coventry have all been draws. Manager Gordon Strachan will be hoping that striker Darren Huckerby, who has not scored for 14 matches, chooses today to return to form.

Wimbledon have taken just two points from the last 24 and will also be looking for an out of form striker - John Hartson - to start scoring. Winger Gareth Ainsworth is suffering again from the groin injury which kept him out for three months earlier this season. He will miss the trip to the Midlands. Chris Perry (foot) and Neal Ardley (toe) join the long- term casualties Efan Ekoku and Michael Hughes. Andy Roberts is suspended.

COVENTRY CITY (from): Hedman, Breen, Shaw, Williams, Burrows, Telfer, McAllister, Boateng, M Hall, Whelan, Huckerby, Aloisi, Gioacchini, Konjic, Clement, Soltvedt, Kirkland.

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

Suspension: Wimbledon: Roberts.

Referee: G Poll.

Newcastle United v Middlesbrough

Last season: No fixture

NEWCASTLE STRIKER Duncan Ferguson will start his first game since 28 December in the North-east derby with Middlesbrough at St James' Park. The big Scot, who underwent surgery on a groin injury at the turn of the year, will line up alongside the captain Alan Shearer, hopefully not too drained by his midweek endeavours on behalf of Kevin Keegan. However, defender Andy Griffin emerged less than unscathed from the call of country, a turned ankle while on duty with England Under-21s keeping him out of the squad.

The Middlesbrough manager, Bryan Robson, in contrast to his opposite number Ruud Gullit, is facing an injury crisis. Midfielder Paul Gascoigne's dead leg, suffered at Coventry a fortnight ago, suffered a reaction in training and will again keep him out and defender Colin Cooper, who damaged a knee during last week's 6-1 home defeat by Arsenal, has joined Gianluca Festa and Keith O'Neill on the long-term injury list. Robson has been forced to call youngsters Jason Gavin and Michael Cummins into a 20-man squad.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (from): Given, Harper, Barton, Domi, Dabizas, Beharall, Hughes, Speed, Hamann, Solano, Maric, Lee, Ketsbaia, Shearer, Ferguson, Andersson, Pearce, Georgiadis, Brady.

MIDDLESBROUGH (from): Schwarzer, Beresford, Stockdale, Gavin, Cummins, Baker, Vickers, Pallister, Gordon, Kinder, Maddison, Summerbell, Mustoe, Townsend, Campbell, Deane, Armstrong, Ricard, Stamp, Moore.

Suspensions: Newcastle: None. Middlesbrough: None.

Referee: M Reed.

Southampton v Leicester City

Last season: 2-1

SOUTHAMPTON'S MATT LE TISSIER is hoping to recover from injury to play. Le Tissier missed last weekend's goalless draw at Derby with a calf problem and suffered a recurrence of the strain during midweek training. Claus Lundekvam is available again following a one-match ban while left-back John Beresford could start his first game for eight months after recovering from a long-term knee injury. Latvian striker Marians Pahars (hamstring) and midfielder Hassan Kachloul (shoulder) both face late fitness tests. Neil Moss continues to deputise in goal with first- choice goalkeeper Paul Jones still out with the back injury that has kept him out for the last three weeks. Winger Stuart Ripley is unavailable as he starts a three-match ban.

Leicester's manager Martin O'Neill welcomes back defensive stalwart Steve Walsh for his side's trip to The Dell. The Foxes captain has been out of the side with an ankle injury since the Worthington Cup final in March but is expected to start. Gerry Taggart (hamstring) is definitely out, while Muzzy Izzet faces a late fitness test, also on a hamstring injury.

SOUTHAMPTON (from): Moss, Hiley, Dodd, Monkou, Benali, Marsden, M Hughes, Oakley, Kachloul, Beattie, Pahars, D Hughes, Beresford, Ostenstad, Colleter, Lundekvam, Bridge, Monk, Bevan.

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

Suspension: Saints: Ripley.

Referee: P Alcock.

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur

Last season: 4-0

BRAD FRIEDEL will keep his place in goal for Liverpool today. Patrik Berger, Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler are still out injured. Teenager Steven Gerrard, who has made a big impression in midfield and stand-in full-back, has recovered from an ankle injury and could return.

Injuries and suspensions have severely narrowed George Graham's options. Les Ferdinand, Luke Young, Allan Nielsen and Andy Sinton are all out. Ferdinand, who has missed four of the last five games, is still suffering with an Achilles injury while centre-back Young and winger Sinton serve one-match bans. Nielsen took a knock while playing for Denmark in midweek. Full-back Justin Edinburgh is back after five games out through suspension and Stephen Clemence returns to the squad for the first time since January after an ankle injury. Graham is likely to pair Roger Nilsen and Sol Campbell in defence.

LIVERPOOL (from): Friedel, Song, Staunton, Carragher, Matteo, Thompson, Ince, Redknapp, Leonhardsen, Riedle, McManaman, Kvarme, Dundee, Gerrard, Babb, Bjornebye, James, Ferri.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (from): Walker; Carr, Nilsen, Campbell, King, Edinburgh, Taricco, Anderton, Sherwood, Freund, Ginola, Iversen, Armstrong, Dominguez, Fox, Clemence, Baardsen (gk).

Suspensions: Tottenham: Young, Sinton.

Referee: S Lodge.

Nottingham Forest v Sheffield Wed Last season: No fixture

RON ATKINSON is likely to recall Pierre Van Hooijdonk. Atkinson relegated the Dutch striker to the bench for last Saturday's defeat at Aston Villa but has hinted that he is ready to recall him today. Atkinson is also expected to recall Carlton Palmer, Christian Edwards and Richard Gough who are available again after suspensions. Andy Johnson, who has an Achilles tendon problem, and Jon Olav Hjelde (groin) are likely to miss out.

Sheffield Wednesday's Andy Hinchcliffe is a doubt for today's game. Hinchcliffe is struggling to overcome the knee injury which kept him out of Sunday's goalless draw at home to Chelsea and will undergo a late fitness test. Midfielder Phillip Scott is definitely out for the second successive game with an Achilles problem. Petter Rudi is available again after returning from international duty with Norway and should start despite the strong debut from his deputy, Mark McKeever, against Chelsea.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (from): Crossley, Louis-Jean, Rogers, Chettle, Mattsson, Edwards, Gough, Bonalair, Freedman, Allou, Bart-Williams, Woan, Shipperley, Van Hooijdonk, Harewood, Lyttle, Beasant.

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

Suspensions: None.

Referee: J Winter.

West Ham United v Leeds United

Last season: 3-0

WEST HAM's Rio Ferdinand (ankle) is almost certain to miss the match because of the injury he picked up playing for England on Wednesday. He will have a late fitness test along with Steve Lomas, who also has an ankle problem sustained while on duty with Northern Ireland. Paul Kitson (muscle tear) remains on the injured list. Chris Coyne has been recalled from his loan spell at Southend United and could be on the bench.

Leeds' David O'Leary will be without David Hopkin due to a damaged ankle. The problem also kept him out of last Sunday's home draw against Manchester United, a game in which centre-back Jonathon Woodgate sustained the foot injury which makes his chances of playing doubtful. Alf Inge Haaland returns from international duty with Norway and is certain to slot in at right- back, while Lee Bowyer is available after escaping a Football Association ban yesterday despite picking up 11 bookings.

WEST HAM UNITED (from): Hislop, Ruddock, Ferdinand, Minto, Sinclair, Foe, Keller, Lomas, Moncur, Lampard, Berkovic, Di Canio, Wright, Forrest, Coyne, Lazaridis, Cole, Mean, Bullard, Boylan.

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

Suspensions: West Ham: None. Leeds: None.

Referee: R Harris.

Arsenal v Derby County

Last season: 1-0

DENNIS BERGKAMP faces a late fitness test on a stomach injury before the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, chooses his line-up to face Derby tomorrow. Once the test on Bergkamp has been done, Wenger will decide whether to break up the Nicolas Anelka-Nwankwo Kanu partnership that was responsible for four of the six goals in the 6-1 win at Middlesbrough last week. The win at the Riverside Stadium put the champions back on top of the Premiership for the first time this season, but they know that Manchester United could have regained the Premiership lead by tonight.

The Gunners' England goalkeeper David Seaman is expected to recover in time from a swollen finger after his 50th international appearance against Hungary on Wednesday. Wenger's plans could be further complicated, however, by a calf injury suffered by winger Marc Overmars who managed to play only the first half of the Netherlands' surprise home defeat by Morocco.

Derby's hopes of halting Arsenal's championship challenge have been hit by injuries to three defenders. Left wing-backs Tony Dorigo and Stefan Schnoor are doubtful for tomorrow's game and Igor Stimac is still recovering from an ankle problem. Rory Delap could start at right wing-back after he made a surprise return from a knee injury as a second-half substitute against Southampton last Saturday. Derby have won only one of their last eight league visits to Highbury, 2-1 in May 1989. The last time Arsenal failed to score at home against Derby was 1977.

ARSENAL (from): Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn, Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Bergkamp, Anelka, Kanu, Boa Morte, Diawara, Hughes, Grimandi, Garde, Lukic.

DERBY COUNTY (from): Poom, Prior, Carbonari, Laursen, Dorigo, Eranio, Powell, Bohinen, Dorigo, Beck, Wanchope, Burton, Sturridge, Schnoor, Harper, Murray, Knight.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: N Barry.

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