Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

Match of the day
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Chelsea v Aston Villa

Last season 2-1

ASTON VILLA'S John Gregory will find out today whether his pace- setters are likely to be the genuine article this season or whether they will again turn out to mere pretenders. Villa, second in the table, go into the match unbeaten after three games and are determined to make amends for last season's dismal record against Chelsea.

The Londoners won all three games against Villa and scored nine goals in the process. Villa were routed 4-1 in the Worthington Cup at Stamford Bridge, beaten 2-1 at Chelsea and hammered 3-0 in the return League game at Villa Park.

"We are now better equipped than last season," Gregory said. "What we have done is give ourselves a solid foundation on which to get the season going. We are full of confidence after the start we've made and are looking forward to the Chelsea game to judge our progress. Chelsea have demonstrated their intention by going out and paying pounds 10m for one player and they are now capable of winning the title.

"They have slowly put together a fine team - it all began when Glenn Hoddle signed Ruud Gullit. It would be interesting to discover how much Chelsea have spent on players over the last three seasons compared to Villa. They use the rotation system to their advantage and I fully expect the players left out of the Leicester game to return against us."

Villa's England international midfielder Lee Hendrie is challenging George Boateng for a place in the starting line-up. In each of the opening three games of the season, Hendrie has replaced Boateng as a second-half substitute. Hendrie said: "I don't know if I have done enough to start the next game, but I hope so. My aim is to get into the team and stay there. It can be hard when you are sitting on the bench and have to pick up the game when you come on." Gregory has a full-strength squad to choose from and his attack is likely to be spearheaded by Dion Dublin (right), who scored twice as his side drew 2-2 with West Ham last Monday and once as they beat Everton 3-0 10 days ago.

Chelsea will be without Graeme Le Saux, who has a calf problem. The World Cup-winning French midfielder, Didier Deschamps, is extremely doubtful with a similar injury. New signing Gabriele Ambrosetti has been included in the squad, while Jody Morris is back in the reckoning after recovering from a twisted ankle, and both are in contention for a place in the side. Manager Gianluca Vialli, who made several changes last weekend for the 2-2 draw at Leicester, is expected to recall Marcel Desailly and Chris Sutton (left) to his starting line-up, while Celestine Babayaro should move back into defence to replace Le Saux.

CHELSEA (from): De Goey, Cudicini, Hitchcock, Leboeuf, Desailly, Ferrer, Hogh, Terry, Petrescu, Babayaro, Poyet, Wise, Goldbaek, Deschamps, Nicholls, Morris, Ambrosetti, Zola, Flo, Sutton, Forssell.

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

Suspensions: None.

Referee: N Barry.

Coventry v Derby

Last season: 1-1

ROBBIE KEANE will make his Coventry debut in this afternoon's Midlands derby, as his new club look for their first win of the season. The former Wolves striker, who signed for the Sky Blues in a pounds 6m deal on Thursday, is expected to start the match alongside John Aloisi. Much is expected of the 19-year-old Republic of Ireland international at Highfield Road, and manager Gordon Strachan will look for an immediate return from the club's record signing. Coventry have scored one goal this season so far.

Derby's Dean Sturridge has recovered from a hamstring operation, and is in the squad for today's game as his side also seek a first win of the season. Sturridge is likely to start off on the bench however, with last week's scorer Deon Burton continuing to partner Mikkel Beck up front. Midfielder Lars Bohinen, who underwent a knee operation during the summer, came through a reserve game on Tuesday unscathed and is available, while the former Leeds player, Tony Dorigo, could also figure, after overcoming a calf injury. Derby will remain without the Argentinian striker Esteban Fuertes however, after the pounds 2.3m deal for the player fell through earlier in the week.

COVENTRY CITY (from): Hedman, Edworthy, Shaw, Williams, Burrows, Telfer, McAllister, Hadji, Chippo, Whelan, Aloisi, Keane, Konjic, Breen, M. Hall, Normann, Nuzzo.

DERBY COUNTY (from): Poom, Prior, Carbonari, Laursen, Delap, Johnson, Eranio, Powell, Baiano, Burton, Beck, Borbokis, Sturridge, Schnoor, Bohinen, Dorigo, Hoult.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: J Winter.

Everton v Southampton

Last season 1-0

EVERTON'S DAVE WATSON has not fully recovered from the hamstring injury that kept him out of last weekend's 3-2 defeat at Tottenham. Mark Pembridge could come into midfield for his debut after impressing in the reserves' 3-0 win against Newcastle in midweek. There is a doubt over Don Hutchison, who was left out at Spurs and may not make the starting line-up.

Southampton's Dave Jones is expected to hand striker Kevin Davies a place in the starting line-up. Davies, who rejoined Southampton earlier this week (when Norwegian Egil Ostenstad moved in the opposite direction to Blackburn), will line up alongside Marians Pahars in attack. The England Under-21 international James Beattie has returned to training after missing the start of the season with broken ribs and is hopeful of a place on the bench. Matt Le Tissier will miss the game after being told to rest a niggling Achilles injury. Captain Jason Dodd faces a late fitness test on a shoulder injury which kept him out of Sunday's 4-2 victory over Newcastle. Midfielder Chris Marsden is out with a toe injury while striker Dave Hirst, midfielder David Howells and defender Richard Dryden are still out with long-term injuries.

EVERTON (from): Gerrard, Weir, Unsworth, Gough, Dunne, Ward, Cleland, Gemmill, Hutchison, Collins, Pembridge, Barmby, Campbell, Jeffers, Cadamarteri, Watson, Phelan, Simonsen.

SOUTHAMPTON (from): Jones, Hiley, Lundekvam, Richards, Benali, Ripley, M Hughes, Kachloul, Soltvedt, Pahars, Davies, Beattie, Moss, Almeida, Bridge, Oakley.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: B Knight.

Leeds v Sunderland

Last season: No fixture

LEEDS' YOUNG striker Michael Bridges could be out for the visit of his former club Sunderland if he fails to shake off an ankle injury. Bridges, a club record pounds 5m buy from the Wearsiders this summer, picked up the injury in the 2-0 defeat at Manchester United last week and is now doubtful. If Bridges is out then his manager, David O'Leary, should at least be able to call upon the services of Alan Smith. The 18-year- old is close to full fitness after sitting out the last two matches with an ankle problem of his own. Leeds have scored against Sunderland at home in every match the two sides have played since 1930. Sunderland have managed six wins at Elland Road in 35 visits.

Sunderland's Thomas Helmer stands by to make his first start for his new club. The German international, a free transfer from Bayern Munich, will take over from Steve Bould if the former Arsenal defender fails a late fitness test on a hamstring injury. Striker Niall Quinn may have to be content with the place on the substitutes' bench again, because his manager, Peter Reid, is likely to maintain the five-man midfield formation which proved effective in holding Arsenal to a goalless draw last week.

LEEDS UNITED (from): Martyn, Kelly, Harte, Haaland, Radebe, Woodgate, Hopkin, Bridges, Kewell, Bowyer, McPhail, Smith, Mills, Bakke, Jones, Hiden, Duberry, Batty, Robinson.

SUNDERLAND (from): Sorensen, Makin, Gray, Bould, Butler, Helmer, Summerbee, Ball, Rae, Schwarz, Oster, Phillips, Quinn, McCann, Dichio, Marriott, Holloway.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: P Alcock.

Middlesbrough v Liverpool

Last season: 1-3

MIDDLESBROUGH'S GARY PALLISTER returns from injury for his first game of the season as Liverpool visit the Riverside Stadium. Pallister is likely to replace defender Dean Gordon, who will probably miss the rest of the season after surgery to repair a snapped cruciate ligament. The temperamental England international midfielder, Paul Gascoigne, will also be back after being rested for the 3-1 win at Derby last week. Paul Ince should start against the team he left in acrimonious circumstances. Only one of the 57 games between these two sides has finished 0-0.

Liverpool's David Thompson may start today's match as Liverpool look to recover from the 1-0 home defeat suffered at the hands of promoted Watford last weekend. The versatile youngster could come into the team in place of injured Czech winger Vladimir Smicer, while Steven Gerrard is likely to hold his midfield role as Dietmar Hamann's replacement. Liverpool could also find a place for their Irish defender, Steve Staunton, in defence if manager Gerard Houllier opts to push Jamie Carragher into midfield to counter the influence of Ince.

MIDDLESBROUGH (from): Schwarzer, Roberts, Stockdale, Stamp, Festa, Vickers, Pallister, Ziege, O'Neill, Maddison, Summerbell, Ince, Mustoe, Gascoigne, Townsend, Deane, Campbell, Armstrong, Ricard, Gavin.

LIVERPOOL (from): Westerveld, Heggem, Hyypia, Song, Carragher, Matteo, Staunton, Thompson, Gerrard, Redknapp, Berger, Fowler, Camara, Riedle, Friedel, Meijer, Murphy.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: S Dunn.

Tomorrow's Match

Arsenal v Manchester United

Last season 3-0 (Sky, 4pm)

MANCHESTER UNITED will be forced to make one change, with their second-choice goalkeeper Raimond van der Gouw taking over from the injured Mark Bosnich. With Bosnich having treatment for a hamstring injury and Ronny Johnsen, Gary Neville and Wes Brown all missing, Alex Ferguson is down to the bare bones in defence. He was a relieved man when Jaap Stam and Henning Berg reported fit after playing in international friendlies this week.

Arsenal's Tony Adams has declared himself available for tomorrow's game. The Gunners' inspirational captain is a week ahead of schedule after his double hernia operation a month ago. Emmanuel Petit (knee), David Seaman (calf) and Nigel Winterburn (knee) will definitely miss the game. Marc Overmars could sit on the bench after suffering an abdominal strain in the opening game against Leicester. Dennis Bergkamp has made a good recovery from a back injury and is set to lead the attack alongside Kanu. Davor Suker could be on the bench after being flown back from Zagreb immediately after his country's Euro 2000 match with Malta on Saturday night.

MANCHESTER UNITED (from): Van der Gouw, P Neville, Berg, Stam, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Cole, Yorke, Butt, Sheringham, Solskjaer, Curtis, Culkin.

ARSENAL (from): Manninger, Dixon, Keown, Adams, Upson, Silvinho, Parlour, Vieira, Malz, Vivas, Grimandi, Henry, Kanu, Bergkamp, Overmars, Ljungberg, Boa Morte, Lukic.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: G Poll.

Newcastle v Wimbledon

Last season: 3-1

NEWCASTLE'S STRIKER Duncan Ferguson returns to the squad for the first time since last season's FA Cup final. The Scot will be hoping to fill the gap left by suspended captain, Alan Shearer, but is more likely to start on the bench. The Spanish defender, Marcelino, is likely to return after injury. Injury-hit Newcastle will include the teenagers Stuart Green, Brian Kirr and Paul Talbot in an 18-man squad. Newcastle have never failed to score against Wimbledon at St James's Park, but the pressure for a result today will be immense. Ruud Gullit's side have lost all three of their opening matches this season, leaving them at the bottom of the table with no points.

Wimbledon's Welsh striker John Hartson is struggling to be fit after twisting an ankle in training. Dean Blackwell is banned after he was sent off on the opening day of the season against Watford. Robbie Earle should be fit, however, to give the manager, Egil Olsen, extra options. The Wimbledon captain was left nursing a suspected fractured cheekbone after last weekend's draw against Coventry, but he has since been declared fit.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (from): Karelse, Harper, Barton, Domi, Marcelino, Goma, Hughes, Beharall, Talbot, Speed, Solano, Dyer, McClen, Kerr, Green, Ketsbaia, Ferguson, Robinson.

WIMBLEDON (from): Sullivan, Cunningham, Pedersen, Thatcher, Kimble, Andersen, Cort, Earle, Roberts, M Hughes, Hartson, Gayle, Euell, Ardley, Leaburn, Ekoku, Willmott, Davis.

Suspensions: Newcastle: Shearer. Wimbledon: Blackwell.

Referee: M Reed.

Sheff Wed v Tottenham

Last season 0-0

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY'S left-back Andy Hinchcliffe and midfielder Danny Sonner are manager Danny Wilson's main doubts. Hinchcliffe had to be taken off on a stretcher during last weekend's draw at Bradford due to a gash in his leg which required 10 stitches, while Sonner continues to struggle with an Achilles injury. Phil O'Donnell and Philip Scott have both fully recovered from injury and illness respectively and should be included in the squad.

Sol Campbell, Chris Armstrong and Justin Edinburgh are still missing from the Tottenham squad, but Darren Anderton and Jose Dominguez have both recovered from calf injuries sustained in last week's 3-2 win against Everton. Dutchman Willem Korsten, who was the substitutes bench last Saturday, must wait a little longer, however, for his Spurs debut. He has had a setback with the ankle injury which flared up soon after his pounds 1.5m move from Vitesse Arnhem in the summer. German Steffen Freund may start, with manager George Graham considering at least one midfield change despite back-to-back home wins last week.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (from): Pressman, Atherton, Hinchcliffe, Jonk, Emerson, Walker, Sonner, Carbone, Sibon, Booth, O'Donnell, Cresswell, Rudi, Scott, Alexandersson, Nolan, Donnelly, Newsome, Briscoe, De Bilde, Srnicek.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (from): Walker; Carr, Scales, Perry, Taricco, Anderton, Sherwood, Freund, Leonhardsen, Young, Fox, Gower, Dominguez, Ferdinand, Iversen, Ginola, King, Baardsen.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: A D'Urso.

Watford v Bradford

Last season 1-0

WATFORD'S GRAHAM TAYLOR has had injuries in his squad that have hampered his preparations for today. Peter Kennedy reported back from Northern Ireland duty with a dead leg and is doubtful and Richard Johnson will be out for six weeks after damaging knee ligaments in Watford's 1- 0 win at Liverpool. Taylor is still without Nick Wright (groin), Allan Smart (tendinitis), Ben Iroha (foot), Alec Chamberlain (finger) and Gifton Noel-Williams (hip). Watford won this fixture 1-0 last season when it was played as a First Division game. Today's visitors last gained a point at Vicarage Road in 1977, when the two sides drew 1-1.

Bradford's defender Ashley Westwood will miss his third game of the season when the Bantams travel to Watford. After sitting on the sidelines through suspension for the opening two games, Westwood misses the trip to Vicarage Road because of a knee injury. Fellow defender John Dreyer, who scored an own goal in last weekend's home draw with Sheffield Wednesday, should be fit despite a groin strain. Stuart McCall, Lee Sharpe and Isiah Rankin, meanwhile, remain on the long-term injured list.

WATFORD (from): Day, Lyttle, Williams, Page, Robinson, Hyde, Palmer, Kennedy, Ngonge, Mooney, Easton, Foley, Gudmundsson, Bonnot, Walker, Gibbs, Perpetuini, Brooker.

BRADFORD CITY (from): Walsh, Wright, Myers, Wetherall, Lawrence, Blake, Mills, Whalley, Beagrie, O'Brien, Windass, Halle, Dreyer, Moore, Jacobs, Grant, Redfearn, Saunders, Clarke.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: R Harris.

West Ham v Leicester

Last season 3-2

WEST HAM'S Steve Lomas is available again after suspension and manager Harry Redknapp will have to decide whether or not John Moncur makes way for him. Ian Wright serves the final game of his suspension while Scott Minto, out for a week with an Achilles problem, is replaced by Marc Keller. Defenders Chris Coyne and Neil Ruddock are in light training but still some way from fitness, while the young striker Gavin Holligan has a groin problem. However, Trevor Sinclair has been given the all-clear to play despite getting seven stitches in his knee on Monday night. West Ham have won their last 12 matches against Leicester at Upton Park.

The former West Ham winger, Andy Impey, is the only injury worry for Leicester manager Martin O'Neill . Impey missed training through illness this week, but is expected to recover. The young England striker, Emile Heskey (who scored in the 2-2 draw against Chelsea last week), will start alongside Tony Cottee in attack after suffering no recurrence of the neck injury he sustained against Arsenal.

WEST HAM UNITED (from): Hislop, Potts, Ferdinand, Lomas, Moncur, Foe, Sinclair, Lampard, Di Canio, Wanchope, Cole, Carrick, Kitson, Keller, Angus, Abou, Omoyimni, Forrest.

LEICESTER CITY (from): Flowers, Arphexad, Sinclair, Elliott, Taggart, Impey, Savage, Lennon, Izzet, Guppy, Cottee, Heskey, Gilchrist, Oakes, Marshall, Fenton, Campbell, Wilson.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: A Wiley.

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