Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

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Match of the day

Liverpool v Manchester Utd

Last season 2-2

LIVERPOOL'S MANAGER, Gerard Houllier, is likely to walk where Kevin Keegan feared to tread this morning by fielding Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler up front together for at least part of his side's match against Manchester United.

Houllier would not be drawn on his plans yesterday, but he admitted that Owen - who has still to start a match in five months - is "looking sharper and fitter than before he went away with England."

It would be a gamble to push Owen into such a contest with just two 20- minute periods as an England substitute behind him, but Houllier knows Owen's presence can increase Liverpool's confidence against a side they do not have a good recent record against.

Houllier defended Fowler's England performance in midweek, despite the fact that the striker missed two chances in Warsaw.

"Robbie was there in the right position when he had to be," Houllier said. "He was very unlucky with the effort that struck a defender on the line. Like all our England players, he is disappointed. But it is all water under the bridge now, they have to draw a line and focus on our match with United." Liverpool will be confident after winning their last game against Arsenal, when Fowler scored one goal and Patrik Berger (left) the other.

Liverpool have doubts over Rigobert Song, who damaged a hamstring while away on international duty with Cameroon, but the versatile defender is expected to play.

Liverpool are likely to be without Jamie Redknapp, who pulled out of the England squad with an ankle problem. If he does not make it, then Houllier will revamp the midfield, and shuffle his back line, introducing Veggard Heggem and playing Song as a central defender. Fowler and Owen (who is more likely than not to start on the bench) both came back from Poland in good health. Liverpool have not beaten United in any of their last six league matches.

Sir Alex Ferguson will have to cope with numerous injuries to his United players. Roy Keane and Gary Neville are out after being injured on international duty. Ronny Johnsen, David May, Jesper Blomqvist and Wes Brown are also definitely out and, with Denis Irwin doubtful, United are down to the sort of squad that normally contests Worthington Cup ties. Their new goalkeeper Massimo Taibi will make his debut and the Sicilian could find himself playing behind a makeshift back four with Phil Neville, Henning Berg and Jaap Stam the only fit experienced defenders. Michael Clegg is drafted in along with the full-back John Curtis. David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes (right) and Ryan Giggs are expected to continue in midfield with Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole in attack.

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

MANCHESTER UNITED (from): Taibi, P Neville, Stam, Berg, Curtis, Clegg, Beckham, Butt, Scholes, Giggs, Yorke, Solskjaer, Sheringham, Fortune, Cruyff, Greening, Wilson, Van der Gouw.

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Liverpool: Camara, Fowler (2). Manchester Utd: Yorke, Cole (2).

Referee: G Barber.

Arsenal v Aston Villa

Last season: 1-0

NWANKWO KANU returns to the Arsenal squad after a thigh injury, but David Seaman and Emmanuel Petit are still out, as is Fredrik Ljungberg. The Swede damaged an ankle while away with his national squad in Luxembourg last week and will also miss Tuesday's Champions' League opener against Fiorentina in Italy. Tony Adams and Martin Keown have reported fit after England's game in Poland but may be rested. Dennis Bergkamp will start despite being taken off injured for the Netherlands against Belgium last Saturday. Stephen Hughes has returned early from a three-month loan at Fulham and will contest a midfield place with Nelson Vivas and Stefan Malz, the pounds 650,000 summer signing who has yet to make his Arsenal debut.

Aston Villa are confident that Ugo Ehiogu (groin) and Lee Hendrie (back) will be available. Centre-back Ehiogu has been under treatment since Villa's last game against Middlesbrough on August 28, while midfielder Hendrie's problem was bad enough to forced his withdrawal from the England Under- 21 squad. Steve Stone is struggling with a back injury and is likely to miss out.

ARSENAL (from): Manninger, Dixon, Keown, Adams, Upson, Winterburn, Silvinho, Parlour, Malz, Vieira, Vivas, Hughes, Overmars, Henry, Bergkamp, Kanu, Suker, Grimandi, Vernazza, Lukic.

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

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Arsenal: Bergkamp (2). Villa: Dublin (4).

Referee: G Willard.

Chelsea v Newcastle

Last season: 1-1

ALL EYES will be on Bobby Robson, who returns to English club management with Newcastle today at the age of 66 and after a 17-year break from the domestic game. "I have tremendous respect for Bobby Robson and for what he has achieved in football," Gianluca Vialli, Chelsea's manager, said yesterday. "He is an example for all the managers and an example for the enthusiasm he still has for the game. At his age, to put yourself on the line again shows great courage and you've got to admire him for what he's trying to do. Having said that, I hope to give him something not very pleasant tomorrow." Chelsea's Chris Sutton, who missed England's game against Luxembourg with a foot injury, is fit to face his former Blackburn strike partner Alan Shearer.

Robson is facing a defensive crisis as he prepares for his first game and Newcastle look for their first win this season. Central defenders Marcelino and Franck Dumas are both out with injuries while goalkeeper Steve Harper is included despite not yet recovering fully from an elbow problem. Newcastle's last win at Chelsea came nearly 13 years ago, in November 1986.

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

NEWCASTLE (from): Wright, Harper, Barton, Domi, Goma, Hughes, Beharall, Dabizas, Dyer, Maric, Speed, McClen, Lee, Hamilton, Solano, Shearer, Ketsbaia, Ferguson, Robinson.

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Chelsea: Poyet (2). Newcastle: Solano (2).

Referee: G Poll.

Coventry v Leeds

Last season: 2-2

COVENTRY'S PAUL TELFER, Youssef Chippo, Gary Breen and the former Leeds player, Noel Whelan, are all out injured, while David Burrows is suspended. Marcus Hall, Muhamed Konjic, Barry Quinn and Gavin Strachan all come into contention. The Sky Blues' manager, Gordon Strachan, will be hoping that Robbie Keane, who has scored three goals in three games since his move from Wolves, can help his side gain a second win of the season and move away from the relegation zone.

Leeds' midfielder David Hopkin and defender Jonathon Woodgate are David O'Leary's major doubts. Hopkin is struggling with the ankle injury sustained on international duty with Scotland that forcing him to miss the midweek match in Bosnia. Woodgate has a back problem. Stephen McPhail and Eirik Bakke are unlikely to play as both have ankle injuries, while Alan Smith is suspended for one game following his sending-off at White Hart Lane against Spurs last month. Today will see a quick return to Highfield Road for the former Coventry striker, Darren Huckerby, who has yet to score for United following his recent pounds 4.5m move. Leeds have only won once in their last 15 matches at Coventry, 2-0 on Boxing Day in 1996.

COVENTRY CITY from): Hedman, Edworthy, Shaw, Williams, Konjic, Hall, Hadji, McAllister, Froggatt, Quinn, Strachan, Aloisi, Keane, Eustace, Norman, Nuzzo, S McPhee.

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

Suspensions: Coventry: Burrows.

Leading scorers: Coventry: Keane (3). Leeds: Bridges (3).

Referee: S Dunn.

Middlesbro' v Soton

Last season: 3-0

PAUL GASCOIGNE and Colin Cooper will return from injury for Middlesbrough. Defender Gianluca Festa and midfielder Keith O'Neill have still to recover from knocks and are not included in a 19-man squad.

Southampton's James Beattie, Kevin Davies and Chris Marsden are all in contention for recalls after recovering from injury. Beattie has not played this season after cracking three ribs and puncturing a lung in a freak accident in pre-season but proved his fitness playing for the England Under-21 side in midweek. Davies has played just one game since his return to The Dell, having been troubled by a hamstring injury, but has now recovered, while Marsden is challenging for a place again after missing the last three weeks with a toe problem. The veteran striker Mark Hughes is expected to revert to a place in midfield but Matt Le Tissier is still out with a persistent Achilles injury. David Hirst and Richard Dryden are unlikely to be considered as they continue their comebacks from Achilles and knee injuries respectively.

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

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

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Boro: Ricard (3). Saints: Kachloul (3).

Referee: M Riley.

Sheff Wed v Everton

Last season: 0-0

BENITO CARBONE'S future at Sheffield Wednesday remains in doubt after his walk-out two weeks ago, and he may not even be on the bench. Five other Wednesday players who were struggling with injury - Andy Hinchcliffe, Des Walker, Danny Sonner, Wim Jonk and Phil O'Donnell - should all be in contention.

Everton's Francis Jeffers is a serious doubt. The teenager was injured on England Under-21 duty and is still suffering from a back strain. Everton's manager, Walter Smith, must decide whether to move Don Hutchison into attack alongside Kevin Campbell, or bring in Danny Cadamarteri. Smith will also have his new Portuguese defender, Abel Xavier, in his squad but may leave him on the bench, despite the fact that Richard Dunne starts a suspension.

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.

EVERTON (from): Gerrard, Weir, Watson, Unsworth, Gough, Abel Xavier, Collins, Hutchison, Pembridge, Ball, Barmby, Gemmill, Campbell, Cadamarteri, Ward, Simonsen, Phelan.

Suspensions: Dunne.

Leading scorers: Wednesday: Carbone (2). Everton: Unsworth (2).

Referee: M Halsey.

Sunderland v Leicester

Last season: No fixture

SUNDERLAND'S ERIC ROY is likely to make his debut. The pounds 200,000 signing from Marseilles contests the vacancy created in central midfield alongside captain Kevin Ball following Alex Rae's suspension.

Leicester's Tim Flowers and Emile Heskey are likely to play after an absence and an injury scare respectively. Flowers will replace Pegguy Arphexad in goal after recovering from a badly gashed knee. Heskey, who injured a groin for England Under-21 against Luxembourg last Friday, should also be fit enough to start. Robbie Savage missed training yesterday after suffering a reaction to his groin strain and the Leicester manager, Martin O'Neill, will decide today whether the Welsh international can figure.

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

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

Suspension: Sunderland: Rae.

Leading scorers: Sunderland: Phillips (5). Leicester: Heskey (4).

Referee: A D'Urso.

West Ham v Watford

Last season: No fixture

IGOR STIMAC will make his debut in a West Ham side decimated by injuries. Having received his work permit yesterday, the former Derby defender is available along with Javier Margas, who has a renewed permit. Stuart Pearce and Steve Lomas have returned unscathed from international duty, and Frank Lampard, who pulled out of Tuesday's England Under-21 defeat by Poland, has overcome a hamstring problem.

Watford's Wembley goalscorers, Allan Smart and Nick Wright, could return to first-team action for the first time this season. Smart has been ruled out with tendinitis and Wright troubled by a pelvic injury but both are now fit and in the squad. Alec Chamberlain, out since the summer with a dislocated finger, is also back and he will replace Chris Day at Upton Park.

WEST HAM UNITED (from): Hislop, Sinclair, Potts, Stimac, S Pearce, Moncur, Lomas, Lampard, Keller, Di Canio, Wanchope, Margas, Forrest, Bywater, Carrick, Kitson, Abou, Etherington.

WATFORD (from): Chamberlain, Lyttle, Robinson, Page, Williams, Hyde, Easton, Palmer, Kennedy, Mooney, Ngonge, Smart, Wright, Foley, Gudmundsson, Bonnot, Bakalli, Gibbs, Day.

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: West Ham: Di Canio, Wanchope, Sinclair (2). Watford: Mooney (2).

Referee: D Gallagher.

Wimbledon v Derby

Last season: 2-1

WIMBLEDON'S MANAGER Egil Olsen expects his side's top scorer, Carl Cort, and the defender Tore Pedersen to be fit after the pair picked up slight injuries on international duty in midweek. John Hartson (ankle) came through a reserve game this week and could return. Dean Blackwell is out with a leg injury.

Derby's Mart Poom, who played for Estonia against Scotland on Wednesday, is still being troubled by a wrist injury. If he misses out, Andy Oakes - who returned from a loan spell with Port Vale this week - will be on the bench, with Russell Hoult continuing in goal. Seth Johnson has recovered from the hamstring niggle which forced him to miss the two recent England Under-21 internationals, while Horacio Carbonari (dead leg) and Spencer Prior (neck) are also available.

WIMBLEDON from): Sullivan, Cunningham, Kimble, Thatcher, Pedersen, Andersen, Roberts, Earle, Euell, Hughes, Badir, Cort, Gayle, Hartson, Ainsworth, Leaburn, Ardley, Davis.

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

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Wimbledon: Cort (3). Derby: Delap (2).

Referee: A Wiley.

Tomorrow's Match (sky 4pm)

Bradford v Tottenham

Last season No fixture

BRADFORD HOPE to give a debut to their new French B international striker, Bruno Rodriguez, who is on loan until May.

Tottenham's Chris Armstrong, who has not played this season following an operation on his ankle, returns to the squad after coming through two reserve matches. George Graham is still without injured a trio of centre- halves (Sol Campbell, John Scales and Ramon Vega) and the wingers Darren Anderton and Willem Korsten. All the Spurs players who were on international duty this week have reported back fit and well ready for the trip north.

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

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (from): Walker, Baardsen, Carr, Perry, Young, King, Edinburgh, Leonhardsen, Freund, Nielsen, Sherwood, Ginola, Dominguez, Fox, Clemence, Ferdinand, Armstrong, Iversen, Taricco.

Suspensions: None.

Leading scorers: Bradford: Saunders, Beagrie (1). Spurs: Sherwood (3).

Referee: A Wilkie.

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