Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

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Newcastle United v Liverpool

ANOTHER CHAPTER in the tumultuous recent history of Newcastle United kicks off tomorrow as St James' Park prepares for the return to the Premiership of Ruud Gullit. And what a return: having swapped South-west London chic for North-east English passion, Gullit immediately finds himself cast into the depths of a full-blooded contest between two sides whose recent encounters have produced some truly memorable moments.

But while expectations will no doubt be high on the Gallowgate, the fans may have to be patient a little longer; an all-singing, all-dancing encore of "Let Me Entertain You" is probably not on the cards - at least for the time being, anyway. Gullit has professed his desire to sweep away the dour tactical approach so reminiscent of Kenny Dalglish's management, but having inherited a squad manifestly lacking the natural flair and talent of the Keegan years, a major personnel overhaul must be one of his first priorities, and a long season of consolidation could lie ahead for Newcastle.

That consolidation will have to start here against a Liverpool side who have begun the season with an aura of serious intent, prompting many to wonder whether this might be the year they finally mount a decent challenge to Arsenal and Manchester United. The arrival of the Norwegian international defender Dan Heggem has added immediate stability to the back line, and although Brad Friedel's positional sense in goal looked suspect at times during the goalless draw against Arsenal, a sustained run in the first team behind a solid defence should do his confidence and Liverpool's cause no harm.

As if additional intrigue were required, the match should also offer an interesting contest between England's strike force of Alan Shearer (left) and Michael Owen (right), the England captain no doubt eager to prove he is not yet ready to be upstaged by his prodigious young protege.

One immediate change for Newcastle could see the French World Cup-winning striker, Stephane Guivarc'h, make his first start since his pounds 3.5m summer transfer from Auxerre. Gullit has still to name his team but Guivarc'h, now recovered from an ankle injury, played 45 minutes for the reserves in midweek and his nationality (non-English) is likely to count in his favour with the dreadlocked one.

Jamie Redknapp may start his first Liverpool match for five months following his England call-up on Thursday. Redknapp came on as a substitute last weekend in the 0-0 draw against Arsenal and hopes be included from the start tomorrow. If he does play, Patrik Berger could be the man to lose out.

NEWCASTLE (from): Given, Barton, Pearce, Pistone, Howey, Lee, Guivarc'h, Shearer, Speed, Hamann, Ketsbaia, Georgiadis, Charvet, Glass, Watson, Serrant, Albert, Hughes, Brady, Dabizas, Andersson, Perez.

LIVERPOOL (from): Friedel, Heggem, Babb, Carragher, Staunton, McAteer, Ince, Redknapp, McManaman, Berger, Owen, Riedle, James, Harkness, Bjornebye, Matteo, Leonhardsen, Murphy.

INJURED: Newcastle: Barnes. Liverpool: Fowler.

SUSPENDED: Newcastle: Batty (three of six). Liverpool: None.

Arsenal v

Charlton

Last season: No fixture

NEIL REDFEARN the Charlton midfielder, said yesterday: "We're confident, we're in a great vein of form. We're not expecting great things but we expect to go there and get something." A damn good hiding must be the favourite option, although the title holders will no doubt be quaking in their boots after their visitors won 5-0 at Southampton last week.

Arsenal's hard man, Tony Adams, will return today after being sent home with a cold just before last week's 0-0 draw at Liverpool. His deputy, Steve Bould, is a doubt with an ankle injury. Emmanuel Petit will play despite being booked in for sinus surgery on Wednesday, an operation that should not unduly block his chances of starting in all Arsenal's games in the near future. The Charlton centre-back, Richard Rufus, suspended after being sent off in the 0-0 draw at Newcastle on the opening day of the season, will be replaced by Steve Brown. An otherwise unchanged line- up from last week is expected.

ARSENAL (from): Seaman, Dixon, Keown, Adams, Winterburn, Parlour, Petit, Vieira, Overmars, Bergkamp, Anelka, Hughes, Boa Morte, Wreh, Vivas, Grimandi, Bould, Garde, Manninger.

CHARLTON (from): Ilic, Mills, Powell, Redfearn, Rufus, Youds, Newton, Kinsella, Hunt, Mendonca, Robinson, Mortimer, Brown, S Jones, K Jones, Petterson, Lisbie, Bright, Allen, Parker, Barness, Balmer.

INJURED: Arsenal: None. Charlton: Bowen, Salmon, Poole, Holmes.

SUSPENDED: Arsenal: None. Charlton: Rufus (first of three).

Blackburn v

Leicester

Last season: 5-3

ROY HODGSON demonstrated a fine understanding of the game yesterday when talking about the pressures on modern managers. "It's all about points and this is the world we now live in," he said, obviously harking back to the days when championships were decided on good looks or the bagginess of the shorts. "But managers are never sheltered from important issues during matches like the ball that hits the bar and bounces out or the one that hits the bar and goes in," he added, making his point crystal clear.

Hodgson is likely to keep faith with his pounds 7.25m signing, Kevin Davies, up front today, despite substituting him in both Rovers other games this season. Alan Fettis and Gary Croft drop out of the squad. The Leicester striker, Ian Marshall, is out for at least two weeks with a hamstring injury, but Martin O' Neill can at least rely on the talents of Emile Heskey in attack. Until someone with a huge cheque comes along, that is.

This fixture ended 5-3 last season, the highest aggregate in any Rovers v Leicester match, and unlikely to repeated today.

BLACKBURN (from): Filan, Kenna, Henchoz, Peacock, Davidson, Perez, Sherwood, Flitcroft, Wilcox, Sutton, Davies, Gallacher, Dahlin, McKinlay, Dailly, Duff, Flowers.

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

INJURED: Blackburn: Broomes, Pedersen, Corbett. Leicester: Marshall.

SUSPENDED: Blackburn: None. Leicester: None.

Coventry v

West Ham

Last season: 1-1

THE WEST Ham duo John Hartson and Ian Wright are set to renew their Arsenal double act for the first time at Coventry today as Harry Redknapp's side aim to maintain their impressive start to the season. However, with both players unlikely to last the season without picking up an injury or a suspension or two, today's pairing could be a rarity rather than the norm, and one for the West Ham scrapbook.

The Hammers have yet to concede a goal this term, and the task of keeping Dion Dublin and Darren Huckerby in check lies with Neil Ruddock and the debutant, Javier Margas. The 29-year-old Chilean international defender, signed this summer from Universidad Catolica for pounds 2m, replaces Ian Pearce who has a septic foot. Trevor Sinclair faces a late fitness test on a groin strain.

Coventry's Marc Edworthy will have to wait to see if he can make his debut today after his pounds 1.3m move from Crystal Palace. Edworthy is on standby to go straight into the side if the Swedish defender Roland Nilsson fails to recover from a rib injury.

COVENTRY (from): Hedman, Nilsson, Breen, Shaw, Burrows, Telfer, Boateng, Soltvedt, Whelan, Dublin, Huckerby, Wallemme, Edworthy, Williams, M. Hall, P. Hall, Haworth, Ogrizovic (gk).

WEST HAM (from): Hislop, Ruddock, Lomas, Ferdinand, Margas, Lazaridis, Lampard, Impey, Sinclair, Berkovic, Wright, Hartson, Keller, Moncur, Omoyimni, Abou, Forrest (gk).

INJURED: Coventry: None. West Ham: Pearce.

SUSPENDED: Coventry: None. West Ham: None.

THOSE WITH a morbid fascination for early-season managerial casualties need look no further than Goodison Park, where Christian Gross returns to the scene of his first game as Tottenham coach, facing the ironic possibility that this season's fixture could well be his last. Spurs won 2-0 on that occasion last November, heralding what proved to be an entirely false dawn for the north Londoners' fortunes, and anything less than victory today will probably seal the beleaguered Swiss coach's fate. Gross has promised changes to the side which capitulated so tamely to Sheffield Wednesday last week, but has fitness doubts about Ramon Vega (ankle), Nicola Berti (hamstring) and Moussa Saib (back).

Walter Smith, the Everton manager, is not yet living with the same kind of pressure as Gross, but he will also be looking for a vast improvement on his side's dismal 2-0 defeat at Leicester last week. David Unsworth is in line to make his second debut for Everton after his protracted move from Aston Villa, while Danny Cadamarteri looks likely to partner Duncan Ferguson in attack.

EVERTON (from): Myhre, Cleland, Ball, Short, Tiler, Unsworth, Materazzi, Dacourt, Collins, Barmby, Hutchison, Ferguson, Spencer, Cadamarteri, Gerrard, Branch, Oster, Farrelly.

TOTTENHAM (from): Walker, Carr, Tramezzani, Berti, Fox, Anderton, Ferdinand, Armstrong, Ginola, Vega, Campbell, Nielsen, Calderwood, Saib, Clemence, Allen, Dominguez, Baardsen.

INJURED: Everton: Bilic.. Tottenham: Iversen, Scales.

SUSPENDED: Everton: None. Tottenham: None.

Middlesbrough

v Derby

Last season: No fixture

MIKKEL BECK has won a place in the Middlesbrough side for today's visit of Derby County. Bryan Robson has decided to start with the Danish striker after his goal as a second-half substitute at Aston Villa last Sunday, and also because his only other choice is Hamilton Ricard. The former Nottingham Forest captain Colin Cooper will make his first appearance since his pounds 2.5m move, but the Republic of Ireland full-back Curtis Fleming is ruled out with a knee injury.

Derby have similar goal-scoring problems to Middlesbrough, but their manager, Jim Smith, believes their luck will change and is keeping faith with Dean Sturridge and Paulo Wanchope in attack. Russell Hoult has been a surprise choice as goalkeeper ahead of the Estonian international Mart Poom, who started all but two of Derby's 38 Premiership games last season. But Hoult has impressed so far, keeping two clean sheets. Derby could be without their new signing Spencer Prior who sprained knee ligaments against Wimbledon. Smith admitted: "He's touch and go, but we're going to give him every chance. He's much better now than he was."

MIDDLESBROUGH: Schwarzer, Stockdale, Festa, Cooper, Gordon, Mustoe, Gascoigne, Townsend, Merson, Beck, Stamp.

DERBY COUNTY (from): Hoult, Prior, Stimac, Laursen, Delap, Eranio, Carsley, Bohinen, Powell, Schnoor, Baiano, Sturridge, Wanchope, Poom (gk), Burton, Elliott, Kozluk, Bridge-Wilkinson.

INJURED: Middlesbrough: Fleming. Derby: None confirmed.

SUSPENDED: Middlesbrough: None. Derby: None.

Sheffield Wed v

Aston Villa

Last season: 1-3

STAN COLLYMORE will return for Aston Villa today, after six months of injuries and personal problems, with the firm backing of his undemanding and sensitive manager, John Gregory.

"Basically he is on his own and his career is on the line depending upon how he performs in the future," Gregory said yesterday. "He wants to do well and is desperately keen to be successful. Stan is only too well aware that he hasn't done it yet for Villa and failed to hit the highs expected of him." Gregory did concede that Collymore has impressed in training, but the weight of expectation on the player will be heavy, especially in the wake of Dwight Yorke's departure. Villa once beat the Owls 10-0, but that was in 1912 and not really on the cards today.

Sheffield Wednesday's manager, Danny Wilson, looks likely to field the same starting line-up which beat Tottenham 3-0 last week. Villa's 17-year-old central defender, Gareth Barry, is expected to continue his keep his place in the side after impressing in the opening two games of the season.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (from): Pressman, Atherton, Jonk, Walker, Whittingham, Carbone, Booth, Di Canio, Hyde, Sanetti, Humphreys, Briscoe, Oakes, Hinchcliffe, Sedloski, Thome, Rudi, Barrett, Cobian, Quinn, Clarke.

ASTON VILLA (from): Bosnich, Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry, Charles, Taylor, Hendrie, Thompson, Wright, Joachim, Collymore, Draper, Scimeca, Grayson, Vassell, Petty, Oakes.

INJURED: Sheffield Wednesday: Nolan, Newsome, Alexandersson, Magilton. Aston Villa: None.

SUSPENDED: Sheffield Wednesday: None. Aston Villa: None.

Southampton v

Nottm Forest

Last season: No fixture

DAVE BEASANT, Nottingham Forest's goalkeeper, makes his first return to The Dell today since leaving Southampton. "I have no axe to grind with Dave Jones [the Saints' manager], but it would be nice to turn in a good display," Beasant said. Saints' fans may argue it's not something they often saw him do at The Dell, but that will not stop their concern at facing promoted Forest after being drubbed 5-0 by Charlton last week.

Matt Le Tissier will have to wait to see if he starts. The lumbering playmaker has been on the substitutes' bench for the first two games of the season. The Italian striker, Cosimo Sarli, could make his debut after scoring twice for the reserves in midweek. Ken Monkou may be recalled to strengthen the defence.

Dave Bassett has included the 20-year-old midfielder, Nigel Quashie, in his squad after the player's pounds 2.5m move from Queens Park Rangers. Bassett's other midweek signing, Andy Gray, is unavailable because his pounds 200,000 transfer from Leeds United was registered after the deadline.

SOUTHAMPTON (from): Jones, Dodd, Hiley, Lundekvam, Dryden, Palmer, Oakley, Ripley, Howells, Bridge, Ostenstad, Hughes, Le Tissier, Monkou, Beattie, Marshall, Gibbens, Moss.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (from): Beasant, Bonalair, Rogers, Armstrong, Chettle, Stone, Thomas, Gemmill, Hodges, Darcheville, Freedman, Lyttle, Johnson, Quashie, Edwards, Crossley, Harewood.

INJURED: Southampton: Beresford, Hirst. Nottingham Forest: Woan, Bart- Williams.

SUSPENDED: Southampton: Benali (third of four). Nottingham Forest: None.

Wimbledon v

Leeds Utd

Last season: 1-0

IT'S THE fixture that Gary Lineker once famously described as being more entertaining if watched on Ceefax and, with a recent history consisting largely of goalless draws, there isn't normally much action to be had there either. George Graham is a self-professed devotee of the Wimbledon work ethic, and not surprisingly he is predicting another bruising encounter. "We're expecting another hard game, a tight one. But the confidence among my players is high, and I'm happy with the way we've played so far, although there's more to come," he said.

With both Wimbledon and Leeds having taken four points from their first two games, team changes on wither side look set to be kept to minimum. Leeds' Gary Kelly is still suffering from shin splint problems which have ruled him out of the early season fixtures, while Clyde Wijnhard should continue to develop his promising forward partnership with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. For Wimbledon, Ben Thatcher is still suspended and although John Goodman and Ceri Hughes are pushing for recalls, Joe Kinnear looks likely to keep faith with the team which drew at Derby last week.

WIMBLEDON (from): Sullivan, Cunningham, Kimble, Perry, McAllister, Blackwell, Earle, Ardley, Fear, Castledine, Roberts, M Hughes, C Hughes, Goodman, Euell, Ekoku, Cort, Heald (gk).

LEEDS UNITED (from): Martyn, Hiden, Radebe, Molenaar, Wetherall, Harte, Hopkin, Haaland, Hasselbaink, Halle, Bowyer, Ribeiro, Sharpe, Granville, Kewell, Wijnhard, McPhail, Matthews, Lilley, Jackson, Beeney (gk).

INJURED: Wimbledon: None. Leeds: Kelly (shin), Maybury (shin), Robertson (knee).

SUSPENDED: Wimbledon: Thatcher (third game of four). Leeds: None.

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