Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

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Chelsea v Aston Villa

Last season: 0-1

THE ASTON Villa manager, John Gregory, has promised there will be no repercussions following Dennis Wise's red-card tackle in Wednesday's Worthington Cup tie - but there is no doubt he will be hoping to avenge the 4-1 defeat his side suffered when the Premiership leaders make a swift return to Stamford Bridge today.

Wise was sent off for a two-footed challenge on Villa's stand-in striker Darren Byfield during a first defeat of the season for Gregory's side. They remain 12 matches unbeaten in the league, while Chelsea remain eight matches undefeated.

Wise's tackle even earned a reprimand from the Chelsea chairman Ken Bates, but Gregory said: "It is not an issue so far as we are concerned. We have not mentioned it once since it occurred in the Cup tie [until yesterday, all of two days later]. Generally we get on very well with the Chelsea people and nothing has changed so far as we are concerned. That is why it is not an issue between the two teams and I would not like it to spill over."

Gregory, however, does acknowledge that following the cup defeat - in which Chelsea's player-manager Gianluca Vialli (left) scored a hat-trick against an understrength Villa team - his side face the biggest test of their season so far. "We have had some major tests in the past but in view of Wednesday's result there is an added incentive."

Gareth Southgate, Paul Merson, Gareth Barry, and Lee Hendrie will all return to the Villa squad, as will Stan Collymore (right), should Gregory decide the temperamental front man deserves a start more than Julian Joachim, who will otherwise retain his place. Goalkeeper Mark Bosnich (calf and shoulder) will still be unavailable as he continues to shake off injury and Michael Oakes will again deputise.

Poor, homesick, pounds 30,000 per week Brian Laudrup has been included in Chelsea's squad despite his declaration that he wants to move back to Denmark.Vialli insists that Laudrup will remain part of his plans until his expected move to Copenhagen is finalised in the next few weeks.

If anniversaries of spectacular results are any indication of a good contest to come - they're not, but it's a good excuse for bringing up some statistics - then today's match should be a humdinger. Sixty years ago yesterday, Chelsea drew 5-5 in the First Division with Bolton, while 103 years ago yesterday Aston Villa beat Wednesday Old Alliance 13-0 in the FA Cup. And just over 67 years ago, in September 1931, Villa recorded their best League win at Chelsea, 6-3.

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

ASTON VILLA (from): Oakes, Charles, Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry, Wright, Taylor, Hendrie, Thompson, Collymore, Merson, Joachim, Watson, Scimeca, Grayson, Byfield, Rachel.

Injuries: Chelsea: None confirmed. Villa: Bosnich.

Suspensions: Chelsea: None. Villa: None.

Coventry City

v Arsenal

Last season: 2-2

ARSENAL HAVE lost just once in their last nine visits to Highfield Road - a 1-0 defeat in December 1993 - and today would not appear to be the kind of day for a hiccup in that record. Perhaps the Sky Blues, aided by that old fortifier adversity, will draw strength from the prospect of losing their most talented player and overcome a Gunners side mostly rested in midweek for the 2-1 win over Derby. Don't bet on it.

Liam Daish will return to Coventry's squad for the first time in over year after major knee surgery. Also back are Roland Nilsson - after missing one match with a shin injury - and Steve Froggatt and Marc Edworthy, who were cup-tied for the midweek defeat against Luton. Arsenal are without Dennis Bergkamp and Tony Adams, who both have back problems, while Christopher Wreh - who was meant to replace the non-flying Dutchman in next week's Champions' League match with Dynamo Kiev - is also missing with an ankle problem. Fredrik Ljungberg may play up front alongside Nicolas Anelka.

COVENTRY (from): Hedman, Brightwell, Nilsson, Breen, Shaw, M Hall, Edworthy, Telfer, Boateng, McAllister, P Hall, Froggatt, Huckerby, Whelan, Daish, Soltvedt, Clement, Wallemme, Williams, Ogrizovic.

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

Injuries: Coventry: Burrows. Arsenal: Bergkamp, Adams, Wreh.

Suspensions: Coventry: None. Arsenal: None.

Derby County

v Leeds United

Last season: 0-5

HAVING LOST four of their last five matches, including a humiliating defeat by Arsenal's reserves in the Worthington Cup, Derby County enter today's game in urgent need of a cohesive display. "We're very upside down," Jim Smith, their manager, admitted. Not the kind of form to take into a match against your bogey team - Leeds won this fixture 5-0 last season - but the Bald Eagle can take heart in Leeds' recent poor scoring show, David O'Leary's men having mustered only one goal in their last four matches.

Derby's Spencer Prior is out with a knee injury while midfielder Lee Carsley is also doubtful, but the captain, Igor Stimac, returns and Lars Bohinen could also recover from a torn calf muscle in time.

Danny Granville begins a two-match suspension for Leeds, so Ian Harte could return to action. With Nigel Martyn still suffering from damaged ribs, the 19-year-old Paul Robinson gets a chance to display further evidence of his huge potential in goal.

DERBY COUNTY (from): Hoult, Laursen, Stimac, Schnoor, Delap, Powell, Bohinen, Dorigo, Sturridge, Wanchope, Burton, Poom, Baiano, Carbonari, Elliott, Kozluk, Harper, Carsley.

LEEDS UNITED (from): Robinson, Haaland, Radebe, Wetherall, Sharpe, Wijnhard, Hasselbaink, Ribeiro, Bowyer, Hopkin, Lilley, Halle, Kewell, Harte, Hiden, Woodgate, Molenaar, McPhail, Matthews, Santos.

Injuries: Derby: Prior. Leeds: Martyn.

Suspensions: Derby: None. Leeds: Granville.


v Man Utd

Last season: 0-2

ON THE face of it, the Everton revival storms on unabated, the side having quietly set about establishing a 10-match unbeaten run prior to today's game - their best sequence for almost two years. Yet the statistics hide the fact that the Blues have yet to score a home League goal this season, and today they will be without the suspended Don Hutchison, the scorer of the winner in their midweek Worthington Cup victory at Middlesbrough. Olivier Dacourt should have recovered from an ankle injury, with John Collins and Michael Ball also expected to return.

Manchester United will make wholesale changes from the side that beat Bury 2-0 on Wednesday. Denis Irwin could return after recovering from knee ligament damage, with Ryan Giggs also in line for a comeback. In goal, Peter Schmeichel should be fit to play, while in defence Wesley Brown, Jaap Stam and Gary Neville are all available. The regular midfield of David Beckham, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Giggs should all return, with Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole leading the attack.

EVERTON (from): Myhre, Cleland, Watson, Unsworth, Short, Materazzi, Ball, Collins, Dacourt, Grant, Cadamarteri, Ferguson, Bakayoko, Gerrard, Milligan, Simonsen.

MANCHESTER UNITED (from): Schmeichel, Brown, Stam, G Neville, P Neville, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Blomqvist, Cole, Yorke, Solskjaer, Cruyff, May, Berg, van der Gouw.

Injuries: Everton: Ward. Manchester Utd: None

Suspensions: Everton: Hutchison. Manchester Utd: None.

Leicester v Liverpool

Last season: 0-0

NOT MANY sides would fancy a trip to Filbert Street to meet Leicester in their current vein of form, but the Liverpool defender Steve Staunton feels an away day could relieve some of the pressure his side have been feeling at Anfield recently. "If Liverpool don't win at home, the crowd show their disapproval and rightly so I suppose," Staunton said. "But obviously our confidence will be high after our two recent wins [over Nottingham Forest and Fulham], especially since we have scored a few goals."

Jamie Redknapp is still suffering from a groin strain, and the defender Dominic Matteo is also out after undergoing exploratory knee surgery this week. Steve McManaman should return and David James may also be recalled in goal.

For Leicester, Martin O'Neill is set to name an unchanged side. Veteran defender Steve Walsh will be on the bench after completing 90 minutes for the reserves in midweek but Gerry Taggart (toe) is still out. Swedish international Pontus Kaamark is still out with an achilles tendon problem while youngster Stuart Campbell (groin) is rated as doubtful.

LEICESTER CITY (from): Keller, Arphexad, Guppy, Savage, Sinclair, Elliott, Ullathorne, Zagorakis, Lennon, Izzet, Heskey, Cottee, Parker, Wilson, Walsh, Fenton, Campbell, Oakes.

LIVERPOOL (from): James, Heggem, Staunton, Carragher, Bjornebye, Berger, Ince, McAteer, McManaman, Thompson, Owen, Fowler, Riedle, Kvarme, Friedel, Harkness.

Injuries: Leicester: Kaamark. Liverpool: Babb.

Suspensions: Leicester: none. Liverpool: none.

Newcastle v West Ham

Last season: 0-1

NEWCASTLE UNITED'S squad have had their preparations for today's game thrown in to disarray by a sudden sickness crisis. Their captain, Rob Lee, who also missed the midweek Worthington Cup victory over Tranmere, is one of several victims of a mystery virus sweeping through the club, which has also rendered Gary Speed and Temuri Ketsbaia doubtful starters. But one piece of good news for the Magpies is that the German midfielder Dietmar Hamann could return for the first time since damaging knee ligaments against Liverpool on 30 August.

The West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, could well be forced to play Paul Kitson in place of John Hartson, whose form has taken a nosedive recently. Redknapp must also decide whether to stick with Julian Dicks, who also put in a poor performance in last week's defeat at Charlton, or bring in Andy Impey. The Hammers' Chilean international Javier Margas is now back in training but Stan Lazaridis is still missing with a groin strain.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (from): Given, Griffin, Pearce, Charvet, Dabizas, Lee, Batty, Speed, Glass, Solano, Shearer, Dalglish, Hamann, Barton, Albert, Perez, Georgiadis, Gillespie, Guivarc'h, Pistone, Ketsbaia.

WEST HAM UNITED (from): Hislop, Forrest, Dicks, Ferdinand, Impey, Pearce, Potts, Ruddock, Berkovic, Keller, Lampard, Lomas, Moncur, Hartson, Kitson, Sinclair, Wright, Abou.

Injuries: Newcastle: Lee. West Ham: Lazaridis.

Suspensions: Newcastle: None. West Ham: None.

Sheff Wed v Southampton

Last season: 1-0

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY have given away 10,000 free tickets for today's match, which is one way to guarantee a crowd for the fixture. With Wednesday having gone over 270 minutes without a goal, and the visitors hardly playing inspiring football, it's no surprise they're giving tickets away. Benito Carbone is Wednesday's only doubt. The Italian remains troubled by a persistent ankle problem which forced him out of last Saturday's goalless home draw with Everton and led to him having a painkilling injection in the defeat at Coventry the week before.

Captain Jason Dodd is still ruled out of Southampton's side. Defender Scott Hiley keeps his place in defence, with Dodd having failed to recover from the ankle injury which has forced him to miss the last four games. David Howells is expected to recover from a hamstring injury.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (from): Pressman, Atherton, Jonk, Newsome, Walker, Whittingham, Carbone, Booth, Hyde, Sanetti, Cobian, Humphreys, Briscoe, Oakes, Hinchcliffe, Sedloski, Emerson, Magilton, Rudi, Alexandersson, Quinn, Sonner, Clarke.

SOUTHAMPTON (from): Jones, Hiley, Benali, Monkou, Lundekvam, Howells, Oakley, Ripley, Le Tissier, Ostenstad, M Hughes, Beattie, Palmer, Basham, Kachloul, Gibbens, Marshall, Moss.

Injuries: Sheffield Wed: Nolan, Barrett. Saints: Dodd, Hirst, D Hughes, Beresford.

Suspensions: Sheffield Wed: Di Canio. Saints: None.

Wimbledon v Blackburn

Last season: 0-1

THE WIMBLEDON manager, Joe Kinnear is facing an increasingly desperate struggle to expand his squad, with the signing of Gareth Ainsworth now on hold until after the weekend. He must pick his team from what he describes as several "less than fit" players for today's game. "Michael Hughes is struggling with a long term groin injury but will probably have to play. He really needs an operation but that means he'll be out for nearly three months and we can't afford that," the angst-ridden manager said.

Kinnear should, however, welcome back Efan Ekoku, although Andy Roberts will miss the next fortnight of action with a cracked rib.

Nathan Blake completed his pounds 4.25m move from Bolton to Blackburn yesterday. The Welsh international striker has signed in time to play but the Blackburn manager, Roy Hodgson, has yet to decide whether he will oust Chris Sutton or Kevin Davies in attack. Rovers' other recent acquisition, the on-loan Italian midfielder, Dario Marcolin, is unlikely to feature due to a hitch on his international clearance. Kevin Gallacher, Garry Flitcroft, Jason Wilcox and Sebastien Perez remain unavailable through injury.

WIMBLEDON (from): Sullivan, Cunningham, Kimble, Perry, Blackwell, Thatcher, Earle, Gayle, Ekoku, Ardley, Heald, Goodman, Leaburn, Hughes, McAllister, Kennedy, Castledine, Euell, Jupp, Clarke, Cort, Fear.

BLACKBURN ROVERS (from): Flowers, Kenna, Henchoz, Peacock, Davidson, Johnson, Sherwood, McKinlay, Duff, Davies, Sutton, Croft, Dailly, Taylor, Thomas, Fettis, Blake.

Injuries: Wimbledon: Roberts. Blackburn: Flitcroft, Gallacher, Wilcox, Perez.

Suspensions: Wimbledon: none. Blackburn: none.


Middlesbrough v Nottm Forest

Last season: 0-0

SHOULD BOTH Paul Gascoigne and Pierre van Hoojidonk somehow make comebacks in tomorrow's game, the encounter could be one of the spectacles of the season so far. The pounds 3.45m Middlesbrough midfielder, poised for a return after just 16 days in a clinic, will get a hero's welcome whatever he achieves, while the striking Dutchman - who is less likely to be given a warm reception, even if he is allowed to travel with the first-team squad - will provoke equal, if not positive strengths of emotion.

Middlesbrough are unbeaten at home this season and fifth in the Premiership against the expectations of many. This has been largely due to the form of Hamilton Ricard, who reached double figures in last week's win against Wimbledon and also scored in the 3-2 defeat by Everton in the Worthington Cup in midweek.

Middlesbrough will give a late fitness test to Gascoigne before deciding whether to include him in the squad. Like midfielder Robbie Mustoe, is rated at 60-40 against.

Neil Shipperley is ready to make a comeback for Forest after missing the midweek win on penalties over Cambridge. Second bottom in the table, Forest last lost a league game at Middlesbrough in December 1973.

MIDDLESBROUGH (from): Beresford, Fleming, Gordon, Vickers, Festa, Cooper, Townsend, Stamp, Summerbell, Ricard, Beck, Deane, Stockdale, Mustoe, Gascoigne, Kinder.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (from): Beasant, Bonalair, Rogers, Chettle, Hjelde, Stone, Armstrong, Gemmill, Bart-Williams, Shipperley, Freedman, Harewood, Darcheville, Lyttle, Louis-Jean, Gray, Crossley.

Injuries: Boro: None confirmed. Forest: No new injuries.

Suspensions: Boro: None. Forest: None.


Tottenham v Charlton

Last season: No fixture

GEORGE GRAHAM'S influence over Tottenham Hotspur is already starting to look evident as his new side begin to grind out the results. The meticulous Graham, however, would be well advised to take particular caution for Monday's visit of Charlton, the Premiership's surprise outfit so far. The Addicks have already shown on several occasions that they have no respect for others' lofty reputations, and will be keen to bounce back from a disappointing Cup defeat by Leicester in midweek.

One player already out for Spurs is Les Ferdinand, who is carrying an ankle injury. Steffen Iversen has been rested from training but should be fit, while Ruel Fox could also return.

Charlton's first-choice goalkeeper, Sasa Ilic, has recovered from concussion and will be back to take over from his Australian understudy, Andy Petterson. Alan Curbishley's men will be further buoyed by the return of their influential midfielder, Neil Redfearn, who has recovered from a knee injury.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: To be announced.

CHARLTON ATHLETIC (from): Ilic, Mills, Powell, Redfearn, Rufus, Youds, Tiler, Kinsella, Hunt, Mendonca, Mortimer, Robinson, Bright, K Jones, S Jones, Petterson, B Allen, Fortune.

Injuries: Tottenham: Ferdinand. Charlton: None.

Suspensions: Tottenham: None. Charlton: None.