Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

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Tottenham v Manchester Utd

Last season: 0-2

IT IS NOT often that you find opposition managers admitting they are delighted for Manchester United, but George Graham has owned up to being pleased for fellow-Scot Alex Ferguson that United are still on course for Champions' League success.

"I know Alex well and I was pleased for him because I know how important Europe is for him," said Graham. "If he wins the European Cup he will be up there with Busby, Shankly and Stein."

While Graham's feelings are genuine - although probably incomparable to the joy of Rupert Murdoch, who must be positively drooling with expectation by now, give or take a Monopolies and Mergers Commission - the goodwill of Spurs' new saviour will evaporate in double-quick time should Tottenham not repeat the recent 3-1 Worthington Cup result over their today's guests.

There have been the usual comments about United fielding a second-string team that night, but the United reserves do tend to have more caps than the average first team. What really made the difference for Tottenham was the sudden transformation of David Ginola (left) from mere mercurial talent into the demon crosser of North London.

While the Premiership-strength United defence will prove a tougher nut to crack, Chris Armstrong has revelled in the service he has received from Ginola on the left. With Steffen Iversen ruled out with a broken jaw sustained in last week's 2-1 win over Liverpool, the chances are that Les Ferdinand, no mean header of the ball himself, will get the chance to feast on French silver service.

United are not without their own left-wing wonder, however, and Ryan Giggs (right) will be in direct comparison. With David Beckham the main byline outlet, a blind eye can be turned to Giggs' sometimes erratic crossing, but there are few who can ignore the threat of the Welshman in full flight.

The recipients up front are in question, though, with Dwight Yorke doubtful having limped off against Bayern Munich. No doubt reluctant to break up the fruitful partnership with Andy Cole, Ferguson will make a late decision on his record purchase, with Ole Gunnar Solskaer the likely replacement.

Nevertheless, it is not unheard of for Giggs to get the call as a striker, and there is also Paul Scholes and Teddy Sheringham, and an appearance by Sheringham always gives White Hart Lane a chance to sing some of its favourite songs. The only other injury concern is Denis Irwin, concussed on Wednesday night following a clash of heads.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (from): Walker, Carr, Calderwood, Nielsen, Fox, Anderton, Ferdinand, Armstrong, Ginola, Scales, Allen, Sinton, Campbell, Clemence, Wilson, Young, Gower, Baardsen.

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

Suspensions: None. Referee: U Rennie.

Blackburn v


Last season: 1-0

BLACKBURN'S MANAGER Brian Kidd looks certain to disturb the line- up that gave him his 100 per cent success record as a Premier League manager by bringing him victory over Charlton last week in his first game. Kevin Davies, inspired by his new manager to score for Rovers for the first time since his pounds 7.25m from Southampton in the summer, may even get another chance to shine. Captain Tim Sherwood and defender Jeff Kenna are likely to return and there is also a chance of England winger Jason Wilcox coming back, but Kidd will be without injured strikers Kevin Gallacher and Chris Sutton. Sherwood, available again after suspension, will probably replace David Dunn. Gary Croft's position looks in jeopardy now Kenna is back.

Newcastle will be without goalkeeper Shay Given. The Irish international has failed to recover from a shoulder injury picked up a fortnight ago so Steve Harper, man of the match at Middlesbrough last week, will continue to deputise. Captain Rob Lee serves a one-match suspension while a question mark still hangs over Alan Shearer, due to his hamstring problems.

BLACKBURN ROVERS (from): Fettis, Davidson, Henchoz, Dailly, Croft, Johnson, Dunn, McKinlay, Duff, Blake, Davies, Williams, Broomes, Marcolin, Taylor, Sherwood, Kenna, Wilcox.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (from): Harper, Perez, Barton, Charvet, Howey, Hughes, Dabizas, Pearce, Griffin, Speed, Hammann, Glass, Solano, Gillespie, Ferguson, Andersson, Dalglish, Albert.

Suspensions: Newcastle: Lee.

Referee: P Alcock.

Derby v


Last season: 1-0

DERBY'S MIDFIELDER Stefano Eranio made his comeback against Arsenal last week and now Francesco Baiano is ready to join him in the starting line-up against Chelsea. The former Fiorentina striker has recovered from a groin injury and could return to aid Derby's efforts to secure a first home win since September. Captain Igor Stimac is still out with an ankle problem and Danish defender Jacob Laursen has a back problem which kept him from training yesterday. Lee Carsley is suspended.

Chelsea player-manager Gianluca Vialli has a near full-strength squad to choose from today. The Blues came through Wednesday's 2-1 win over Premiership leaders Aston Villa unscathed and only long-term casualties Eddie Newton and Pierluigi Casiraghi remain on the injured list. Newton is still recovering from a foot injury but could be given a run-out in the reserves next week, his first match since October. Captain Dennis Wise is available for selection as his three-match ban following his sending- off against Everton does not take effect until next week.

DERBY COUNTY (from): Poom, Prior, Carbonari, Laursen, Delap, Powell, Bohinen, Dorigo, Eranio, Baiano, Wanchope, Sturridge, Hoult, Schnoor, Harper, Elliott..

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

Suspensions: Derby: Carsley.

Referee: P Jones.

Everton v


Last season: 0-2

MIKAEL MADAR looks like being given the chance to start his first senior game of the season for Everton as a replacement for suspended Danny Cadamarteri. The Frenchman has been named in a squad that also includes Michael Branch, just back from a loan spell at Manchester City. Slaven Bilic is also included, along with Dave Unsworth, who has completed a one match ban, and manager Walter Smith will have to chose between the pair if Craig Short fails to recover from a calf injury. Olivier Dacourt could also challenge for Tony Grant's midfield place.

Southampton's Carlton Palmer misses the match suspended. Moroccan midfielder Hassan Kachloul is in contention to start his second game for Saints. Richard Dryden is fit after a groin injury but Francis Benali out for six to eight weeks with a broken arm. Danish goalkeeper Michael Stensgaard is included in the squad for the first time after receiving international clearance but Ken Monkou is still troubled by a thigh problem. David Hirst, David Howells, David Hughes and John Beresford are all out with long-term injuries.

EVERTON (from): Myhre, Cleland, Ball, Watson, Short, Materazzi, Dunne, Bilic, Unsworth, Collins, Hutchison, Grant, Dacourt, Bakayoko, Madar, Branch, Barmby, Gerrard, Simonson, Oster, Ward.

SOUTHAMPTON (from): Jones, Hiley, Dodd, Lundekvam, Oakley, Ripley, Hughes, Le Tissier, Ostenstad, Kachloul, Dryden, Monk, Beattie, Bridge, Williams, Warner, Stensgaard.

Suspension: Everton: Cadamarteri. Southampton: Palmer.

Referee: A Wilkie.

Leicester v

Nottingham Forest

Last season: No fixture

THE LEICESTER manager Martin O'Neill has defensive problems ahead of the East Midlands derby against Nottingham Forest. Frank Sinclair misses the game through suspension while veteran defender Steve Walsh is rated as doubtful with a leg injury. O'Neill's squad is strengthened by the return of Swedish international Pontus Kamark, who has recovered from an Achilles tendon injury but Tony Cottee (thigh) is still out.

Jesper Mattsson could be poised for a swift introduction to Nottingham Forest's Premiership survival fight. Dave Bassett is toying with the idea of pushing his new pounds 300,000 signing into the limelight against the Foxes at Filbert Street. He had initially indicated he would give the 30-year- old central defender time to settle down but has been so impressed with Mattsson's attitude since he completed his move from Halmstad on Wednesday, that he could line up against Leicester at the expense of Craig Armstrong. The last time Leicester did a League double over Forest, in the 1971-82 season, Forest were relegated.

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

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (from): Beasant, Stone, Bonalair, Rogers, Chettle, Hjelde, Armstrong, Mattsson, Gemmill, Quashie, Bart-Williams, Johnson, Darcheville, Freedman, van Hooijdonk, Harewood, Shipperley, Gray, Crossley.

Suspensions: Leicester: Sinclair.

Referee: M Riley.

Middlesbrough v West Ham

Last season: No fixture

MIDDLESBROUGH DEFENDER Curtis Fleming is out of contention after suffering a recurrence of a knee ligament problem. Youngster Robbie Stockdale will take his place in the starting line-up, while Clayton Blackmore and Vladimir Kinder, who were both told they could leave the club on free transfers this week, are included in the squad. Boro are the draw specialists this season in the Premiership, having racked up nine already since August and Hamilton Ricard is the top flight's score specialist, having found the net nine times in the League, the same as co-highest scorer Michael Owen. As the visitors today are not goal-shy themselves, a score draw would be no surprise this afternoon.

Chilean international defender Javier Margas has a hip injury and is out of contention for West Ham. The absence of Margas means a return to the squad for Julian Dicks. The England defender Rio Ferdinand also returns from injury. Paul Kitson (toe) and Eyal Berkovic (calf) remain on the treatment table, while young striker Lee Boylan (medial ligaments) and defender Tim Breacker (flu) do not travel either.

MIDDLESBROUGH (from): Schwarzer, Roberts, Stockdale, Maddison, Kinder, Cooper, Vickers, Pallister, Gordon, Mustoe, Gascoigne, Townsend, Summerbell, Stamp, Ricard, Beck, Deane, Blackmore.

WEST HAM UNITED (from): Hislop, Potts, Ruddock, Keller, Sinclair, Hartson, Lomas, Wright, Ferdinand, Moncur, Lazaridis, Lampard, Pearce, Omoyimni, Etherington, Forrest.

Suspensions: None. Referee: K Burge.

Sheff Wed v Charlton

Last season: No fixture

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY have begun to consider manager Danny Wilson's blood pressure recently with a run of form that has seen a slow climb away from the relegation places. Charlton, meanwhile, have slid in the opposite direction, not helped by losing to fellow strugglers Everton and then Blackburn, and must try to stop the rot at Hillsborough today.

Wilson is reluctant to make his first changes in five games and will leave selection as late as possible. His main doubts are defender Des Walker, suffering from a virus that affected him during Monday night's 3-2 win against Nottingham Forest, and midfielder Petter Rudi - also feeling the effects of a similar illness. Yugoslavian international Dejan Stefanovic is possibly in contention for his first start of the season, while Ritchie Humphreys could be among the options in midfield.

Charlton midfilder Paul Mortimer, substituted during last weekend's 1- 0 defeat against Blackburn with an ankle injury, also faces a late fitness test, but he is manager Alan Curbishley's only major fitness worry.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (from): Srnicek, Atherton, Hinchcliffe, Walker, Thome, Rudi, Jonk, Sonner, Alexandersson, Carbone, Booth, Clarke, Sanetti, Humphreys, Briscoe, Stefanovic, Magilton.

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

Suspensions: Wednesday: Di Canio, Staniforth. Charlton: None.

Referee: D Gallagher.


Aston Villa v


Last season: 1-0

JOHN GREGORY, the Aston Villa manager, will want to avoid a second dose of capital punishment in a week when Arsenal visit Villa Park tomorrow. On Wednesday night Chelsea sneaked a 2-1 win with a last-minute winner and now Villa face another London club with its tail up. While Villa were suffering at Stamford Bridge, a depleted Gunners were cheering Arsene Wenger by derailing Panathinaikos in Athens.

Wenger expects to have Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars and Martin Keown back from injury, while Lee Dixon, Ray Parlour and Fredrik Ljungberg, suspended or ineligible for the Champions' League tie, will also be available. But there are doubts over Patrick Vieira, while Stephen Hughes, Nigel Winterburn, Emmanuel Petit and Tony Adams are definitely out.

Gregory has his own injury concerns, with England midfielder Paul Merson still suffering from a back injury. Alan Thompson is expected to continue for Merson, while striker Stan Collymore will be pressing for a return to the starting line-up after making his comeback as a substitute against Chelsea.

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

ARSENAL (from): Seaman, Manninger, Dixon, Vivas, Bould, Keown, Upson, Grimandi, Garde, Grondin, Parlour, Ljungberg, Overmars, Vieira, Bergkamp, Anelka, Wreh, Boa Morte.

Suspensions: None.

Referee: S Lodge.

Wimbledon v Liverpool

Last season: 1-1

AS GERARD HOULLIER embarks on his rebuilding programme for Liverpool, one of his new signings may make his first team debut tomorrow. Jean-Michel Ferri, Houllier's fellow Frenchman, made his club debut in the reserves on Thursday, playing for 76 minutes against Birmingham. He could feature in the squad tomorrow, though a place on the substitutes' bench seems most likely. Liverpool also welcome back three players after suspension, Jamie Redknapp, Paul Ince and Vegard Heggem.

Wimbledon are also free of suspensions. Carl Leaburn remains the only problem for the Wimbledon manager, Joe Kinnear. Leaburn missed out on the victory over Coventry last weekend and is rated as 50-50. However, Kinnear will welcome the return to fitness of Jon Goodman, Stewart Castledine and Ceri Hughes. The trio did not play in a midweek reserve game and are expected to feature in first team matches over the next few weeks.

WIMBLEDON (from): Sullivan, Cunningham, Kimble, Blackwell, Thatcher, M Hughes, Earle, Ekoku, Roberts, Gayle, Ardley, Heald, Goodman, Leaburn, C Hughes, Court, Ainsworth, Perry, Castledine, Euell, Kennedy.

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

Suspensions: None.

Referee: G Willard.


Leeds United v Coventry City

Last season: 3-3

DAVID O'LEARY has secured his second coup of the week by tying Nigel Martyn, Lucas Radebe and Gunnar Halle to Leeds for the rest of their careers. The move follows pounds 4.4m signing of David Batty, who could make his debut against Coventry on Monday. England goalkeeper Martyn, 32, has signed a three-and-a-half year deal while South African Radebe has extended his contract until June 2003. Norwegian defender Halle has committed himself to a further two years at the club. "I am so delighted," said O'Leary. "This has been a very good week for us." In their last three games, Leeds have scored 10 goals, a record Monday's opponents - with just four wins in 16 matches - must envy. Coventry's manager Gordon Strachan has called on Darren Huckerby to be more consistent, saying his striker ranges from being "a world beater to a carpet beater." Strachan admitted he cannot afford to spend the full pounds 6.75m fee he received for Dion Dublin but insists he needs to spend at least that much to buy someone better than his current strike pair Huckerby and Noel Whelan. "Both Noel and Darren can do anything they want in football, but at the moment they're inconsistent and they've got to try and find much more consistency," he said.