Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

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MATCH OF THE DAY

West Ham v Liverpool

Last season: 2-1

UNDER NORMAL circumstances, Harry Redknapp might possibly look forward to Liverpool visiting the East End. A chance to see his son, Jamie (right), would be one reason, and a chance to demonstrate how effective a side the Hammers have become at home would be another.

This week things are slightly different. Redknapp Jnr is coming to visit as part of a rapidly maturing team that might finally, after years of waiting, be starting to live up to its potential. Not only are they capable of swarming opponents and scoring goals, as they did against Coventry in midweek - winning 2-0 but always threatening to make it more - they have Michael Owen in attack, Robbie Fowler due to come back in the near future, and Redknapp returning to the kind of fitness and form that will make him a regular international in the coming years. Even Gerard Houllier, Liverpool's French co-manager, is starting to be mesmerised.

"For the first time since the beginning of the season, I forgot for four or five minutes that I was involved in the team as a manager," he said of the Coventry game. "I was just watching and enjoying what was going on out on the pitch as a spectator."

Redknapp Snr has talent of his own, not least with the goal potential of John Hartson and Ian Wright backed up by playmaking of Eyal Berkovic (left), the industry and motivation of Steve Lomas and the defensive skills of Rio Ferdinand.

Unfortunately for the Hammer's manager, Lomas and Ferdinand are both unavailable through injury, Ferdinand with a groin strain and Lomas with an ankle problem. Both should be fit in time for next week's trip to Nottingham Forest.

Javier Margas is also doubtful, and team morale can hardly be high after taking a 3-0 lead over Wimbledon in midweek only to see it eroded and then overturned in a 4-3 loss.

"We do miss Rio. He is different class. If you take him out of the back it makes it very difficult for us," said Redknapp. "He's an incredible player, just like Michael Owen. If you take him out of the Liverpool team they will miss him. They are special players."

Steve McManaman is doubtful for Liverpool, still troubled with the Achilles injury that kept him out of contention for an England place last week. The midfielder played the full 90 minutes of the 2-0 victory over Coventry on Tuesday, but has been unable to train since.

There are slight injury doubts over Paul Ince, Jamie Carragher and Vegard Heggem, but all are expected to play. Robbie Fowler is travelling with the party, but not expected to take any part. Liverpool's last win at Upton Park came in September two years ago, when they won 2-1.

WEST HAM (from): Hislop, Miklosko, Lazaridis, Margas, Ruddock, Pearce, Potts, Impey, Moncur, Lampard, Sinclair, Berkovic, Hartson, Wright, Abou.

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

INJURED: West Ham: Ferdinand, Lomas. Liverpool: Fowler.

SUSPENDED: West Ham: None. Liverpool: None.

Aston Villa v

Wimbledon

Last season: 1-2

PAUL MERSON will make his Aston Villa debut today, knowing his manager, John Gregory, expects him to make a huge impact on the team. "I want Paul to be an Eric Cantona type figure," said Gregory, presumably meaning he hopes Merson scores goals and inspires his side, rather than karate kick opposition supporters and ramble about sardines and trawlers. Merson will start in attack alongside Julian Joachim, while Stan Collymore, should he recover from a thigh strain, will get a place on the bench at best in Gregory's form side. Goals could be plentiful today. Since the Dons' first visit to Villa Park in 1987, only one fixture, the first, has finished 0-0.

Transfer-listed Efan Ekoku is likely to start on the bench for the Dons, despite scoring in Wednesday's 4-3 comeback against West Ham. "We had talks with Efan's representatives but his demands are miles apart to what we are prepared to offer," Joe Kinnear said. Kinnear will give a late fitness test to defender Dean Blackwell (hamstring) will have a late fitness test while Ben Thatcher returns following a four-match suspension.

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

WIMBLEDON (from): Sullivan; Cunningham, Kimble, Perry, Jupp, Earle, Ekoku, Roberts, Gayle, M Hughes, Leaburn, Euell, McAllister, Kennedy, Fear, Blackwell, Thatcher, Heald.

INJURED: Aston Villa: None confirmed. Wimbledon: None confirmed.

SUSPENDED: Aston Villa: None. Wimbledon: None.

Charlton v

Derby County

Last season: No fixture

DESPITE THE Wednesday night mauling by Manchester United, Charlton's manager Alan Curbishley is likely to keep faith with the same side for the visit of Derby to The Valley.

"I don't see getting beat at Old Trafford as cause for a major panic," Curbishley said. "The benchmark for us is after 10 games. Let's see how we're doing then."

Former Rams defender Chris Powell, who moved during the summer, will be keen to impress against his old team-mates, while Curbishley comes up against a manager who once bought him as a player for Birmingham, Jim Smith.

Smith believes Derby's new-found defensive strength will serve them well. Goalkeeper Russell Hoult has been beaten just once in four Premiership matches so far and some of the credit must go to the return of Igor Stimac in defence.

Pride Park's latest recruit, Kevin Harper, has been named in the squad against Charlton. The 22-year-old winger completed a pounds 300,000 move from Hibernian in midweek.

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

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

INJURED: Charlton: Bowen, Salmon, Poole, Holmes. Derby: Carbonari.

SUSPENDED: Charlton: Rufus. Derby: None.

Chelsea v

Nottingham Forest

Last season: No fixture

GIANLUCA VIALLI, Chelsea's player-manager, is adamant that an upturn in fortunes is just around the corner for his team, despite a return of just two goals, two points and no wins in the first three matches of the Premiership season.

"I can see clear signs of an improvement from game to game," Vialli said. "It was there when we beat Real Madrid in the Super Cup and it was even a little better against Arsenal."

But the expensively acquired strike-force of Italian Pierluigi Casiraghi and Denmark's Brian Laudrup, both 29, has so far failed to excite. With a home Cup-Winner's Cup tie against Helsingborg to follow on Thursday, time is running out.

Dave Bassett will look for his Nottingham Forest side to bounce back from Tuesday night's defeat by Everton, but his team selection is being hampered by a calf injury to England Under-21 international Alan Rogers. If Rogers fails a late fitness test, Thierry Bonalair is likely to switch flanks to left-back with Des Lyttle taking over on the right.

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

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

INJURED: Chelsea: None confirmed. Forest: Hodges, Gemmill.

SUSPENDED: Chelsea: Wise. Forest: None.

Everton v

Leeds United

Last season: 2-0

THE SCOTTISH connection appears to be working at Everton, with the imposing Duncan Ferguson coming to life with two goals against Nottingham Forest in midweek under new manager Walter Smith's Dr Frankenstein-like influence.

At the other end on Tuesday night was veteran defender Dave Watson, making his first appearance of the season, and his performance looks likely to secure his place against Leeds despite Carl Tiler having recovered from flu.

Double Dutch is the language of the day for George Graham, as Leeds search for their first league win at Goodison Park since the opening day of the 1990-91 season. Striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has recovered from a slight back injury and continues his developing partnership with compatriot Clyde Wijnhard.

Left-back Ian Harte has as much to do with Leeds' unbeaten start as the Dutch pair. The Irishman scored from a free-kick against Southampton on Tuesday night and his form is keeping pounds 1.6m signing Danny Granville on the sidelines.

Norwegian Gunnar Halle is doubtful with a hip injury, but Robert Molenaar has recovered from a stomach bug.

EVERTON (from): Myhre, Watson, Materazzi, Unsworth, Cleland, Hutchison, Collins, Dacourt, Ball, Barmby, Ferguson, Cadamarteri, Thomas, Gerrard, Tiler, Farrelly, Jevons.

LEEDS (from): Martyn, Hiden, Molenaar, Radebe, Harte, Hopkin, Bowyer, Haaland, Kewell, Wijnhard, Hasselbaink, Wetherall, Ribeiro, Halle, Granville, Sharpe, Lilley, Robinson.

INJURED: Everton: Bilic, Short. Leeds: Robertson.

SUSPENDED: Everton: None. Leeds: None.

Leicester City

v Arsenal

Last season: 3-3

DENNIS BERGKAMP has yet to find the net this season, but scored a hat trick in this fixture last season, which ended 3- 3, and might hope to recover his touch today. A deluge of goals would not be unprecedented - in 1930 the sides shared a 6-6 draw, one of only two football league matches ever to finish 6-6 - but recent form suggests otherwise. Leicester have lost their last two games 1-0, while Arsenal's last three games have finished 0-0. It would not be too surprising is they added another 90 minutes to the drought today.

Leicester will waiting on the fitness of Steve Walsh (pulled muscle) before naming a team. Martin O'Neill is likely to stick with the side that lost at home to Middlesbrough on Wednesday night. Arsenal's Arsene Wenger will give Tony Adams a rest today, with Steve Bould taking over at centre-back and captain. Emmanuel Petit serves a one-match ban after being sent off against Charlton two weeks ago, so Stephen Hughes stands by to deputise, although Remi Garde is also in contention. Nigel Winterburn has passed a test on an ankle injury collected against Chelsea in midweek.

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

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

INJURED: Leicester: None confirmed. Arsenal: Boa Morte.

SUSPENDED: Leicester: None. Arsenal: Petit.

Manchester United v Coventry City

Last season: 3-0

SO HERE it is, the Sky Blues against the BSkyB Reds, and although Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson may have distanced himself from the boardroom money wrangles, he still commands a wealth of riches on the pitch.

Gary Neville has recovered from his hamstring strain, Ryan Giggs is reported to be over "an illness", Denis Irwin and Dwight Yorke have shrugged off minor knocks, while Nicky Butt is available after having his wisdom teeth removed.

Yorke and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are the current incumbents in attack after their two goals apiece against Charlton, but Ferguson claims he may want to try out different pairings: "I've got up to six options and I've not made my mind up yet."

The cupboard of Coventry manager Gordon Strachan, by comparison, seems rather bare. But at least the arrival of Marc Edworthy, signed from Crystal Palace two weeks ago, offers experienced cover for Roland Nilsson, should the Swedish international defender fail a fitness test on his rib injury.

MANCHESTER UNITED (from): Schmeichel, P Neville, Stam, Johnsen, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Yorke, Solskjaer, Cole, Blomqvist, Sheringham, Butt, Berg, May, Van der Gouw, G Neville, Wilson.

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

INJURED: Man Utd: None confirmed. Coventry: Whelan.

SUSPENDED: Man Utd: None. Coventry: None.

Newcastle v

Southampton

Last season: 2-1

ALAN SHEARER has only managed one goal from open play in 19 Premiership starts since his return from long term injury in January. With Ruud Gullit looking for a dramatic change in fortunes - having seen his new charges lose 4-1 to Liverpool and 1-0 to Aston Villa - there could be no better time than now for Shearer start scoring again. Struggling Southampton, who nurtured him from ugly duckling to swan, will hope today is not his day to find form. No points from four games is where bad patch turns towards crisis.

Newcastle's Nikos Dabizas is still struggling with a groin strain but winger Keith Gillespie is included in the squad. Stephane Guivarc'h could make the starting line-up. Francis Benali is available for the first time this season for the Saints after four matches suspended. Paul Jones replaces Neil Moss in goal after returning from a one-match ban, while Matthew Le Tissier and Egil Ostenstad may be recalled to the starting line up. Ken Monkou and David Howells are hopeful of recovering from back and knee problems respectively.

NEWCASTLE (from): Given, Barton, Pearce, Pistone, Lee, Guivarc'h, Shearer, Speed, Ketsbaia, Georgiadis, Charvet, Glass, Gillespie, Watson, Serrant, Perez, Dalglish, Albert, Andersson, Griffin.

SAINTS (from): Jones, Dodd, Benali, Marshall, Monkou, Palmer, Howells, Ripley, Bridge, Beattie, Hughes, Le Tissier, Ostenstad, Warner, Hiley, Dryden, Lundekvam, Moss.

INJURED: Newcastle: Hamann, Dabizas. Southampton: Hirst.

SUSPENDED: Newcastle: Batty. Southampton: None.

Sheffield Wednesday v

Blackburn Rovers

Last season: 0-0

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY'S new manager, Danny Wilson, can feel a little aggrieved that his charges came away with nothing from Pride Park in midweek, but he will feel very aggrieved if Guy Whittingham and Andy Booth - without a goal in 15 games - do not start to deliver in front of goal.

Paolo di Canio, the Italian striker-cum-winger-cum-midfielder, still looks to be the Owls most dangerous player, and Wilson is waiting to see if he has recovered from the virus that ruled him out against Derby. The defender Emerson Thome, who took a blow on the thigh against the Rams, also faces a late fitness test.

Blackburn manager Roy Hodgson, who revealed he had recieved "a polite inquiry" about becoming the new Germany coach, had more pressing matters to attend to trying to decide if any of Stephane Henchoz, Kevin Gallacher, Chris Sutton or Billy McKinlay will be fit to play, or whether to recall Tim Sherwood - sent to his room midweek for showing an interest in joining Tottenham.

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

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

INJURED: Sheffield Wednesday: None confirmed. Blackburn: None confirmed.

SUSPENDED: Sheffield Wednesday: None. Blackburn: None.

TOMORROW'S TELEVISED MATCH. KICK OFF 4PM

Tottenham v Middlesbrough

Last season: No fixture

TWO WINS in a row, the second achieved without the services of England defender Sol Campbell, who returns to the squad for tomorrow's game with Middlesbrough after recovering from a leg injury, and White Hart Lane is suddenly a brighter place.

What are the odds that Spurs could make it three on the trot? No doubt the Boro dressing room could say - if the departed Paul Merson speaks the truth - but injury doubts over Les Ferdinand (calf) and David Ginola (hamstring), injured in Wednesday's win over Blackburn, would lengthen them.

Paul Gascoigne, fresh from scoring the only goal in Middlesbrough's first win of the season at Leicester on Wednesday night, makes his first competitive return to White Hart Lane since he left Spurs seven years ago.

According to Boro's manager Bryan Robson, Gascoigne is relishing the trip to one of his former hunting grounds: "Gazza is the same as any other player. If you go back to a former club it gives you an extra buzz. Paul will be in a confident frame of mind after scoring his first goal since he joined us last season."

Further good news for Robson is the return of Andy Townsend and Colin Cooper to his squad, while Marco Branca, out since a knee operation last May, is close to a comeback and is also included.

TOTTENHAM (from): Baardsen, Carr, Tramezzani, Berti, Calderwood, Nielsen, Fox, Saib, Ferdinand, Armstrong, Edinburgh, Ginola, Vega, Allen, Sinton, Campbell, Clemence, Walker, Segers, Gower, Young.

MIDDLESBROUGH (from): Schwarzer, Beresford, Stockdale, Gordon, Blackmore, Kinder, Festa, Vickers, Pallister, Townsend, Gascoigne, Maddison, Moore, Beck, Branca, Campbell, Ricard, Mustoe, Cooper.

INJURED: Tottenham: None confirmed. Middlesbrough: None confirmed.

SUSPENDED: Tottenham: None. Middlesbrough: None.

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