Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

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Blackburn v

Middlesbrough

Last season: no fixture

BLACKBURN HAVE been dealt a serious blow ahead of today's visit of Middlesbrough to Ewood Park, with their joint top scorer, Kevin Gallacher, expected to miss the rest of the season with a thigh injury. The Scottish forward had just returned to training last week after three months out with a calf problem. But his fellow international, Billy McKinlay, is back in training after a lengthy absence due to a groin injury.

The Blackburn manager, Brian Kidd, is still waiting on the fitness of central defender Stephane Henchoz, who suffered back and groin injuries playing for Switzerland in their Euro 2000 qualifying win over Wales on Wednesday. Chris Sutton and Lee Carsley are both doubtful with groin and ankle injuries respectively.

Middlesbrough welcome back their defender Gary Pallister after absence through suspension and injury. The former Manchester United player is expected to make an immediate return to the starting line-up with Gianluca Festa, Steve Vickers and Robbie Mustoe all suspended from Bryan Robson's side.

BLACKBURN (from): Filan, McAteer, Henchoz, Peacock, Taylor, Davidson, Gillespie, Johnson, Dunn, Marcolin, Wilcox, Duff, Sutton, Ward, Jansen, Davies, Coughlan, Williams.

MIDDLESBROUGH (from): Schwarzer, Beresford, Stockdale, Kinder, Cooper, Pallister, Gordon, Harrison, Maddison, Summerbell, Gascoigne, Townsend, Deane, Ricard, Moore, O'Neill, Cummins.

Suspensions: Middlesbrough: Festa, Vickers, Mustoe.

Referee: A Wilkie.

Charlton v

Chelsea

Last season: No fixture

GUSTAVO POYET could be a surprise inclusion on the Chelsea substitutes' bench for today's visit to The Valley. The Blues are hoping that the Uruguayan midfielder can be available for the Cup-Winners' Cup Semi-final, first leg against Real Mallorca at Stamford Bridge on Thursday after three months out injured.

Chelsea will be looking to their in-form forward, Tore Andre Flo, to maintain their push for Champions' League qualification. Flo has scored three goals in his last two games and also became a father for the first time last week. Dan Petrescu has a sore toe, while Celestine Babayaro and Albert Ferrer will have late fitness tests.

Charlton's new striker, Graham Stuart, who joined the club last week from Sheffield Wednesday for pounds 1.1m, will be hoping to get one over one of his former sides. The Addicks' manager, Alan Curbishley, must decide if his Yugoslavian goalkeeper, Sasa Ilic, is in the right frame of mind to play because of the Balkans conflict. John Barnes is out with a groin injury and Keith Jones and David Tuttle are both suspended.

CHARLTON (from): Ilic, Petterson, Salmon, Brown, Mills, Powell, Redfearn, Rufus, Kinsella, Hunt, S Jones, Tiler, Pringle, Stuart, Mendonca, Robinson, Mortimer, Bright, Barnes, Bowen.

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

Suspensions: Charlton: K Jones, Tuttle.

Referee: R Harris.

Derby v

Newcastle

Last season: 1-0

MIKKEL BECK, Derby's new forward, could make his home debut against Newcastle at Pride Park. The former Middlesbrough player is in line to partner Deon Burton up front in place of Kevin Harper. The Rams are missing their captain, Igor Stimac, who could be out for the rest of the season with a cracked bone in his ankle, but Tony Dorigo returns and Stefan Schnoor will play in midfield in the absence of suspended Darryl Powell.

Newcastle have a major injury concern of their own, with the England captain, Alan Shearer, ruled out of their plans because of an ankle injury. The striker will be joined on the sidelines by the German midfielder, Dietmar Hamann, who also has an ankle problem, and the suspended Warren Barton. Duncan Ferguson, however, could be involved at some point today. The Scot is in the squad for the first time since undergoing surgery on a groin injury at the turn of the year. "Duncan is coming with us, so that's good," said Ruud Gullit, the Newcastle manager. "We shall see how he recovers from training on Friday."

DERBY COUNTY (from): Hoult, Prior, Carbonari, Laursen, Borbokis, Dorigo, Bohinen, Schnoor, Baiano, Beck, Burton, Wanchope, Sturridge, Harper, Elliott, Christie, Poom.

NEWCASTLE UNITED (from): Given, Harper, Domi, Charvet, Dabizas, Griffin, Hughes, Pearce, Lee, Speed, Solano, Maric, Georgiadis, Brady, Ketsbaia, Saha, Ferguson.

Suspensions: Derby: Powell. Newcastle: Barton

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Leeds United v

Nottingham Forest

Last season: No fixture

VICTORY TODAY for Leeds will equal their club-record sequence of seven successive wins, but their manager, David O'Leary is deprived of the considerable services of Alfie Haaland and David Batty through suspension, and Stephen McPhail, who is in Nigeria with the Republic of Ireland at the World Under-20 Championships. Their absence could mean a place in the starting line-up for either Bruno Ribeiro or Matthew Jones, while the teenage striker Alan Smith returns after a one-match suspension.

Forest's hopes of gaining anything from this match will have receded even further, however, with the suspensions of Pierre van Hooijdonk, Mathieu Louis-Jean and Chris Bart-Williams. But their recently signed central defender Richard Gough is ready to return to the starting line-up after a two-match absence with a back injury, and Mark Crossley and Andy Johnson are available after international duty with Wales in midweek. Johnson missed Forest's last game with a dead leg and is almost certain to return to midfield, while Des Lyttle is in the frame for a start at right-back.

LEEDS UNITED (from): Martyn, Radebe, Wetherall, Korsten, Wijnhard, Hasselbaink, Ribeiro, Bowyer, Hopkin, Granville, Halle, Kewell, Harte, Woodgate, Smith, Jones, Knarvik, Robinson.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (from): Crossley, Lyttle, Bonalair, Chettle, Mattsson, Edwards, Gough, Rogers, Stensaas, Johnson, Palmer, Woan, Porfirio, Darcheville, Shipperley, Freedman, Harewood, Beasant.

Suspensions: Leeds: Batty, Haaland. Forest: Van Hooijdonk, Louis-Jean, Bart-Williams.

Referee: P Alcock (Halstead).

Liverpool v Everton

Last season: 1-1

LIVERPOOL, WHO have played just one match in five weeks, have some of their injured stars returning for the 160th Merseyside derby at Anfield today. Their captain, Paul Ince, has played in two recent reserve games and should be fit to return following a leg strain. Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Vegard Heggem and Dominic Matteo have all recovered from injuries. However, Jamie Carragher still has one match of his three-game suspension to serve and will not be able to return until Monday's game at Nottingham Forest. His only match in a seven-week spell has been for England Under-21s. The Reds' manager, Gerard Houllier must decide whether to recall Steve McManaman for what would be his last taste of a derby match before moving to Real Madrid in the summer.

Everton look likely to be without Ibrahima Bakayoko as well as their Scottish international Don Hutchison. Bakayoko is described by the Toffees' manager, Walter Smith, as being "almost certainly out" with a hamstring strain. Hutchison is suspended today, so Francis Jeffers could be one of six Blues players - along with Marco Materazzi, David Weir, Olivier Dacourt, Scot Gemmill and Kevin Campbell - to make their derby debut.

LIVERPOOL (from): James, Heggem, Staunton, Song, Matteo, Babb, Bjornebye, McManaman, Ince, Redknapp, Berger, Owen, Riedle, Fowler, Friedel, Thompson, Ferri.

EVERTON (from): Myhre, Short, Materazzi, Ball, Weir, Unsworth, Watson, Dacourt, Grant, Gemmill, Barmby, Campbell, Jeffers, Cadamarteri, Bakayoko, O'Kane, Degn, Jevons, Simonsen.

Suspensions: Liverpool: Carragher. Everton: Hutchison.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill)

Sheff Wed v

Coventry

Last season: 0-0

COVENTRY'S TEENAGE goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland, may find himself thrown into the heat of a Premiership relegation battle in his side's visit to Hillsborough today. The 17-year-old youth team player has been called in as back-up to Swedish international Magnus Hedman for the Sky Blues' vital Easter programme. He gets his chance because City's veteran goalkeeper, Steve Ogrizovic, is under specialist treatment for a neck injury.

Coventry's manager, Gordon Strachan, has other problems. He said: "Roland Nilsson is recovering from fractured ribs; David Burrows is suspended and we have to see whether Paul Williams has recovered from his sciatica." Striker John Aloisi is also suspended but Noel Whelan stands by to replace him.

England Under-21 international striker Richard Cresswell may make his Sheffield Wednesday debut as their manager, Danny Wilson, looks to halt his side's slide down the League. Wilson faces a selection dilemma at left-back as Andy Hinchcliffe is suspended, while the Yugoslav Dejan Stefanovic may not play due to the crisis in his homeland. Lee Briscoe could deputise.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (from): Srnicek, Atherton, Jonk, Newsome, Walker, Carbone, Sanetti, Cobian, Humphreys, Briscoe, Stefanovic, Emerson, Rudi, Alexandersson, Sonner, Scott, Cresswell, Pressman.

COVENTRY CITY (from): Hedman, Edworthy, Shaw, Konjic, Williams, Telfer, McAllister, Boateng, Froggatt, Huckerby, Whelan, Soltvedt, Clement, Kirkland, Gioacchini, Delorge, Breen.

Suspensions: Wednesday: Hinchcliffe. Coventry: Burrows, Aloisi.

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

Tottenham v Leicester

Last season: 1-1

TOTTENHAM'S Worthington Cup final goalscorer, Allan Nielsen, could keep his place when their beaten opponents, Leicester, visit White Hart Lane today. Nielsen, who scored Spurs' dramatic stoppage-time winner at Wembley, only played on that day because Tim Sherwood was cup-tied.

This time Sherwood must serve a one-match ban, having collected five yellow cards, and will be missing along with his fellow midfielder, Darren Anderton, who is also suspended. Anderton's place is likely to go to either Ruel Fox or Andy Sinton, although the transfer-listed Jose Dominguez could be given a surprise start.

The Leicester City striker Emile Heskey will return to lead his side's search for compensation by means of a league victory after undergoing intensive treatment on a back injury. The 21-year-old pulled out of England's Under-21 squad for their match against Poland last week but is fit enough to play. Martin O'Neill's only injury worry is Matt Elliott, who suffered a back injury during Scotland's defeat to the Czech Republic in midweek. Robbie Savage, who had an eventful Worthington Cup final, will also start.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (from): Walker; Carr, Nilsen, Campbell, Young, Taricco, Edinburgh, Nielsen, Sinton, Fox, Freund, Ginola, Ferdinand, Iversen, Armstrong, Dominguez, Baardsen.

LEICESTER CITY (from): Keller, Arphexad, Guppy, Ullathorne, Elliott, Sinclair, Walsh, Taggart, Lennon, Izzet, Savage, Impey, Gunnlaugsson, Cottee, Heskey, Marshall, Wilson, Zagorakis, Kaamark, Fenton.

Suspensions: Tottenham: Sherwood, Anderton.

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).

Wimbledon v

Manchester Utd

Last season: 2-5

JAAP STAM misses the game after suffering a training ground ankle injury during the Netherlands' get-together for the midweek friendly against Argentina.

The good news for the Dutchman and his manager, Alex Ferguson, is that he should be fit to face Juventus at Old Trafford in Wednesday's European Cup semi-final first leg.

Ronny Johnsen and Wes Brown are on standby to partner Henning Berg in the centre of defence in Stam's absence, while Ryan Giggs is close to a comeback after three weeks out with a hamstring problem. Jesper Blomqvist is fit again after a foot injury which ruled him out against Everton two weeks ago, and will come in if Ryan Giggs fails to make it.

Wimbledon are awaiting a verdict on the fitness of defender Kenny Cunningham, who has a calf strain, but winger Gareth Ainsworth is back in the squad for the first time in four months after injury.

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

MANCHESTER UNITED (from): Schmeichel, G Neville, Berg, Johnsen, Brown, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Cole, Yorke, Solskjaer, Blomqvist, P Neville, Butt, Sheringham, Greening, Curtis, Van der Gouw.

Referee: G Barber.

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