Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

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UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT

Liverpool v Derby County

A REPEAT of last season's 4-0 victory over Derby at Anfield today is probably just what Roy Evans needs as the Liverpool joint manager finds himself having to fend off speculation once more about his future at the club alongside Gerard Houllier, despite the midweek win over Valencia in the Uefa Cup.

Asked for his reaction to this week's rumours on Merseyside, Evans said yesterday: "It's been going on for three or four years. Frankly I am sick to death of it, but I am big enough and long enough in the tooth to stand up to all this.

"When you take on a job of this size, from day one you are always under pressure. Everything depends on results and I have had to live with this for a long time. All I can say is that we are doing our very best to aid the development of this club. Everything you hear is just speculation and rumour."

For his part, Houllier added: "We are still here, still together. It is only people outside the club who would like to see our partnership not work, so they can say we told you so. We would like to see the Valencia result giving our season a kick start. We have not been happy with some recent results in the League and the European result should be a big boost for us.

"We have got the ability and the possibilities of doing well, we just have to be more consistent. We had the commitment against Leicester last week but still lost 1-0."

Liverpool are expected to be unchanged, which means Paul Ince and Steve McManaman, sent off in midweek, retain their places while Karlheinz Riedle and Phil Babb are still on the injured list.

The Derby manager, Jim Smith, believes he has learnt from last season's defeat but the memories are still painful for him: "We suffered through not taking early chances and we were a bit cavalier," he said. "We aim to be tighter this time. Anfield is a place where you can get a result but if you're not on top of your game and they are really firing, they can do to you what they did to Forest [winning 5-1]."

Smith is hoping Horacio Carbonari will rise to the occasion and produce the kind of performance that persuaded Derby to pay a club record pounds 2.7m for the Argentinian defender. Striker Dean Sturridge and defender Spencer Prior are definitely out, while German wing-back Stefan Schnoor serves a one-match ban. Skipper Igor Stimac faces a late test on an ankle injury and striker Francesco Baiano and midfielder Lee Carsley are both doubtful with knee injuries.

LIVERPOOL (from): James; Heggem, Staunton, Carragher, Bjornebye, Berger, Ince, Redknapp, McManaman, Owen, Fowler, McAteer, Harkness, Leonhardsen, Dundee, Friedel, Thompson.

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

Injuries: Liverpool: Riedle, Babb. Derby: Sturridge, Prior, Baiano, Carsley.

Suspensions: Derby: Schnoor.

Aston Villa

v Tottenham

Last season: 4-1

DION DUBLIN will make his debut for Villa as John Gregory's side seek to return to winning ways after being eliminated from two cup competitions in the space of a week. Their pounds 5.75m signing from Coventry could be joined in the starting line-up by Paul Merson and Steve Watson, who were both cup-tied for Villa's Uefa Cup defeat at the hands of Celta Vigo on Tuesday night. Australian goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, who has missed the last five games with a shoulder injury, faces a late fitness test with Michael Oakes set to continue in goal if Bosnich is ruled out.

Spurs manager George Graham has received a double boost with the return of Frenchman David Ginola and Norwegian striker Steffen Iversen to the Tottenham squad. Ginola is back after suspension while Iversen has shaken off the knee injury which kept him out of last Monday's 2-2 draw at home to Charlton. But England international striker Les Ferdinand is still injured and definitely misses the visit to the Premiership leaders.

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

TOTENHAM HOTSPUR (from): Baardsen, Carr, Edinburgh, Campbell, Scales, Calderwood, Nielsen, Anderton, Ginola, Fox, Sinton, Iversen, Armstrong, Vega, Dominguez, Allen, Clemence, Walker.

Injuries: Villa: Bosnich. Tottenham: Ferdinand.

Suspensions: None.

Blackburn

v Coventry

Last season: 0-0

BLACKBURN-BORN David Dunn rejoins his home-town team's squad for the visit of Coventry because a groin injury has ruled out Scottish international Billy McKinlay. Dunn, 18, will compete with Blackburn's Italian loan signing Dario Marcolin to partner skipper Tim Sherwood in central midfield, while Kevin Davies and Nathan Blake will also be competing to partner Chris Sutton in attack. Manager Roy Hodgson admits he is concerned about the confidence of record signing Davies, but remains convinced that Blackburn's pounds 7.5m striker will prove he is worth every penny. "I am not worried about him... but I am a little bit concerned for him that he's going to allow the fact that he's not scoring to affect his confidence," Hodgson said.

Coventry, desperate for points and facing up to life without Dion Dublin, will probably have Marc Edworthy deputising for the injured David Burrows, who has a hamstring strain. Marcus Hall, his deputy in the last two matches, has had an operation for a knee ligament injury and will be out for four months.

BLACKBURN ROVERS (from): Flowers, Kenna, Davidson, Peacock, Henchoz, Sherwood, Johnson, Duff, Sutton, Davies, Blake, Croft, Marcolin, Dunn, Dailly, Filan, Broomes.

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

Injuries: Blackburn: McKinlay, Flitcroft, Gallacher, Wilcox, Perez, Konde. Coventry: Burrows, Hall.

Suspensions: None.

Charlton

v Leicester

Last season: did not play

RICHARD RUFUS, the Charlton defender, faces a late fitness test on his injured ankle and, if he is ruled out, Alan Curbishley is likely to revert to a 4-4-2 formation with Welsh international John Robinson returning to the starting line-up in midfield and Carl Tiler and Eddie Youds at the heart of the defence. Shaun Newton has resumed full training following the knee ligament injury he sustained against Coventry on 26 September and should be back in action in the next two weeks.

In-form striker Tony Cottee is doubtful for Leicester after pulling out of training with a thigh strain. Manager Martin O'Neill will make a late decision on Cottee whose goals have played a big part in a seven-match unbeaten run. Skipper Steve Walsh may make the starting line-up for the first time in 11 games despite having suffered a groin strain in midweek. But Greek international midfield player Theo Zagorakis is doubtful after injuring a thigh in last week's defeat of Liverpool.

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

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

Injuries: Charlton: Newton. Leicester: Cottee, Zagorakis.

Suspensions: None.

Nottingham Forest

v Wimbledon

Last season: did not play

PIERRE VAN HOOIJDONK could return to the Forest line-up. Manager Dave Bassett has included the Dutchman in his squad even though he has not played a game since the World Cup finals in July. Van Hooijdonk, who brought his three-month strike to an end a week ago, had hoped to return for the reserves on Tuesday but the match was postponed. "I've been impressed by Pierre's level of fitness," Bassett said, "although I must admit I never expected it to be any different. He's a fit lad and certainly looks after himself. Pierre is certainly fit enough to be included in the squad and is in contention for a place."

Wimbledon, meanwhile, will be without Efan Ekoku. The Nigerian striker's hamstring strain has recovered sufficiently to enable him to resume training and he looks set to return within the next fortnight. The former Port Vale winger Gareth Ainsworth, signed last week, is in Joe Kinnear's squad and could make his debut, but is unlikely to be in the starting line-up.

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

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

Injuries: Forest: None. Wimbledon: Ekoku.

Suspensions: None.

TOMORROW'S GAMES

Arsenal

v Everton

Last season: 4-0

DENNIS BERGKAMP and Nicolas Anelka are expected to return to Arsenal's attack after missing Wednesday's Champions' League defeat by Dynamo Kiev. Definitely out are defenders Tony Adams (back injury) and Steve Bould (hamstring problem). Gilles Grimandi and Matthew Upson stand by as replacements.

Everton are walking a disciplinary tightrope after 42 bookings and two red cards this season. Several players are close to suspension, which will hit Walter Smith's team selection in the weeks ahead. Duncan Ferguson, Marco Materazzi, David Unsworth and Michael Ball are all on the brink of suspension while Materazzi has already been suspended this season for being sent off in a Worthington Cup tie, while Olivier Dacourt - the most booked player in the Premiership with seven yellow cards and one red - has also served a three-match suspension. Don Hutchison should make his comeback after being banned from the 4-1 home defeat by Manchester United and is expected to return in place of Danny Cadamarteri.

ARSENAL (probable): Seaman; Dixon, Keown, Grimandi, Winterburn, Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Bergkamp, Anelka.

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

Injuries: Arsenal: Adams, Bould. Everton: None.

Suspensions: None.

Leeds United

v Sheff Wed

Last season: 1-2

DERBIES ARE notoriously low-scoring affairs but tomorrow's all- Yorkshire showdown at Elland Road promises even less net-bulging incident than usual, with Leeds' Dutch striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Andy Booth of Sheffield Wednesday going through crises in front of goal.

Hasselbaink is in the throes of his worst goal drought since he arrived from Boavista in a pounds 2m move 16 months ago, and one which has led new manager David O'Leary to put out his tendrils for a new forward. However, bids for Dion Dublin, now at Aston Villa, and Barnsley's Ashley Ward were both rebuffed.

Booth's problem is even more acute although, ironically, his last strike against a current Premiership side was when Wednesday beat Leeds 2-1 at Elland Road in January. Fortunately, the last time these two sides drew 0-0 was in October 1934.

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

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.

Injuries: Leeds: Radebe, Kelly, Maybury, Robertson. Sheffield Wed: None confirmed.

Suspensions: Leeds: Granville. Sheffield Wed: Di Canio.

Man United

v Newcastle

Last season: 1-1

PHIL NEVILLE is Manchester United's main doubt. He is having treatment on a hamstring problem which forced him to pull out of Wednesday's Champions' League win over Brondby after just half an hour. With Denis Irwin back in the side, Neville has been switched to midfield where his place tomorrow could go to Nicky Butt, who is back in contention for his first start since 24 October. Butt is free from injury and suspension after a spell which saw him sent off twice, banned for three games then injured in training. He has played just 80 minutes in the last month. Ronny Johnsen is also back to full fitness and added to the squad after replacing Henning Berg on the bench on Wednesday night. Berg felt ill before the Brondby game but is back in training. Ryan Giggs is the only certain absentee as he recovers after breaking a bone in his foot.

Rob Lee and Dietmar Hamann will undergo late fitness tests before Newcastle manager Ruud Gullit names his side. Lee has been out with a virus while fellow midfielder Hamann played 33 minutes for the reserves on Monday night, his first action since damaging knee ligaments in the 4-1 home defeat by Liverpool at the end of August.

MANCHESTER UNITED (from): Given; Harper, Griffin, Pearce, Dabizas, Charvet, Lee, Batty, Speed, Glass, Solano, Shearer, Dalglish, Barton, Albert, Hamann, Gillespie, Georgiadis.

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

Injuries: Man Utd: P Neville, Giggs. Newcastle: None.

Suspensions: None.

West Ham

v Chelsea

Last season: 2-1

EVEN THOUGH West Ham are without a recognised left-back for tomorrow's visit by Chelsea, Hammers manager Harry Redknapp has admitted he cannot afford to let sentiment get in the way when it comes to the future of Julian Dicks.

Dicks was heavily criticised for his performance in the team's 4-2 defeat by Charlton a fortnight ago and was then dropped from the team. Redknapp is likely to employ versatile Frenchman Marc Keller on the left side of defence.

"No disrespect to Neil Ruddock who has come in," Redknapp said, "but if I played him and Julian on the left side I am asking for trouble because I am short of pace."

That could be sage thinking if Chelsea play the right-sided Brian Laudrup in what could be his last game for the club before moving back to Denmark with FC Copenhagen, the team he knocked out of the Cup-Winners' Cup on Thursday. Bernard Lambourde may partner Marcel Desailly at the heart of the defence as Frank Leboeuf and Michael Duberry are suspended.

WEST HAM (from): Hislop; Ruddock, Ferdinand, Pearce, Potts, Dicks, Lomas, Sinclair, Lampard, Keller, Wright, Kitson, Hartson, Berkovic, Moncur, Hodges, Omoyimni, Boylan.

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

Injuries: West Ham: Forrest, Impey, Lazaridis, Margas. Chelsea: None confirmed.

Suspensions: West Ham: None. Chelsea: Leboeuf, Duberry.

Southampton v Middlesbrough

Last season: did not play

JASON DODD, the Southampton captain, is in contention to return to strengthen Dave Jones' side following injury. Dodd has been out of action for the last six weeks with a floating bone in his ankle, but made a successful comeback for the reserves in midweek and is poised to be named in the starting line-up with Scott Hiley likely to make way. Former Spurs man David Howells is struggling to recover from the knee injury which forced him to miss last weekend's goalless draw at Sheffield Wednesday, but England under-21 international Matthew Oakley hopes to be back in contention for a place after recovering from a throat infection. Teenager Wayne Bridge plays his final game before joining up with the England Under- 18 squad which will rule him out of the next two matches.

Fit-again Curtis Fleming has recovered from a groin injury and returns for Middlesbrough who have not won at The Dell since 1989 when they beat the Saints 3-1 during Bruce Rioch's reign. But Australian international goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who signed a lucrative six-year contract this week, will have to delay his comeback after missing four League and Cup games with an ankle injury.

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

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

Injuries: Southampton: Howells. Middlesbrough: Schwarzer.

Suspensions: None.

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