Football: Weekend guide to the Premiership

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Arsenal v Tottenham

Last season: 0-0

ENTERTAINING THOUGH the sideshow that George Graham's return to Highbury may be, the serious issue of whether Spurs can dent Arsenal's pursuit of Aston Villa at the top of the Premiership will be the main business of the day.

The Gunners moved to within two points of Villa thanks to Nicolas Anelka's goal against Everton last Sunday, and the injury problems that had been threatening to hamper Arsene Wenger's side had started to abate. Of particular glee to the French manager will be the fact that Dennis Bergkamp (left) came through Wednesday's 5-0 Worthington Cup mauling by Chelsea unharmed and should start today, and that Tony Adams is also likely to be on the pitch come 3' o clock.

Arsenal will be looking to avoid what would be an unpalatable second successive home defeat after the rout suffered in midweek. Even if Wenger did only field three regular first-team players against the men from Stamford Bridge, it was a result that can hardly have done much for the confidence of the club. The recent Swedish international signing, Fredrik Ljungberg, said that no professional liked to lose a match 5-0 and it was the worst experience of his career.

"So, we had some reserves in the side, but that was no excuse," he said. "It is very difficult to speak about a loss like that, the biggest defeat I have ever had. I don't really know what went wrong. Of course, we will have different players playing against Tottenham, and I am sure we will bounce back, but the whole club needs a lift after such a loss."

Bergkamp has missed the last two League matches and will be keen to rediscover the goalscoring touch that brought him 19 goals last season. He has only scored twice this season, and says the defeat against Chelsea will have no bearing on the north London derby.

"I am more than hopeful I will be able to play against Tottenham," he said. "And I don't think there is any relevance between the Chelsea game and the Spurs game. It will be a different team in a different competition." Arsenal could be without Steve Bould who has a hamstring strain. Tottenham, meanwhile, who will be hoping the fine recent form of Steffen Iversen (right) continues, may be without David Ginola, who has a calf strain that could keep him out. Tottenham's four League matches since Graham took charge have produced one win, one draw and two narrow defeats to Leicester and Aston Villa to leave them in 14th place. There is no doubt their defence is looking tighter. Familiar, that.

ARSENAL (probable): Seaman; Winterburn, Keown, Adams, Dixon; Overmars, Petit, Vieira, Parlour; Anelka, Patrick Ljungberg.

TOTTENHAM (probable): Baardsen; Carr, Campbell, Vega, Calderwood, Scales; Anderton, Nielsen, Clemence, Sinton, Ginola, Allen, Fox, Iversen.

Injuries: Arsenal: None confirmed. Tottenham: Ferdinand, Armstrong, Edinburgh.

Suspensions: Arsenal: None. Tottenham: None.

Referee: A Wilkie.

Charlton v

Middlesbrough

Last season: 3-0

PAUL GASCOIGNE may have been left out of Glenn Hoddle's latest England squad, but Bryan Robson is certain to have him in the starting line-up today as the North-east side have a chance to judge just how far they have come in the past year. The last time the two met at The Valley, on 10 January, the home side won 3-0 with two goals from Shaun Newton and another from Mark Bright. It was not Boro's heaviest defeat of the season, but it was considered the match in which they were most comprehensively outplayed.

Charlton's Keith Jones faces a late test on knee and back injuries while the Republic of Ireland are still insisting on Mark Kinsella's release for the build-up to next Wednesday's Euro 2000 qualifier with Yugoslavia in Belgrade. Mark Schwarzer is in line for a Middlesbrough comeback in goal after missing five league and cup games with an ankle injury. This fixture in October 1960 finished 6-6, with Brian Clough scoring a hat- trick.

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

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

Injuries: Charlton: Newton, Mortimer. Boro: Pallister.

Suspensions: Charlton: None. Boro: None.

Referee: M. Riley.

Chelsea

v Wimbledon

Last season: 1-1

BJARNE GOLDBAEK, Chelsea's Danish midfielder who swapped clubs with Brian Laudrup, is likely to make his Premiership debut. Goldbaek was on the pitch for 77 minutes in the 5-0 midweek Worthington Cup defeat of Arsenal. Gianluca Vialli has named himself in the 18-man squad following his two-goals against Arsenal. In the absence of injured Pierluigi Casiraghi the Chelsea player-manager will continue to compete for a place up by impressing himself sufficiently up front ahead of Gianfranco Zola and Tore Andre Flo. The Blues have not beaten the Dons in a Premiership match at Stamford Bridge since a 2-0 win in March 1994.

Wimbledon's manager Joe Kinnear has plenty of options up front today. Mark Kennedy, Michael Hughes and new signing Gareth Ainsworth are all after a place while Efan Ekoku, who has been kept out by injury for six weeks, is also back in the squad. The Dons could rise to fourth in the table by this evening if they win today and other results go their way.

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

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

Injuries: Chelsea: Casiraghi. Wimbledon: No new injuries.

Suspensions: Chelsea: Wise. Wimbledon: None.

Referee: J. Winter.

TOMORROW'S SKY GAME - 4PM

Coventry v Everton

Last season: 0-0

COVENTRY MANAGER Gordon Strachan may be forced to field an entirely new centre-back pairing against Everton at Highfield Road tomorrow because of injuries to Gary Breen and Richard Shaw, who both face late fitness tests.

Cruel observers might suggest that this course of action would be no bad thing, but there were signs in the 1-0 loss to Arsenal, then in the 2-1 win at Blackburn last weekend, that Coventry were beginning to find some form. Noel Whelan and Darren Huckerby showed a burgeoning understanding that could help to offset the loss of Dion Dublin to Aston Villa.

Frenchman Jean-Guy Wallemme, whose last game was against Newcastle in mid-September, and Paul Williams are on standby to fill the defensive holes. Williams replaced Breen in the second half at Ewood Park when he limped off with ankle ligament damage. Shaw has ricked his neck.

No such defensive worries for Walter Smith, who will have David Unsworth back for the game at Highfield Road after he missed the midweek Worthington Cup tie defeat against Sunderland with flu. Apart from a blip against Manchester United, defence has not been the problem.

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

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

Injuries: Coventry: None confirmed. Everton: None confirmed.

Suspensions: Coventry: None. Everton: None.

Referee: G Poll.

Liverpool

v Leeds Utd

Last season: 3-1

LIVERPOOL PROVED that two heads are not necessarily better than one but now Gerard Houllier has to prove that he alone, now that Roy Evans has resigned, can provide the antidote to the Anfield malaise.

The Frenchman might have asked for better circumstances to try going solo, deprived as he is by injuries to the England pair of Michael Owen and Steve McManaman for Leeds' visit to Anfield today. With good tidings in short supply, there is a good chance that Jamie Redknapp and Patrik Berger will be fit.

David O'Leary, so recently banished from pitch-side during Leeds' Uefa Cup campaign, now has cause to thank Uefa after the governing body cancelled the Under-18 tournament in Israel that England were due to be involved in, allowing Jonathon Woodgate to retain his place at the heart of the United defence.

The manager also has Ian Harte available to play as Fifa have waived the five-day ruling for the Republic of Ireland's rearranged Euro 2000 qualifier against Yugoslavia on Wednesday.

LIVERPOOL (from): James, Carragher, Staunton, Bjornebye, Leonhardsen, Fowler, Riedle, Redknapp, Ince, Thompson, Harkness, Heggem, Berger, Friedel, Murphy, Kvarme.

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

Injuries: Liverpool: Babb, Owen, McManaman. Leeds: McPhail, Radebe.

Suspensions: Liverpool: McAteer. Leeds: None.

Referee: D Gallagher.

Manchester Utd v Blackburn

Last season: 4-0

MANCHESTER UNITED'S Andy Cole and Jesper Blomqvist have been passed fit. Cole has had treatment on a slight hamstring strain picked up during Sunday's game with Newcastle, and Blomqvist has recovered after a recurrence of problems with his foot. Phil Neville is also ready to step back as Alex Ferguson finds himself without both Denis Irwin and Roy Keane, who have joined Mick McCarthy's Republic of Ireland squad preparing for next week's Euro 2000 qualifier against Yugoslavia. Nicky Butt looks certain to replace Keane as he starts his first Premiership game since 24 October.

Kevin Gallacher could return for Blackburn. He will be in the team providing he gets the referee's permission to play with strapping on his broken arm. Gallacher's return is tempered by the news that England goalkeeper Tim Flowers could be out until Christmas. Blackburn will also have Republic of Ireland duo Jeff Kenna and Damien Duff in their line up following Fifa's decision to allow them to take part. Nathan Blake, who was cuptied in midweek at Newcastle, also returns along with Gallacher.

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

BLACKBURN (from): Filan, Kenna, Henchoz, Peacock, Croft, Marcolin, Sherwood, Dailly, Johnson, Duff, Davies, Dunn, Fettis, Davidson, Thomas, Blake, Gallacher..

Injuries: Man Utd: None confirmed. Blackburn: Flowers.

Suspensions: Man Utd: None. Blackburn: None.

Referee: M. Reed.

Newcastle v Sheff Wed

Last season: 1-1

NEWCASTLE MANAGER Ruud Gullit look certain to be denied the services of his Greek defender Nikos Dabizas for the game with Sheffield Wednesday at St James' Park today.

The Greek football association will make a late final decision on whether Dabizas should be allowed to play for his club before heading off on international duty, but there is a chance that they could be swayed by Fifa's ruling to allow the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given to face Wednesday.

Another keeper being given a chance is Pavel Srnicek, formerly a Magpies favourite, who should make his debut for his new club following an injury to regular No 1 Kevin Pressman.

Manager Danny Wilson only completed the signing of Srnicek this week - just in time it seems - and the Czech international goes straight into the side as Pressman is likely to be out for two to three weeks with tears in his left thigh muscle. Italian striker Benito Carbone again looks as if he will be out, while defender Des Walker should be fit despite a leg injury.

NEWCASTLE (from): Given, Harper, Griffin, Barton, Charvet, Hughes, Albert, Lee, Batty, Glass, Hamann, Speed, Solano, Shearer, Dalglish, Ketsbaia, Gillespie, Andersson.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (from): Srnicek; Atherton, Jonk, Newsome, Walker, Booth, Hyde, Sanetti, Humphreys, Briscoe, Oakes, Hinchcliffe, Sedloski, Emerson, Magilton, Rudi, Alexandersson, Sonner, Stefanovic, Clarke.

Injuries: Newcastle: None confirmed. Wednesday: Pressman, Carbone.

Suspensions: Newcastle: Pearce. Wednesday: Di Canio.

Referee: P Jones.

Southampton v Aston Villa

Last season: 1-2

SOUTHAMPTON WILL be without Mark Hughes - who will serve his second one-match ban of the season - as they attempt to extend their Premiership unbeaten run to five games. Matthew Oakley is likely to replace him after recovering from a virus which had kept him out for a fortnight while captain Jason Dodd is also poised to return at right-back after five weeks out with ankle trouble. Winger Stuart Ripley is hoping to recover from a dead leg while Wayne Bridge has a hamstring problem and midfielder David Howells is struggling with a knee injury. All three will undergo late fitness tests.

Villa will make a check on the fitness of Mark Bosnich before naming a side. Dion Dublin, on the losing side at the Dell as a Coventry player a few weeks ago, returns today a Villan.

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

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

Injuries: Saints: None confirmed. Villa: None confirmed.

Suspensions: Saints: Hughes. Villa: None.

Referee: N Barry.

West Ham v Leicester

Last season: 4-3

WEST HAM go into today's game minus four players who would normally expect to be involved. Defender Neil Ruddock (suspended), Craig Forrest (elbow), Andy Impey (hip) and Stan Lazaridis (groin)are all missing as Harry Redknapp's men take on a Leicester side in a rich vein of form managed by a Martin O' Neill, a man whose side seem to produce better results the more his services are coveted elsewhere. Julian Dicks and Javier Margas could both come into consideration for the Hammers. John Moncur, kept out last week with an ankle problem, and John Hartson, who had a dead leg, are both available.

O'Neill will be without England Under-21 striker Emile Heskey (ankle), a loss that might cause concern, but if the player's less than stunning recent form has been due to his carrying an injury, at least his manager might be pleased to be giving it a chance to recover. Tony Cottee (thigh) and Ian Marshall (hamstring) are doubtful for the match. Stuart Wilson may play up front with Steve Walsh moving forward from his usual central defender role. Theo Zagorakis is away on international duty with Greece but Northern Ireland's Neil Lennon has been given leave to play by Lawrie McMenemy.

WEST HAM (from): Hislop, Sealey, Potts, Dicks, Margas, Ferdinand, Pearce, Keller, Sinclair, Lomas, Moncur, Lampard, Berkovic, Kitson, Wright, Hartson, Breacker, Abou, Hodges, Omoyinmi, Coyne.

LEICESTER (from): Keller, Arphexad, Guppy, Sinclair, Walsh, Elliott, Taggart, Izzet, Lennon, Parker, Savage, Kaamark, Campbell, Ullathorne, Fenton, Wilson, Oakes, Wenlock.

Injuries: West Ham: Forrest, Impey, Lazaridis. Leicester: Heskey.

Suspensions: West Ham: Ruddock. Leicester: None.

Referee: S. Lodge.

MONDAY NIGHT'S SKY GAME - 8PM

Nottm Forest v Derby

Last season: No fixture

NOTTINGHAM FOREST are likely to recall striking striker Pierre van Hooijdonk to help them take on the old enemy on Monday. Van Hooijdonk was relegated to the bench for Wednesday's Worthington Cup defeat against Manchester United but looks likely to return at the expense of either Dougie Freedman or Marlon Harewood. History favours the home side today. They have not lost a League game to the Rams at the City Ground since 1971.

Derby will go into the East Midlands derby without captain Igor Stimac. The Croatian defender missed last Saturday's 2-1 win at Liverpool with an ankle injury and is now suspended for the City Ground match. Midfielder Lee Carsley is still out with a knee injury and defender Rory Delap is with the Republic of Ireland squad in Yugoslavia. German wing-back Stefan Schnoor is available after serving a one-match ban and striker Dean Sturridge could also be back along with centre-half Spencer Prior, who has recovered from a knee injury.

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

DERBY (from): Hoult, Laursen, Carbonari, Elliott, Kozluk, Powell, Bohinen, Dorigo, Harper, Wanchope, Sturridge, Schnoor, Burton, Baiano, Prior, Poom, Bridge-Wilkinson.

Injuries: Forest: None confirmed. Derby: Stimac, Carsley.

Suspensions: Forest: None. Derby: None.

Referee: G. Barber.

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