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Football: Weekeng guide to the premiership - Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest Last season: no fixture

PAUL MERSON is standing by to start his first game for Aston Villa for more than a month. The England international, on the bench for the last five games, could be called upon to take over from Lee Hendrie as Villa seek to extend their unbeaten run to five games. Hendrie is struggling with an ankle injury while Alan Thompson is definitely out, with a hamstring problem. Villa have only lost at home to Forest once in their last nine meetings at Villa Park, 2-0 in October 1994.

Forest will be without no fewer than eight senior players. Ron Atkinson's men, who need to win at Villa Park to keep alive their slim hopes of Premiership survival, are unable to call upon the suspended trio of Carlton Palmer, Richard Gough and Christian Edwards. To make matters worse for Atkinson, he is also without Jon Olav Hjelde, Nigel Quashie, Geoff Thomas, Thierry Bonalair and Hugo Porfirio, who are all nursing injuries. The Norwegian defender Stale Stensaas is facing a late fitness test and Atkinson is likely to give winger Ian Woan his first start of the season. Jesper Mattsson and Chris Bart-Williams are also likely to return to the starting line- up.

ASTON VILLA (probable): Bosnich, Watson, Calderwood, Southgate, Wright, Merson, Taylor, Draper, Stone, Joachim, Dublin.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST (from): Crossley, Louis-Jean, Lyttle, Rogers, Stensaas, Chettle, Mattsson, Allou, Johnson, Bart-Williams, Woan, Van Hooijdonk, Freedman, Shipperley, Harewood, Darcheville, Beasant.

Suspensions: Forest: Palmer, Gough, Edwards.

Referee: P Durkin.