Today in the Premier League

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Manuel Almunia faces a fitness test ahead of the visit of Reading tomorrow. The Spaniard missed the 2-1 defeat at Manchester United last week and Jens Lehmann may again step in as cover. Denilson [hamstring] could return but Tomás Rosický, Bacary Sagna, Mathieu Flamini remain out.

Aston Villa

Midfielder Gareth Barry feels Villa can carry on their recent run of goal-scoring form into Sunday's derby with Birmingham. The club have beaten Derby 6-0 and Bolton 4-0 in their last two games. "We go into this game feeling confident," Barry said. "They will be worried about our attacking players."

Birmingham City

Striker Mikael Forssell feels team-mate Liam Ridgewell possessess the "mental strength" to deal with the expected criticism from Aston Villa supporters on Sunday. "Everyone who plays against their old team wants to prove a point," the Finnish international said. "It is a big occasion for him."

Blackburn Rovers

Manager Mark Hughes believes Rovers will have had a "successful season" even if they fail to qualify for Europe. "We have not been outside the top 10 all year," Hughes said. "But we would much prefer at the end of the season to have something to show for it and that's European qualification."

Bolton Wanderers

Striker Kevin Davies may miss the remainder of the season after injuring a hand during the 1-0 win over West Ham last weekend. Scans have shown the injury is worse than was initially believed and the 31-year-old may struggle to face Sunderland and Chelsea next month. He sits out the next two games through suspension.


England international Joe Cole wants to remain at Stamford Bridge for the rest of his career. "I'd be delighted to finish my career at Chelsea," the midfielder said. "I have a great relationship with the fans and it is great to be playing under a manager who really believes in me. The next five to six years will see the best of me."

Derby County

Striker Robert Earnshaw has spoken of his wish to leave Pride Park in the summer in search of first-team football, with a return to Cardiff a possibility. "I need to play regular football to rekindle my international career," the 27-year-old Welsh international said. "A return to Cardiff does excite me."


The Toffees have been linked with a summer move for the unsettled Newcastle defender Stephen Carr. The 31-year-old former Ireland international is out of contract in the summer and has not featured for the Magpies since the 4-1 defeat at Aston Villa in February after suffering a hamstring injury.


Simon Davies has warned his team-mates not to underestimate Liverpool ahead of tomorrow's match at Craven Cottage. "It's always a boost if there are big names left off the team sheet," Davies said of the suggestion Liverpool could rest key players. "But any Liverpool team will be a tough match."


Dirk Kuyt has backed Reds team-mate Fernando Torres to surpass Ruud van Nistelrooy's record of the most Premier League goals in a debut season. The Spaniard requires two to beat the Dutchman's 23 in 2001/2. "Fernando has the quality to beat the record," Kuyt said.

Manchester City

Midfielder Vladimir Weiss feels there are a number of players who could follow Micah Richards and Michael Johnson in progressing from the youth side to the City full team. "We'll see who will be remembered," the 18-year-old Slovakian said. "We have so many good players."

Manchester United

Former Reds midfielder Bryan Robson feels the current team can emulate the treble-winning side of 1999. "This group are right alongside them," he said. "They've got many great attacking players and will continue to improve as there are young players who haven't been at United very long."


Midfielder Gary O'Neil will be sidelined for the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery. The 24-year-old, who signed from Portsmouth last summer, suffered the injury during the 1-1 draw at Tottenham last weekend. He is expected to return for the start of next season.

Newcastle United

Steve Harper said the club is approaching Sunday's derby with Sunderland in high spirits after an impressive run of form. "The doom and gloom that was hanging over the city has gone," he said. "The place is bouncing. It's a high-pressure game but we are going into it with a lot of confidence."


Jermain Defoe feels Manchester City striker Benjani will be eager to prove a point when he faces his former side on Sunday. "Benjani's a strong player and really difficult to play against," Defoe admitted. "He scored a few goals before he left, so everyone's aware of just how dangerous he can be."


Manager Steve Coppell fears his side could face an uphill task at Arsenal tomorrow. "They will have a desire to win as they haven't won recently and will want to put on a good show," Coppell said. "They must be looking at us as prime candidates to be the next lambs to the slaughter."


Manager Roy Keane feels Sunday's opponents Newcastle have benefited from Kevin Keegan's enthusiasm. "What you see is he loves the game and that is rubbing off on his players," Keane said. "The players have been playing with great freedom and they seem to be really enjoying the game."

Tottenham Hotspur

The manager Juande Ramos admits he is unsure whether Ledley King will be involved in the Spurs first-team next season. "We'll have to wait and see if he is here and what state he is in," Ramos said of the defender. "That kind of information, only the doctors can give you."

West Ham United

James Collison has pleaded with manager Alan Curbishley to give him a first Upton Park start against Derby tomorrow. "I would love to play in front of the fans," he said. "I've already gained valuable experience, playing against such different styles as Arsenal and Bolton. I'm working hard in training and we'll see what happens."

Wigan Athletic

Steve Bruce fears Wilson Palacios and Antonio Valencia could be tempted by reported interest from Manchester United. "We have to be sensible about this," he said. "If Man United come knocking, how the hell can you refuse them? This club never wanted to sell [Pascal] Chimbonda, but players want to go and you can understand that."