Today in the Premier League

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Arsenal

Arsène Wenger believes a fit Robin van Persie will be a key player in the Gunners' title challenge. "He can make a difference," Wenger said. "My ambition was very high and still is," Van Persie added. "I have missed many games, but I am positive we can win the league and the Champions League."

Aston Villa

Defender Olof Mellberg could return to the starting line-up for tonight's visit of Middlesbrough. Stiliyan Petrov is also in contention for a recall whilst Nigel Reo-Coker should feature despite a back problem.

Probable team (4-4-2): Carson; Bouma, Laursen, Knight, Mellberg; Gardner, Barry, Young, Reo-Cooker; Agbonlahor, Carew.

Birmingham City

Manager Alex McLeish is unlikely to make any major changes to the side which beat Tottenham recently for tonight's trip to Portsmouth. Olivier Kapo remains sidelined with a hamstring problem.

Probable team (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Kelly, Ridgewell, Jaidi, Murphy; Larsson, Muamba, Johnson, McSheffrey; McFadden, Forssell.

Blackburn Rovers

Striker Jason Roberts has admitted he is desperate to return to the Rovers starting line-up. "I'm the same as anyone who doesn't play," the 30-year-old forward said. "We're all the same, we're selfish and want to play. I try my best with the minutes I am given and just try to make an impact."

Bolton Wanderers

Midfielder Kevin Nolan has added his support to calls for the introduction of video technology to aid referees. "Something needs to be done to help them because the game is so quick at the moment," the Wanderers captain said. "I would like to see referees getting help because mistakes are being made that can change your season."

Chelsea

Frank Lampard should recover from a thigh strain to face Derby tonight. Didier Drogba could also return after missing the FA Cup defeat at Barnsley, but Petr Cech remains sidelined with an ankle injury and Carlo Cudicini will again be in goal.



Probable team (4-4-2): Cudicini; Ferreira, Terry, Carvalho, A Cole; Ballack, Makelele, Lampard, J Cole; Anelka, Drogba.

Derby County

Paul Jewell could recall Robbie Savage for tonight's trip to Chelsea after the Welshman missed the draw with Sunderland. Dean Leacock [hip] could also feature but Giles Barnes [knee] is out for the season.

Probable team (4-4-2): Carroll; Edworthy, Moore, Stubbs, McEveley; Sterjovsky , Savage, Pearson, Lewis; Villa, Miller.

Everton

Manager David Moyes has praised the contributions of midfielder Lee Carsley this season. "He is reliable and what you need are reliable players," Moyes said of the 34-year-old Republic of Ireland player. "He might not be the most flash player but he does a job for the team."

Fulham

Roy Hodgson has called on Jimmy Bullard to raise his game, despite the midfielder's impressive recent displays. "The way we would like him to play and the discipline we would like him to show has not always been a major feature of his game," the manager said. "But Jimmy is getting better."

Liverpool

Javier Mascherano said he modelled his game on Chelsea's Claude Makelele. "When he came to Chelsea, he showed you how to play – he is always in the right position," he said. "It was an education." Mascherano has been included in Argentina's squad for the friendly with Egypt this month.

Manchester City

Owner Thaksin Shinawatra has been granted permission to return from Thailand tomorrow in a bid to revive the club. "I feel like they are losing too many games while I am still busy," the ousted former Thai prime minister said. "I have to go back and tighten the bolt."

Manchester United

The Football Association has written to Alex Ferguson and Carlos Quieroz asking for an explanation of comments made after Saturday's defeat to Portsmouth. Ferguson branded referee Martin Atkinson's display "unacceptable" and claimed referees' chief Keith Hackett was "not doing his job".

Middlesbrough

Striker Jérémie Aliadière misses the trip to Aston Villa tonight through suspension. Andrew Taylor [foot] is close to a return but Brad Jones [finger] and defender Seb Hines [knee] miss out.

Probable team (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Young, Wheater, Huth, Pogatetz; O'Neil, Arca, Rochemback, Downing; Tuncay, Alves.

Newcastle United

Michael Owen said the club's battle to remain in the Premier League takes precedent over his contract negotiations. "There are more important things to sort out," he said. "But if or when the club want to talk, I am prepared to talk. I am still only 28 and feel I have a lot of years left in me."

Portsmouth

The striker Jermain Defoe returns to the starting line-up for the visit of Birmingham tonight after being cup-tied for the FA Cup win at Manchester United. Midfielder Pedro Mendes may also feature.

Probable team (4-4-2): James; Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson; Diop, Diarra, Muntari, Mendes; Defoe, Baros.

Reading

Royals goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann feels the club's recent wins over Middlesbrough and Manchester City have increased belief in the squad. "Two wins in a row, it's easy – I don't know what the problem was," he said. "We've moved right up [the table] so the two results were huge."

Sunderland

The CONCACAF President Jack Warner has rebuked Black Cats manager Roy Keane's questioning of the selection of Carlos Edwards and Kenwyne Jones for Trinidad and Tobago's friendly in Jamaica on 26 March. "Maybe Keane needs to be reminded of the FIFA rules," Warner said.

Tottenham Hotspur

Reports in Spain suggest the club have switched their attentions from Carlos Kameni to 6ft 5in Villarreal goalkeeper Diego Lopez. The Spaniard's form this season has helped his club to third in La Liga and Spurs are understood to have been encouraged by responses to their enquiries.

West Ham United

The former Hammers defender Julian Dicks has defended manager Alan Curbishley, believing the blame for the recent consecutive 4-0 defeats should lie with the players. "Alan is the right man for the job," he said. "These are all professionals, earning fortunes, but a lot of them are just going through the motions."

Wigan Athletic

Scans have confirmed striker Emile Heskey did not suffer a break to the same foot against Arsenal which sidelined the forward for two months earlier this season. Heskey limped out of Sunday's 0-0 draw at the JJB following a challenge with William Gallas, but could now be available for the visit of Bolton on Sunday.

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