Sellars to test Newcastle's title appetite

Guy Hodgson looks forward to a hectic Premiership programme this weekend
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The Independent Online
Scott Sellars has many qualities but timing is not among them. He might have two championship medals on display at home but he left Leeds United and Blackburn before the clubs won their titles and it seems likely that his move from Newcastle United to Bolton Wanderers will complete a hat-trick.

In fact the midfield player is certain that his pounds 750,000 transfer to Burnden Park last month will deny him a prize. "I can't see anyone stopping Newcastle," he said. "They were already the hottest favourites for years and the odds will shorten now they are out of both cup competitions. Newcastle could lose it but they would need a really sticky patch for the rest of the pack to catch them up."

No patch could be more adhesive for the Premiership leaders than a home defeat by the bottom side, Bolton, who have accrued just one point from 33 on their League travels. Against a Newcastle side who are chasing a 12th successive Premiership win at St James' Park, the Wanderers would appear to have about as much chance of succeeding as the Duchess of York becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Particularly as Bolton will be without Chris Fairclough and Gerry Taggart, who are suspended, which more than makes up for the likely absence from Newcastle's team of Les Ferdinand with a hip injury.

Newcastle will go 12 points clear tonight if they win because Manchester United do not play at West Ham until Monday although their assistant, Terry McDermott, was not counting points or chickens. "Anyone expecting an avalanche from us could be surprised," he said. "Bolton have been unlucky recently with late goals denying them points. They are not as bad as people think they are."

Neither are Manchester City, although there will be plenty who fear yesterday's purchase of Nigel Clough will be too late if they lose to the team immediately above them in the table, Coventry City, at Maine Road today.

Only Bolton have conceded more goals on their travels than Coventry but against that no team has scored fewer times than City. To address this failing Alan Ball might give a full debut to Martin Phillips, the 19-year- old winger who he has said could become England's first pounds 10m player.

"A lot of our supporters have been wondering when I'm going to give Martin his first full game in the senior side," he said, "and he'll definitely be involved in some capacity."

If City were shocked to get five goals in the Cup against Leicester on Wednesday it was nothing to the raised eyebrows at Blackburn and Arsenal who surrendered to First Division opposition in midweek.

Arsenal get back to League business when they meet Everton at Highbury with their manager, Bruce Rioch, facing team selection problems. David Platt is out after a second knee operation in five months while centre- backs Tony Adams and Martin Keown will miss the game as they start two- match bans. Everton will have Duncan Ferguson available, after judgment on the judicial review of his 12-match suspension was reserved.

Changes in their line-up then, but maybe not as many as at Ewood Park where Ray Harford yesterday appeared to be running out of patience with players who have, in eight months, gone from playing for the championship to playing for pride.

"There was a complacency, lack of spark," the manager said about the 1-0 defeat by Ipswich. "I saw it early on and it became apparent to everyone else. Ironically it was the same team who had played so well against QPR last Saturday."

Arsenal v Everton

The Gunners waits for tests on Dixon (groin), McGowan (calf) and Winterburn (stomach upset) before naming their side. With Platt (knee) and Bould (hamstring) injured, and Adams and Keown suspended, manager Rioch fields Linighan and Marshall in central defence. Everton should be unchanged as new signing Hottiger awaits a work permit.

Blackburn v Sheffield Wed

Sherwood could win a recall for Rovers as Warhurst and Fenton both have stomach bugs. Former England goalkeeper Woods plays for Wednesday as Pressman is again ruled out by a groin injury.

Chelsea v Nottm Forest

Hitchcock stays in goal for Chelsea as Kharin is still out with a groin injury. Norwegian defender Johnsen and midfielder Spackman are included in a 17-man squad. Campbell has recovered from a hamstring injury to take his place up front for Forest.

Liverpool v Leeds

Liverpool are expected to field an unchanged team, with Rush still on the bench. On-loan Chapman may drop down to the Leeds bench as Deane is back after a two-match suspension. Left-back Dorigo (hamstring) and central defender Jobson (thigh) face fitness tests, so Worthington, Beesley and Couzens are standing by.

Man City v Coventry

Ian Brightwell is available after serving a two-match ban and could replace Ingram at left-back for City. Teenage winger Phillips is in the squad. Coventry's Rennie (calf) is a doubt.

Newcastle v Bolton

England midfielder Lee returns for Newcastle, but Ferdinand (back) is likely to join Howey (hamstring) in the St James' Park treatment room. Finnish striker Paatelainen scored for Bolton's reserves in midweek and is expected to lead their attack, but former Newcastle midfielder Thompson is not yet fit after a hernia operation.

Southampton v Middlesbro

Walters will make his Saints debut after his free transfer from Liverpool, but Heaney is again a doubtful starter because of an ankle injury. Middlesbrough's Brazilian forward Juninho is ruled out by a knee injury and player-manager Robson is doubtful with sciatica - but Barmby has recovered from a knee ligament injury.

Wimbledon v QPR

Clarke could lose his Dons' place now that strikers Holdsworth and Goodman are fit again. Jones completes a four-match ban, while Sullivan is set to stay in goal as Heald and Segers are still suffering from knee injuries. QPR welcome back midfielder Barker after a four-match absence through illness and suspension.

Aston Villa v Tottenham

Leading scorer Yorke has returned from international duty with Trinidad and Tobago and should return for Villa tomorrow. Tottenham captain Mabbutt is doubtful with a calf injury so Calderwood could return. Midfielder Howells is also included in the squad after recovering from injury.