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Midfielder Gilberto will be missing from the Arsenal team after a tiring flight back from helping Brazil beat Ecuador in a World Cup qualifier. Portsmouth, promoted as first division champions, have had a relatively soft introduction to the premier league but playing Arsenal at Highbury will test them. Both sides are unbeaten but Arsenal have yet to drop a point in four games and their attack, spearheaded by Thierry Henry, is in superb form.


A game likely to feature a lot of goals -- Blackburn are the highest scorers in the division while Liverpool finally found their goal touch in a 3-0 win at Everton. Liverpool striker Michael Owen, with three goals, looks at the peak of his form while Andy Cole has scored four for Blackburn. Rovers could parade new signings Barry Ferguson and Dino Baggio who played for the reserves this week.


No wins from four games has already put Bolton on course for yet another relegation dog-fight, while Middlesbrough are a better side than their lowly position indicates. Both teams are leaking goals and Boro have been hit by injuries to their backline, although central defender Chris Riggott and striker Michael Ricketts are ready to return. Bolton have re-signed utility player Paul Warhurst after releasing him at the end of last season and could give a debut to Frenchman Ibrahim Ba.


Champions United did not expect to lose at Southampton in their previous game and no-nonsense Charlton offer the same sort of mid-table challenge. United midfielders Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt are doubtful after missing England's Euro 2004 qualifier against Liechtenstein through injury. Charlton will be without teenage striker Carlton Cole with a hip injury but Paolo di Canio, who missed two games with a bruised knee, scored twice in a reserve match on Tuesday.


A London derby with real bite for both managers. Chelsea's Claudio Ranieri must have been unsettled by reports this week that United's Alex Ferguson turned down his job, while Glenn Hoddle's position would be seriously undermined by another defeat like the 3-0 home loss to Fulham. Despite buying a clutch of strikers, Spurs have scored just two goals while their defence will need to be at its sharpest to keep out Chelsea's expensive strike force led by recent signing Hernan Crespo.


Newcastle were relieved by the two-week break in club action after three defeats in eight days left them out of the Champions League and winless in the premier league. French winger Laurent

Robert could return to the starting line-up and Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given has been passed fit after injuring his knee. All Everton eyes will be on teenage striker Wayne Rooney after his two goals for England and goalkeeper Richard Wright may return after a knee injury.


Southampton are unbeaten and have scored just three goals, none more important than striker James Beattie's in the 1-0 defeat of Manchester United. Promoted Wolves have had a miserable start to their season, gaining just one point from a 0-0 home draw with Portsmouth last time out.


City will be looking for their first league win at their new City of Manchester Stadium and Villa their first victory away from home since January. Villa manager David O'Leary is being cautious about striker Juan Pablo Angel's fitness after his return from playing in two South American World Cup qualifiers for Colombia. Defender Ronny Johnsen is nursing a hamstring strain but should be fit.


Fulham, having won their previous match 3-0 at Tottenham, come up against their own goalkeeper Maik Taylor who is on loan to Birmingham and in fine form with three clean sheets. The Birmingham attack have managed only two goals in three matches but new Argentine signing Luciano Figueroa is not quite ready for premier league action.


Leicester manager Micky Adams has a doubt up front with Northern Ireland winger Keith Gillespie after he aggravated a groin injury during their Euro qualifier against Armenia in Belfast on Wednesday. There will be two teenagers on the Leeds bench, Aaron Lennon, who became the youngest premier league player on his debut at Tottenham last month aged 16 years and 129 days, and rookie goalkeeper Scott Carson following veteran Nigel Martyn's move to Everton.
German first division matches - Sept 13-14

BERLIN, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich visit VfL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga on Saturday with their minds already on their Champions League opener against Celtic.

Winning another German title would please the Bavarians but their main goal this season is to bounce back in Europe after their shock first-stage exit from last year's Champions League.


Wednesday's game at home against Celtic is far more important than Saturday's trip to Wolfsburg to the German champions, who are second in the Bundesliga table with 10 points from four games -- as many as leaders Werder Bremen, who have a better goal difference.

Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who could have done without the two-weeks break due to Euro 2004 qualifiers, has plenty of injury worries in the midfield with Jens Jeremies and Sebastian Deisler both sidelined.


Hertha Berlin hope striker Fredi Bobic, who joined Hertha from Hanover 96 in the close season, can repeat what he did for Germany on Wednesday and inspire them to their first victory of the season when he returns to his former club.

Bobic was decisive in Germany's 2-1 win over Scotland on Wednesday, opening the scoring before being fouled for the penalty which Michael Ballack converted for a 2-0 lead.

Hertha have yet to score a goal this season but have still managed three draws in their four matches.

- - - -


Hansa Rostock coach Armin Veh has no injury worries and should make no changes to the side who picked up five points from their last three games.

VfL Bochum, who have Nigeria midfielder Sunday Oliseh and Germany forward Paul Freier out injured, have not won in Rostock since a 2-0 victory in 1992.

- - - -


Germany defender Jens Nowotny, who has played just one game in 18 months because of two knee injuries, should make his comeback for Bayer Leverkusen and play at least half a game.

UEFA Cup entrants Hamburg SV will find it hard to bounce back from a disastrous start of three losses and a draw with four players out injured and one suspended.

- - - -

TSV 1860 MUNICH (6) v COLOGNE (14)

TSV 1860 Munich crushed Cologne 3-0 the last time they played them in the Bundesliga, in 2002. That victory was their seventh straight home win over Cologne.

Cologne, back in the top flight after one season in the second division, are without Germany defender Mustafa Dogan and midfielder Joerg Heinrich, both injured.

- - - -


Injury-racked Borussia Dortmund are without Evanilson, Torsten Frings, Christoph Metzelder and Flavio Conceicao.

Leaders Werder Bremen miss injured French playmaker Johan Micoud but are on a high after a surprisingly strong start.

- - - -


Schalke 04 have won their last five home games against Stuttgart but are without injured Germany midfielder Joerg Boehme and Dutch defender Niels Oude Kamphuis.

VfB Stuttgart, last season's runners-up, are warming up for their Champions League debut away to Rangers on Tuesday.

- - - -

Kaiserslautern, who fought against relegation and financial collapse last season, remain in trouble.

SC Freiburg, back in the Bundesliga after one season in the second division, have started reasonably well but are without Georgian midfielder Levan Tskitichvili and French forward Abder Ramdane.

- - - -


Both clubs glory days are long gone with their ambitions this season to escape relegation.

Moenchengladbach have several players injured while promoted Eintracht miss defender Jens Keller.

The two clubs drew 1-1 the last time they met in a Bundesliga match, five years ago.
Preview: Bradford v Preston

New Bradford signing Nicky Summerbee may make his first-team debut in the clash with Preston at Valley Parade.

Summerbee, who signed a two-year deal with the Bantams last week, is not 100 per cent match fit but caught the eye playing for the reserves in midweek and could be given a starting berth on the right flank.

Paul Evans remains a doubt after missing the 4-0 defeat at home to Sunderland with a bruised foot.

The game has also come too soon for Mark Bower (ankle), although the defender is expected to return to full training by the end of the week.

Preston winger Eddie Lewis is set to be handed a starting place after being rested for the first week in September.

The American was given time off from training by boss Craig Brown, who will be hoping that Lewis will not burn out halfway through the season after representing his country in the Gold Cup during the summer.

George Koumantarakis is still sidelined with a calf injury which is likely to keep him out of action until the end of the month.

Claude Davis will also sit out the contest as he continues to recover from a medial knee ligament injury, while Tyrone Mears is also ruled out with the recurrence of a hamstring injury.

Cardiff City v Gillingham

Rookie centre-back James Collins will deputise for the injured Danny Gabbidon as Cardiff bid to stretch their unbeaten Division One run to a fourth game.

Striker Peter Thorne will make his first start of the season as he comes in for the suspended Alan Lee, who is also injured.

Cardiff are unable to call on injured central defender Spencer Prior or left-back Gary Croft, who has played only two reserve-team games since recovering from an appendix operation.

Gillingham skipper Paul Smith is ready for a first-team return after completing 90 minutes in the reserves' 2-1 win over Wycombe.

Smith underwent knee surgery in the summer and has yet to feature in the first team this year. Player-manager Andy Hessenthaler may also choose to start after having an impact in his substitute appearance against Millwall last week.

French goalkeeper Bertrand Bossu, who signed this week from non-league Hayes, is expected to start on the bench. Striker Tommy Johnson completes the final game of his suspension.

Preview: Coventry v Stoke

Steve Staunton is set to return to the first-team reckoning as Coventry prepare to take on Stoke at Highfield Road.

Gary McAllister, yet to celebrate a league win this season, is expected to name Staunton in his 16-man squad after the defender recovered from a twisted ankle.

Richard Shaw is also poised for a return to the squad after his broken foot healed.

Neither Mo Konjic nor Youssef Safri have reported injuries after being on international duty, so both are expected to start against the Potters.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis has the luxury of a near-full strength side for the clash - but he may be tempted to make changes after slipping to a second consecutive defeat at home to Burnley last weekend.

This could mean a place in the starting line-up for the likes of Chris Iwelumo, Marc Goodfellow and Kris Commons, who all impressed for the reserves in midweek.

Peter Hoekstra and Clint Hill (both ankle) are both well on the road to recovery but are not expected to return to first-team action until the end of the month.

Preview: Nottingham Forest v Sheff United

Nottingham Forest boss Paul Hart is expected to stick with an unchanged starting line-up as the Reds renew their acquaintance with Sheffield United at the City Ground.

Gareth Taylor, the £500,000 signing from Burnley, could feature in the squad after a run-out in a behind-closed-doors friendly. The only fitness doubt concerns fringe player Chris Doig (hamstring).

United boss Neil Warnock could have Ashley Ward back for the trip.

The 32-year-old striker has overcome a groin strain, playing 45 minutes for the reserves in midweek.

Michael Brown serves the first game of a three-match ban for his sending-off against Crystal Palace, while Mike Whitlow (knock in training) and Jack Lester (ankle and knee) are both doubtful.

Definitely ruled out are Paddy Kenny (knee) and Steve Kabba (knee).

Preview: Rotherham v Crewe

New signing Martin Butler will make his Rotherham debut when the Millers host Crewe in front of the television cameras.

Butler, a £150,000 signing from Reading, will be named in the starting XI alongside either Darren Byfield or Mark Robins.

However, United will be without Martin McIntosh, who serves the second match of a three-game ban for his sending-off against Norwich.

Darren Garner (groin) is close to full fitness, while Paul Warne has also recovered from a bout of flu and should be on the substitutes' bench.

Crewe left-back David Vaughan is a major doubt after suffering a toe injury while on international duty with Wales Under-21s.

If Vaughan is ruled out then Anthony Tonkin could make his debut following his move from Stockport.

Chris McCready is also doubtful after picking up a knock in training, while Adie Moses is struggling with a hamstring injury sustained against Burnley.

Richard Walker is on standby for his first start of the season if Moses is unavailable. Allan Smart's ankle injury will mean a place on the bench for either Luke Varney or Paul Edwards.

Preview: Sunderland v Crystal Palace

Sunderland skipper Jason McAteer is gunning for a return to action against Crystal Palace after finally recovering from a torn hamstring.

Darren Williams is back after an ankle problem, and could replace Stephen Wright who has a sore calf muscle.

Matt Piper picked up a slight knee knock and may miss out.

Palace manager Steve Kember will be forced into a reshuffle as Tommy Black and Tony Popovic are suspended, but midfielder Michael Hughes returns from a ban.

Neil Shipperley (knee), Shaun Derry (knee) and Dougie Freedman (hamstring) all return after missing the draw with Millwall.

Hayden Mullins (leg) and Gary Borrowdale (head) are also in the squad after recovering from their injuries.

Darren Powell is back from a thigh injury and Curtis Fleming should be return after a knee operation.

Preview: Walsall v Derby

Walsall boss Colin Lee will before forced to reshuffle his line-up ahead of the Bescot Stadium clash with Derby.

Lee will be without Zigor Aranalde, who serves the first match of a three-game suspension, meaning either Darren Wrack or Pedro Matias will be expected to fill in at left wing-back.

Lee will also be without the services of Vinny Samways (suspended). But Jamie Lawrence has recovered from the broken toe which has ruled him out so far this season, while Stefan Oakes has shaken off a rib injury.

Matty Fryatt, 17, is in contention for a place on the bench after a string of impressive reserve-team appearances.

Derby winger Candido Costa has been ruled out after picking up a three-game suspension. He was sent off during the 4-1 reverse at Cardiff last month.

But Michael Johnson is expected to feature at the heart of the defence despite a recent hamstring scare, while Paul Boertien has recovered from a thigh strain. Warren Barton could come into the reckoning following back and hamstring problems.

The Midlands showdown is also likely to mark a first return to the Bescot for Brazilian striker Junior, who had been on loan with the Saddlers last year before becoming the focus of Lee's ire.

The Saddlers supremo was disappointed neither the player nor his agent responded to his close-season offer of a two-year contract, with Junior eventually agreeing a one-year deal with the Rams instead.

Preview: West Brom v Ipswich

West Brom boss Gary Megson is expected to name an unchanged squad as the Division One pacesetters entertain Ipswich at The Hawthorns.

Darren Moore and Michael Appleton continue their recoveries from cruciate knee ligament damage.

Ipswich boss Joe Royle will hand debuts to Alan Mahon and Chris Bart-Williams.

Charlton midfielder Bart-Williams and Blackburn defender Mahon have joined on one and three-month loan deals respectively.

However, Royle has Jermaine Wright under treatment for a back strain he sustained in training on Thursday.

Certain non-starters are Chris Makin (hip) and Tommy Miller (ankle).

Preview: West Ham v Reading

Wayne Quinn is likely to go straight into West Ham's starting line-up against Reading following his loan move from Newcastle.

The left-back comes in as an emergency replacement for Rufus Brevett, who may not play again this year after breaking a bone in his foot.

Rob Lee is rated doubtful to return from medial ligament damage while Steve Lomas could be back in six weeks after undergoing a knee operation in Holland. Niclas Alexandersson could be involved after arriving from Everton on a one-month loan deal.

Reading caretaker manager Kevin Dillon is unlikely to make any changes to a winning side.

The Royals are unbeaten in six league and cup games under Alan Pardew's management, but Dillon has been at his side throughout and has had a strong influence on team selection.

With Kevin Watson recovered from an ankle injury Dillon has the luxury of a fully-fit squad to choose from. Adie Williams, Steve Sidwell and Omar Daley are available after being away on international duty with Wales, England Under-21s and Jamaica respectively

Preview: Wimbledon v Wigan

Patrick Agyemang is doubtful for Wimbledon's final home match at Selhurst Park against Wigan.

The Dons striker missed training this week with an ankle problem and is in a race against time to be declared fit, but Lionel Morgan looks set for a comeback after knee surgery.

The fixture should be Wimbledon's last at home in south London before they move to the National Hockey Stadium in Milton Keynes later this month.

Wigan boss Paul Jewell is expected to hand new Geoff Horsfield his debut.

Jewell welcomes back Steve McMillan, who is back in training after more than two weeks out with a groin problem.

The former Motherwell man could replace Peter Kennedy, whose stomach upset kept him out of Northern Ireland's defeat by Armenia in midweek.

Neil Roberts is also a slight doubt as his girlfriend gave birth this week.

Preview: Norwich v Burnley

Norwich manager Nigel Worthington is set to hand debuts to loan signings Peter Crouch, Darren Huckerby and Kevin Harper in the home clash with Burnley.

Worthington is spoiled for choice in attack as Iwan Roberts has recovered from the calf injury which saw him replaced against Nottingham Forest, but the Canaries boss is likely to partner Crouch and Huckerby in attack.

That could mean Paul McVeigh reverts to a left-midfield role.

Jim Brennan is moving closer to a return but will not feature, while Mark Rivers (ankle) is still three weeks away from full fitness, so Harper is expected to fill the void on the right-hand side on midfield.

Mark McGregor (knee) is Burnley's only definite absentee.

However, Lee Roche is back in contention after recovering from a hamstring strain and Gareth Farrelly has successfully shaken off a knock sustained in the 2-1 win at Stoke. Ian Moore could also stake a claim for a starting place
Blackpool v Bournemouth

Blackpool boss Steve McMahon has major doubts over Danny Coid and Tommy Jaszczun for the visit of Bournemouth after the pair picked up knocks in training.
But McMahon has Keith Southern back in his squad after a long lay-off with a knee injury and Neil Danns returns after a one-match suspension.

Strikers John Murphy (thigh) and Matt Blinkhorn (broken foot) definitely miss out for the Cherries match.

And McMahon is looking forward to the match as his side have been without a game for two weeks due to international call-ups.

"We were very frustrated especially on the back of a good win at Swindon," McMahon said. "We've got to be careful and we certainly won't be underestimating them."

Bournemouth welcome back two players from international duty.

Striker Warren Feeney was on target for Northern Ireland Under-21s in midweek, while midfielder Brian Stock earned rave reviews for his performance for Wales Under-21s against Finland.

It means boss Sean O'Driscoll should have his entire squad available for selection, although one or two players are still short of full match fitness.

O'Driscoll may also opt change formations, after switching to 3-5-2 for their last two away games at QPR and Wrexham

Chesterfield v Notts County

Chesterfield new-boy Mark DeBolla is expected to make his debut against Notts County after signing on a month's loan from Charlton.
The Spireites could also welcome back influential defender Steve Blatherwick, who has been on the sidelines since August 12 after fracturing his cheekbone in the Carling Cup defeat against Burnley.

However, the former Nottingham Forest man is well on the road to recovery and came through the reserves' 2-2 draw against Mansfield with no ill-effects.

Spireites assistant manager Lee Richardson said: "Steve wants to play and we want him to play but it's going to be a tight one so we won't make a decision until the last moment."

Stuart Howson, who also featured for the second string in midweek, has recovered from an ankle operation but will be given more time before he is risked in the first team.

"Three points on Saturday will be very, very welcome," Richardson added.

"County obviously have their problems on and off the pitch but that's not to say it won't be an extremely tough game."

Notts County striker Paul Heffernan will miss the trip after picking up a three-game suspension.

The 21-year-old was sent off during the 1-0 home defeat to Peterborough last month, meaning he will miss the match against the Spireites as well as the games against Rushden & Diamonds and Tranmere.

Magpies boss Bill Dearden is also sweating on the availability of defenders Nicky Fenton and Steve Jenkins, who are expected to face late fitness tests after sustaining dead leg and hamstring problems respectively.

Tony Hackworth's knee injury also makes him a doubt, but fellow frontman Mark Stallard, who completed the final 15 minutes of last weekend's 1-1 home draw with Luton, is expected to start at Saltergate after recovering from severe bruising to his foot.

Colchester v Brighton

Colchester boss Phil Parkinson could welcome back defender Alan White from injury for the home match with Brighton.
White has missed the last three games with a groin strain, but is back in the running for a place in the starting XI.

Goalkeeper Richard McKinney faces at least two more weeks out of action with a knee injury, which means youngster Dean Gerken will continue to deputise on the substitutes' bench.

Meanwhile, defender Gavin Johnson took part in his first training session for almost a year on Thursday, as he continues to recover from a broken leg, but he will play no part in the Brighton match.

Brighton defender Paul Watson is unlikely to recover in time for the trip.

The full-back is still struggling with the nerve problem in his foot that has kept him out of action since the 1-0 defeat at Barnsley three weeks ago and is unlikely to be risked against Phil Parkinson's team.

Nathan Jones serves the last game of a three-match suspension while fellow defender Dean Blackwell (cruciate knee ligament) is a long-term absentee.

Oldham v Bristol City

Oldham boss Iain Dowie will be without defender Will Haining for the visit of Bristol City.
The 20-year-old, who is firmly established in Dowie's line-up, suffered a hamstring injury in last week's 0-0 draw with Hartlepool.

The Latics will also be without midfielder Darren Sheridan, who serves the final game of a three-match ban after his sending off at Scunthorpe.

Defender Mark Hudson is in the squad after extending his loan move from Fulham.

Bristol City manager Danny Wilson is still expecting a tough afternoon despite Oldham's financial problems.

"Players have had to leave and that has made it more difficult for the manager Ian Dowie," Wilson told BBC Radio Bristol.

"He's still got them very well organised and has got some quality there, so you've always got to respect the oppostition and we'll certainly do that."

Captain Tom Doherty remains doubtful for the game after suffering a dead leg playing for Northern Ireland.

Plymouth v Luton

Plymouth midfielder Tony Capaldi comes back into contention for the home game against Luton Town.
Summer signing Capaldi has been on international duty with Northern Ireland and Argyle boss Paul Sturrock confirmed: "Tony is back, fit and comes back into the squad."

Sturrock also confirmed in-form strikers Ian Stonebridge and Micky Evans, who both scored in the 3-1 win at Brentford, will lead the Argyle attack.

He said: "You can't bring someone else in after both your strikers score in an away win. They are playing well together."

Strikers Marino Keith (foot) and Nathan Lowndes (ankle) are back in training.

Luton striker Steve Howard will miss the trip through suspension.

Mike Newell's threadbare squad has been further stretched by a calf injury to defender Alan Neilson.

Young goalkeeper Robert Beckwith has struggled in training with a cut to his foot but should be fit to start.

Russell Perrett's recovery from a groin injury has been handicapped by an infection, while Steve Robinson is seeing a specialist about his back complaint.

Skipper Kevin Nicholls is also out for at least eight weeks following a knee operation.

Port Vale v Barnsley

Port Vale boss Brian Horton is sweating on the fitness of Michael Walsh, Michael Cummins, and Marc Bridge Wilkinson ahead of the visit of Barnsley.
Assistant manager Ian Brightwell told BBC Radio Stoke: "It's a game the players must believe they can do well in especially if they want to make others sit up and take notice that Port Vale are a team with genuine promotion aspirations".

Barnsley boss Gudjon Thordarson has several injury doubts ahead of the top-of-the-table encounter.

Isaiah Rankin (hamstring) definitely misses out, while Dean Gorre (hamstring), Tony Gallimore (knee), Anthony Kay (toe), Kevin Donovan (groin) and Lee Crooks (back) are all doubtful for the trip to Vale Park.

However, Thordarson welcomes back Chris Lumsdon, who returns from suspension for a game the Icelander is refusing to hype up.

"It's a big game, but every game is a big game," he said.

"They will be very tough and they'll be trying to keep their good run going."

QPR v Wycombe

QPR manager Ian Holloway will have to chop and change his line-up again as he prepares to face Wycombe without several first-team stars.
Defender Gino Padula, striker Tony Thorpe (both ankle) and defender Marc Bircham (hamstring) are all major doubts ahead of the match.

Midfielder Tommy Williams has returned to Birmingham after his loan spell expired, and defender Clarke Carlisle is still out of action as he receives treatment for alcohol addiction.

Defender Matthew Rose (shin) is definitely out and striker Richard Pacquette is still short of match fitness despite making his comeback from a hamstring injury in a reserve match at Gillingham last week.

Wycombe should be boosted by the return of midfielder Charlie Mapes.

The midfielder missed last week's 2-0 defeat against Rushden & Diamonds with a knee injury.

Goalkeeper Frank Talia and defender Chris Vinnicombe will both be available before beginning suspensions for their dismissals at Nene Park.

Chairboys manager Lawrie Sanchez has no new injury worries to contend with.

Rushden & Diamonds v Brentford

Rushden & Diamonds manager Brian Talbot will have to sweat over the fitness of Marcus Bignot ahead of the match with Brentford at Nene Park.
Talbot will wait until the last moment before deciding whether the defender has recovered sufficiently from a hamstring strain.

Striker Rodney Jack should be fit though, after recovering well from a kick to the back of his leg during the 2-0 win over Wycombe.

Defender Andy Edwards will miss out through suspension and midfielder Gary Mills is a doubt after suffering mild concussion during a midweek reserve-team game against Crewe.

Midfielder Richie Hanlon played for 45 minutes in the 2-2 draw against Crewe as he continues to step up his return from a medial knee ligament injury, but he is unlikely to feature against Brentford.

Brentford boss Wally Downes faces a selection headache in midfield.

Matt Somner and Kevin O'Connor have returned from international duty, with the under-21 sides of Wales and the Republic of Ireland respectively, and will be fighting hard to reclaim their places in the starting line-up.

Somner is likely to replace Lee Fieldwick in defence, while O'Connor could come in for Jay Smith in midfield.

Andrew Frampton is recovering well from a head injury which has kept him out for a month, but he is unlikely to feature against Rushden.

Alan Julian again deputises for the suspended Paul Smith in goal.

Sheff Wed v Stockport

Sheffield Wednesday boss Chris Turner could hand Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu his debut for the home tie with Stockport.
The Congan striker completed a one-year loan deal from French side Amiens this week and scored twice for the reserves against Burnley.

On his chances of playing, Turner said: "It's possible. He's done well and we're pleased with him."

Shefki Kuqi and Alan Quinn have returned from international duty with Finland and the Republic of Ireland unscathed, but Derek Geary starts a three-match ban for his sending-off against Wycombe.

Midfielder Matt Hamshaw (knee ligaments) is not ready for a return to action as Turner anticipates a tricky encounter with County.

"It will be a tough game," Turner said. "They're a big, powerful side, a lot like Tranmere."

Stockport striker Luke Beckett is serving a one-match ban for his dismissal against Tranmere earlier in the season, but probably would have been ruled out anyway with a knee injury.

County boss Carlton Palmer has no injury concerns as he prepares his team for the trip to his former club.

"I'm looking forward to it - I had several good years there," said Palmer.

"There should be a big crowd and the players are looking forward to it, but when you're a footballer you should be looking forward to playing, no matter who the opponents are."

Swindon v Wrexham

Swindon boss Andy King is likely to name an unchanged team for the home clash with Wrexham.
Midfielder Sammy Igoe serves the second of a three-match ban which will also keep him on the sidelines for Tuesday's trip to Grimsby.

Winger James Milner and defender Jerel Ifil, who are both on loan, are likely to keep their places in the team.

Tommy Mooney and Sam Parkin should continue to lead the attack.

Midfielder Steve Robinson is still on the long-term injured list and will probably be out of action for another three to four weeks.

Wrexham striker Lee Jones returns to the squad to face Swindon after recovering from an ankle injury.

Boss Denis Smith can also welcome back defender Steve Roberts (heel) and full-back Jim Whitley (hamstring) from injury.

All three players featured in the reserves' 4-0 win over Rochdale in midweek, but striker Chris Armstrong is still some way short of fitness with an Achilles injury.

Wrexham's Trinidad & Tobago contingent - Hector Sam, Carlos Edwards and Dennis Lawrence - will all return to the squad after being on international duty against Morocco.

Defender Craig Morgan - who made his debut for the Wales Under-21 side in midweek - is also included in the squad.

Tranmere v Peterborough

Tranmere boss Ray Mathias will monitor Gary Jones and Shane Nicholson before making a decision on their availability for the home tie against Peterborough.
Midfielder Jones damaged knee ligaments in the 2-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday and faces an anxious wait to see whether he will be fit in time for the Prenton Park match.

Meanwhile, defender Nicholson still could play a part even though he was expected to be out of action for up to two weeks with a toe injury.

"It's a funny situation with Shane," said Mathias.

"His toe has got much better every day so he could still have a chance.

"We'll continue to look at Shane and Gary, but otherwise we are okay injury-wise."

Peterborough boss Barry Fry is likely to keep faith with the same team that drew at Grimsby last week for the trip to Tranmere.

Sagi Burton is still out with a knee injury, while fellow defender Christopher Kanu is serving the second game of a three-match suspension.

Winger Adam Newton will once again be the man to watch as he looks to follow up his goal against the Mariners with another strike at Prenton Park.

MADRID, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Real Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz will be waiting anxiously for fitness reports on Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Zinedine Zidane as the Spanish champions prepare for Saturday's home match with Valladolid (1730 GMT).

Injuries and international call-ups forced Queiroz to name a patched up side for Real's last league game and the performance reflected the coach's selection problems, as they just managed to scrape a 1-1 draw away to Villarreal.


The result left Real in third place after two games, two points behind leaders Deportivo Coruna.

Several players may still be missing for Real, however.

Zidane, who suffered a thigh injury against Villarreal, played most of France's Euro 2004 qualifier against Slovenia on Wednesday but was confined to the swimming pool for work with the club's physiotherapists after arriving back in Madrid the following day.

Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos both played in Brazil's World Cup qualifying win against Ecuador and are not due back in Madrid until Friday afternoon, when a decision will be made on whether they can play against Valladolid.

All three players should be fit enough to be make the squad but Queiroz will be wary of taking risks so close to the club's first Champions League match at home to Olympique Marseille on Tuesday.

"I don't like rotating players but sometimes it's necessary," said Queiroz, who could choose to play Javier Portillo up front in place of Ronaldo and Esteban Cambiasso or Guti in central midfield.

The good news for Real was that England captain David Beckham, Portuguese forward Luis Figo and Spaniards Iker Casillas, Raul and Michel Salgado all came through international games unscathed.

Valladolid are level on points with Real in seventh place after claiming a 1-0 win at home to Malaga in their last league game.

CELTA VIGO (12) v REAL BETIS (16) (1930)

Celta will inevitably be distracted by the prospect of their Champions League debut against Club Bruges on Tuesday and Betis should be capable of taking advantage and claiming their first win of the season.

Former Barcelona striker Alfonso has passed himself fit to play the full 90 minutes against Celta and should start alongside the Argentine Martin Palermo. - - - -


Racing have started the season in excellent form and will be confident of claiming another victory over last year's surprise runners-up.

Real Sociedad will be playing their first Champions League match in midweek and coach Raynald Denoueix will have to think hard about whether to include influential midfielder Xabi Alonso in his starting line-up.

Alonso has recovered from the ankle injury he suffered in Spain's 2-1 win over Ukraine this week but it may be too much of a risk to play him with Wednesday's game against Olympiakos in mind. - - - -


Sevilla will provide a stern test for Deportivo, the only side in the division with maximum points from two games.

Deportivo coach Javier Irureta must decide whether to promote Walter Pandiani from the bench. The Uruguayan striker has come on as a substitute to score two vital goals already this season and could replace Diego Tristan. - - - -

ALBACETE (1 v BARCELONA (4) (1930)

Barcelona have made a decent start with four points from two games under new coach Frank Rijkaard.

Albacete have yet to win a point this term and Barcelona, who will have Patrick Kluivert back after suspension, should enjoy a comfortable evening. - - - -


Bilbao have lost both their games so far this season and they will be wary of the visit of a talented Mallorca side, who will start with the explosive attacking duo of Samuel Eto'o and Arnold Bruggink. - - - -

ESPANYOL (11) v VILLARREAL (15) (1700)

Villarreal will be kicking themselves for failing to beat a weakened Real Madrid side in their last league outing. Espanyol could also be below strength, with strikers Raul Tamudo and Raul Molina both struggling to be fit. - - - -


Ivory Cost striker Ibrahima Bakayoko could make his first start for Osasuna after completing his move from Olympique Marseille. Atletico will hope to see Fernando Torres back near his best after the young striker made a desperately disappointing competitive debut for Spain in midweek. - - - -

REAL ZARAGOZA (20) v MURCIA (13) (1700)

Zaragoza have yet to get going this season but this clash with Murcia, another side promoted from division two last season, could finally set them on their way. - - - -

VALENCIA (6) v MALAGA (17) (1700)

Ruben Baraja, Carlos Marchena and Vicente all came through Spain's bruising clash wth Ukraine unscathed and should be fit to help Valencia's bid for a first home win of the season. Marcelo Romero has a back injury and is likely to miss out for Malaga.(Ananova, BBC, Megasoccer,Reuters,


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Real Madrid v Valladolid: Preview


MADRID, September 12 (Primera Liga) - Real Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz will be hoping his players can shake off any travel weariness as they prepare for Saturday's clash against Real Valladolid.

Valladolid are fourth in the league, but they won't be favoured against Real Madrid's star-studded line-up at the Bernabeu.

What could work against the home side is the European Championship qualifying which has kep many of the Madrid players on the go for the past couple of weeks.

England captain David Beckham travelled to Macedonia on Saturday and then returned to Manchester for a game on Wednesday against Liechtenstein but in that match he played only 59 minutes so he should be fresh.

However, some of his team mates covered much greater distances.

Brazilians Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo both travelled over 25,000 kilometres as Brazil played in Ecuador and will only return to Madrid this afternoon, while Esteban Cambiasso was in Chile with Argentina and Zinedine Zidane was with France.

Raul, Iker Casillas and Michel Salgado have had a stressful time with Spain and all took part in Wednesday's narrow home win over the Ukraine, while Luis Figo played two full games for Portugal.

With their first Champions League game against Olympique Marseilles next Tuesday, Queiroz could be forced into making some changes in his line-up.

``I don't like rotating the team, but sometimes it's necessary because the romantic idea of one game every seven days is over,'' said Queiroz.

``If a player plays seven games in 21 days then the risk of him getting injured or seeing his form drop is high and that now it is harder for anyone to recover.''

Queiroz's main option could be to bring a fit-again Guti back into central midfield and rest Cambiasso: the coach dedicated a good part of Thursday's training session working with the 26-year-old, who afterwards declared ``I am in condition to play``.

That could see him form a central midfield partnership with Beckham although following the England captain's first two performances in La Liga, Queiroz will probably want to keep him out on the right. If that is the case youngster Borja Fernandez could make his home debut.

Elsewhere the knee problems suffered by Ivan Helguera will keep him out for another week and Queiroz will choose two out of Francisco Pavon, Raul Bravo and Ruben Gonzalez in central defence.

Valladolid are optimistic about travelling to Madrid with coach Fernando Vazquez, whose last two teams both ended up relegated, insisting his side can win.

The presence of three former Madrid men, Marcos Rey, Julio Cesar and Albano Bizzarri in the Valladolid ranks is certain to provide added motivation, with left back Marcos in particular looking forward to getting to grips with Beckham.

``I know Figo will be much harder to mark than Beckham,'' he said.

``Beckham gives a full back less problems because he looks to pass or cross the ball quickly, whereas Figo tries to take you on and get to the goal-line,'' he said.

FC Sevilla v Deportivo La Coruña: Preview


SEVILLE, September 12 (Primera Liga) - Deportivo La Coruna are the only team still with a perfect record in the Primera Liga and they will be confident of building on that record against Sevilla, a team they traditionally do well against.

Deportivo have won or drawn the last 18 matches between the teams and furthermore they are unbeaten at the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium since the 1971-72 campaign when the Andalucians beat the Galicians 1-0.

Deportivo are further buoyed by the fact that they have not conceded a goal in any of the four competitive matches they have played this season - two in the Liga and two in the Champions League preliminary round.

Deportivo coach Javier Irureta has one major problem in his team selection as he has to do without the injured Victor Sanchez so Argentinian player Leonel Scaloni will deputise in midfield.

Scaloni will be one of three attacking midfielders in support of a solitary player up front with Albert Luque likely to win the vote ahead of Diego Tristan with the latter still feeling the exertions of his international games for Spain.

Luque believes he and his team-mates should not pay to too much attention to the history books.

``Of our first three Liga opponents they are, in my opinion, the toughest one to beat,'' he told club website www.deportivo-la-coruna.com.

``They are in fine form, after winning against Atletico (Madrid) and snatching a draw at Barcelona, and also have home advantage.''

Another possible option for Irureta is to give Pedro Munitis a run-out in what would be his debut for Deportivo after joining from Real Madrid last month.

Victory against Sevilla is not only essential to preserve their unbeaten run but also to keep Deportivo bubbling ahead of their Champions League campaign which is due to get underway next week.

The Galicians start their European campaign with a match against AEK Athens and three more points at the expense of Sevilla will be the perfect way to prepare.

Another incentive lies in the fact that Deportivo's next two Liga opponents - Albacete and Osasuna - are considered relegation material by some and therefore victory against Sevilla would provide a platform to take a sizeable lead in the Liga, even at this early stage.

However, Sevilla will be equally motivated to get that monkey off their back and register a first home win over Deportivo in 32 years.

Sevilla have also made an impressive start and lie fifth in the division with a haul of four points.

Uruguayan Dario Silva, signed from Malaga in the close season, has given the home side a new cutting edge up front.

Silva scored four goals in seven matches against Deportivo for Malaga and is confident he can carry on in the same vein with his new employers.

``We must win at home, especially against a good team like Deportivo, if we want to become an important team,'' said the Latin American.

``I do not have a special motivation when I play against Deportivo, but I usually play well against them.''

Celta Vigo v Betis Sevilla: Preview


VIGO, September 12 (Primera Liga) - Miguel Angel Lotina's Celta Vigo side take on Real Betis this weekend at the start of a hectic month which sees the Champions League qualifiers play seven games in 25 days.

Celta have been spending this week recharging their batteries ahead of a gruelling spell, having already played three games in six days before the break for the internationals.

The team is yet to hit form this season failing to win in the league and will be looking for a change of fortune against Betis.

Midfielder Peter Luccin believes a victory is what the team needs to kick-start the season.

``We have to get the first win for a while and make ourselves strong at home, on Saturday we can achieve both these targets,'' he said. ``Against Murcia we weren't the team we should be when we play at home and as a result the score was negative.''

Luccin feels that Betis will be stong opposition despite winger Joaquin's suspension.

``They have sufficient in reserve and the enemy are complicated despite the absence of Joaquin who is a very dangerous player.

`` It will be very important to avoid commiting fouls on the edge of our area, they have good strikers, especially the Brazilian Assuncao, that can do a lot of damage from those type of positions,'' he said.

The Frenchman added that the loss of five players on international duty while preparing for the game was not important as it was the same for everyone.

The loss of Catanha is set to be a big blow for the club, the Brazilian-born striker has a thigh strain and will also miss the opening Champions League fixture against Brugge on Tuesday.

However Lotina can welcome back Jesus Mora Nieto and Gustavo Lopez who have both recovered from injuries.

Betis have also not had the best start to the season having lost to Real Madrid and drawn against Espanyol.

Coach Victor Fernandez has not yet decided who will replace Joaquin with Jesus Capitan, under normal circumstances the natural replacement, unfit and not travelling to Vigo.

Ismael Lopez is likely to stand-in now although Fernandez is waiting to see the condition of Arturo Garcia who returned from the Under-21s on Friday.

Fernandez attempted to play down the importance of the game saying it is not a case of make or break.

``Winning is never going to guarantee us the championship and neither is losing going to mean a disaster of a season. What I ask is that we keep playing the good football that we have been doing and it will all come,'' he said. ``Never have we had more talent in the team and scored more goals, the talent is not to blame as was shown by the two goals against Espanyol.''

Racing Santander v Real Sociedad: Preview


SANTANDER, September 11 (Primera Liga) - Racing Santander host Real Sociedad on Saturday with a real chance of climbing to the top of the embryonic Primera Liga.

The Basque team have started the campaign strongly, beating Mallorca and drawing against Real Murcia to lift themselves to third in the division, but Champions League challenging Sociedad are tough opponents.

``The game is going to be complicated because they are a big team, but we are working well to overcome them,'' said Racing defender David Coromina.

Sociedad were the surprise package of last season, finishing second in the league and beating Saturday`s opponents both home and away.

But they have several key players out - or at best doubtful for the clash.

Turkish international Nihat Kahveci looks certain to miss the game.

He has resumed light training but has yet to kick a ball and both Darko Kovacevic and Lee Chun Soo are carrying knocks.

But Coromina`s team mate, fellow defender Jose Mora does not feel that these absences will have such a big impact on the outcome of the game.

``I believe that Real Sociedad didn`t get to the end of the season with options to win the league with 11 players but with a good team. ``Whoever comes here will cause us a lot of problems,'' he said.

However, fellow Racing defender Delgado Juanma believes that the visitors` loss of key players will influence the game.

``If, in the end these players are unavailable, there is no doubt that their attacking prowess will be less as their attacks centre around these players,'' he said.

``Anyway, I think that they will probably end up playing.

``For me, Kovacevic is one of the best players in the league. He is very complete, very potent, he plays very well in the air and plays very well with his back to goal.''

Sociedad midfielder Agustin Aranzabal admits he will feel honoured if he plays his 300th league game for the club at the weekend.

``I feel very proud to be able to arrive at my 300th league game with the shirt of Real Sociedad, because it shows my career has spanned a lot of years playing a lot of games,'' he said.

``This figure has been possible because I have worked hard for all the coaches, something I believe has merit and because I have been lucky with injuries.''

While Aranzabal`s contract runs out at the end of this season, he is confident that he will carry on playing for the club.

``I have confidence that I will play a lot more games in the league with Real Sociedad because my dream is to be able to say in short that I spent a lot of years with the club of my life,'' he said.

``I am sure that I will not have problems in renewing my contract and I will have the chance to further increase the number of games I have played.

``It will be a very difficult game and it is very important that we go forward because it would be very easy for us to have five points from nine in three games, while it could be a big morale blow for us to lose ahead of our first game in the Champions League,'' he added.

``Santander are always a good team for us and we are going to see if this continues for us.

``In spite of talking a lot about the Champions League, the presentation of my shirt and the big expectation from the fans, in the dressing room we are conscious that the league comes first and that we have to win games to have confidence and calmness.''


Racing Santander v Real Sociedad: Preview


SANTANDER, September 11 (Primera Liga) - Racing Santander host Real Sociedad on Saturday with a real chance of climbing to the top of the embryonic Primera Liga.

The Basque team have started the campaign strongly, beating Mallorca and drawing against Real Murcia to lift themselves to third in the division, but Champions League challenging Sociedad are tough opponents.

``The game is going to be complicated because they are a big team, but we are working well to overcome them,'' said Racing defender David Coromina.

Sociedad were the surprise package of last season, finishing second in the league and beating Saturday`s opponents both home and away.

But they have several key players out - or at best doubtful for the clash.

Turkish international Nihat Kahveci looks certain to miss the game.

He has resumed light training but has yet to kick a ball and both Darko Kovacevic and Lee Chun Soo are carrying knocks.

But Coromina`s team mate, fellow defender Jose Mora does not feel that these absences will have such a big impact on the outcome of the game.

``I believe that Real Sociedad didn`t get to the end of the season with options to win the league with 11 players but with a good team. ``Whoever comes here will cause us a lot of problems,'' he said.

However, fellow Racing defender Delgado Juanma believes that the visitors` loss of key players will influence the game.

``If, in the end these players are unavailable, there is no doubt that their attacking prowess will be less as their attacks centre around these players,'' he said.

``Anyway, I think that they will probably end up playing.

``For me, Kovacevic is one of the best players in the league. He is very complete, very potent, he plays very well in the air and plays very well with his back to goal.''

Sociedad midfielder Agustin Aranzabal admits he will feel honoured if he plays his 300th league game for the club at the weekend.

``I feel very proud to be able to arrive at my 300th league game with the shirt of Real Sociedad, because it shows my career has spanned a lot of years playing a lot of games,'' he said.

``This figure has been possible because I have worked hard for all the coaches, something I believe has merit and because I have been lucky with injuries.''

While Aranzabal`s contract runs out at the end of this season, he is confident that he will carry on playing for the club.

``I have confidence that I will play a lot more games in the league with Real Sociedad because my dream is to be able to say in short that I spent a lot of years with the club of my life,'' he said.

``I am sure that I will not have problems in renewing my contract and I will have the chance to further increase the number of games I have played.

``It will be a very difficult game and it is very important that we go forward because it would be very easy for us to have five points from nine in three games, while it could be a big morale blow for us to lose ahead of our first game in the Champions League,'' he added.

``Santander are always a good team for us and we are going to see if this continues for us.

``In spite of talking a lot about the Champions League, the presentation of my shirt and the big expectation from the fans, in the dressing room we are conscious that the league comes first and that we have to win games to have confidence and calmness.''



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Bordeaux v Sochaux: Preview


BORDEAUX, September 12 (Ligue 1) - Bordeaux will be without two key defenders for their important clash with Sochaux on Saturday night night which they will be hoping to win after a poor start to the current season.

Les Girondins are lying in eighth spot following only two wins in five matches and will be eager to snatch the three points on offer to narrow the gap at the top of the table.

However, the task could be made harder against an in-form Sochaux side who will be looking to add to their 2-1 win over fourth-placed Lille two weeks ago.

Coach Elie Baup will be without key defensive talismen Mauricio Pochettino with a knee injury and Brazilian Eduardo Costa who is suspended.

They will be replaced by Marc Planus and Nicolas Sahnoun respectively.

As for Sochaux, boss Guy Lacombe will have to do without midfielder Jeremy Mathieu (knee) while goalkeeper Teddy Richert could be replaced at the last minute by Ivory Coast shot-stopper Gerard Gnanhouan if he fails to shake off his knee tendon injury by Saturday afternoon.

Both Sochaux and Bordeaux will be UEFA Cup contenders this season and will start their respective European campaigns in mid-October.

Marseille v Le Mans: Preview


MARSEILLE, September 12 (Ligue 1) - On paper this is a huge mismatch with the best supported club in France hosting a team that is yet to win a match in its debut season of top-flight football.

However, if Le Mans are to record their first ever Ligue 1 win there can be no better place to do it than the Stade Velodrome whose 60,000 capacity makes it the biggest club arena in French football.

Marseille are so far fulfilling pre-season predictions that this could be the season they win their first title since the scandal-tarnished reign of former president Bernard Tapie in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

They are second - behind leaders Monaco on goal difference.

However, Marseille coach Alain Perrin maintains the visit of Le Mans is giving him more headaches than the impending match with Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Asked if he was looking ahead to Real, he said: ``No. I am focusing on Le Mans only. It`s a very important match.''

Perrin will assess the fitness of Senegalese internationals Habib Beye and Sylvain N`Daye before deciding whether either is in any condition to play after their midweek international in Japan.

Czech midfielder Rudolf Skacel could make his debut for OM.

Perrin is worried that international games may have distracted his men.

``I am worried that the good momentum we had built up may have disappeared,'' he told www.olympiquedemarseille.com.

``We must re-mobilise our players onto the championship.''

Le Mans boss Thierry Goudet has his own selection worries with Frederic Thomas and Jean-Jacques Domoraud definitely ruled out.

However, Eddy Capron, Daniel Cousin and Fernando D`Amico are all available for selection at the Velodrome.

Three defeats and two draws has been a tough baptism for Le Mans but at least Goudet and his troops know they have nothing to lose as they make their first Ligue 1 trip to France`s most intense domestic arena.

Sekou Baradji is hoping he might get the chance to make his Le Mans debut at Marseille.

``I would be really happy if that happened,'' he told www.allezlemans.com. ``Above all I want to make my contribution to the team.''

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Nice v Nantes: Preview


NICE, September 12 (Ligue 1) - Nice are looking to return to winning ways against a young Nantes side that is performing far better than expected under new coach Loic Amisse.

Nice topped the Ligue 1 table for the first two weeks of the season but have slipped to sixth with two draws and their defeat at Lens last time out.

Nice coach Gernot Rohr has the rare luxury of a full squad to choose from and new signing Olivier Echouafni is available for selection.

Echouafni, signed from Rennes, may play while Sammy Traore and Romain Pitau have also shrugged off knocks.

Defender Cedric Varrault believes Nice can emulate last season`s impressive performance.

``We must confirm our performance of last season,'' he told www.ogcnice.com.

``That means we must confirm we are safe from relegation as soon as possible and then look to see if we can get anything else from the season.''

Having lost their opening match at Sochaux, third-placed Nantes have now won three and drawn one of their last four matches.

Their coach Loic Amisse has named a squad of 16 players to make the trip to Nice.

Defender Mario Yepes has been surprisingly omitted by Amisse who might have been influenced in his decision by his player`s exertions with Colombia against world champions Brazil in midweek.

Defender Nicolas Gillet also misses out through injury but better news comes with the return of Stephane Ziani.

Amisse admits his men will have to roll up their sleeves at Nice, one of the surprise packages of last season and whose supporters are some of the most passionate in France.

``We know they are a strong, worthy team that plays in front of passionate supporters,'' said Amisse to club website, www.fcna.fr.

``However, if we show the potential we have during the season so far then we have the ability to disturb them.''

One visitor to Nantes this week was the club`s former Cameroon midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba who joined Manchester United in the summer.

Strasbourg v AC Ajaccio: Preview


STRASBOURG, September 12 (Ligue 1) - Strasbourg host Ajaccio at the Stade Meinau on Saturday in the knowledge that their visitors from Corsica have won all of their seven Ligue 1 points on their travels so far this season.

Two wins and one draw in three away matches is an impressive enough record for Ajaccio but all the good work has been undone at home where they have lost both their games.

Strasbourg have also had a mixed start to the season and both teams have posted the same points.

Strasbourg coach Antoine Kombouare is worried about his team`s defensive frailty since Habib Beye joined Marseille and this week has taken on former Monaco and Arsenal player Gilles Grimandi on trial.

Grimandi has a week to prove his fitness after an unsuccessful stint with the Colorado Rapids in the United States and will not play against Ajaccio.

Fabrice Ehret and Yannick Fischer have recovered from injuries while Mamadou Niang, jaded after international duty with Senegal in Japan, is likely to be rested.

The only definite Strasbourg absentee is Czech Vaclav Drobny.

Strasbourg`s Yves Deroff believes that to foil the Corsicans it will be necessary to stop their Mali international striker Mamadou Bagayoko who is a former Strasbourg player.

``They have started the season well, mainly thanks to Mamadou Bagayoko,'' Deroff told www.rcstrasbourg.fr.

``We know him well and we will have to stop him. He will especially want to do well here to get revenge.''

Ajaccio coach Dominique Bijotat admitted to his club website www.ac-ajaccio.fr that he was disturbed by his team`s failure to win on home soil and hopes the trip to Alsace will give his men a chance to get back to winning ways.

Bijotat said: ``We have to get ourselves together and get a result at Strasbourg who are a good team.

``Then we can look forward to Rennes coming to allow us to get our first win at home.''

There is good news for Ajaccio in that three of their signings are now available for selection after their paperwork has all been finished.

Algerian Abderaouf Zarabi and Serbo-Montenegrin Milan Martinovic are both available for the trip to Strasbourg although Martinovic`s compatriot Dalibor Mitrovic is not yet considered match fit.

Mamadou Seck is also likeley to be rested after midweek service with Senegal while midfielder Renaud Connen is another absentee.

The Corsicans will know that they have to defy the history books if they are to return to Alsace with all three points.

They have lost four and drawn two of the six Ligue 1 encounters between the clubs while Ajaccio have never won at the Meinau.

Bastia v Guingamp: Preview


BASTIA, September 12 (Ligue 1) - Getting out of the drop zone will be Guingamp's main target when they visit fellow strugglers Bastia in their Furiani stadium on Saturday.

The Breton side have experienced a poor start to the season with only one win in five matches, although the solitary success was a 2-0 victory over defending champions Lyon two weeks ago.

They are currently lying in 18th spot in the 20-team division with just four points.

Bertrand Marchand could however start the match with attacking midfielder Jerome Leroy, who after days of dispute with Paris St Germain, finally agreed to end his contract with the Parisian giants and joined Guingamp this week.

First of all Leroy will have to receive all the administrative papers from PSG to be able to play on Saturday.

There is also good news for the Brittany club with the news that Auriol Guillaume is once again available after long-term injury problems.

Bastia, meanwhile, have just snatched two consecutive wins over Montpellier (1-0) and Toulouse (2-0) but will be without Nisa Saveljic who is suspended.

Striker Frederic Nee, who suffered a fractured cheekbone three weeks ago, is back on track and could feature in the starting line-up.

Experienced midfielder Benoit Cauet served his suspension against Toulouse two weeks ago and is back in the match squad for the Corsicans.

Lille v Monaco: Preview


LILLE, September 12 (Ligue 1) - Lille look to maintain their impressive early-season form against a Monaco team that has replaced them at the top of Ligue 1.

Les Dogues were the surprise leaders in the early weeks by winning their first three games but then a draw with Metz and a defeat by Sochaux has seen them slip to third.

They started the season with hugely impressive home wins against fat cats clubs in champions Lyon and big-spending Paris St Germain.

That point is not lost on coach Claude Puel who believes the club can claim another famous scalp.

``Monaco have excellent individual players and also a good team ethic,'' Puel told club website, www.losc.fr.

``We do not have great pressure on us for this match other than the need to raise our game even more.

``We have everything to gain from matches like this.''

Benoit Cheyrou is an absentee through injury for Lille who have not beaten Monaco at home since 1995.

Monaco coach Didier Deschamps has named a 16-man squad for the trip north and Fernando Morientes is set to make a high-profile debut for the principality club following his year-long loan move from Real Madrid.

Deschamps hopes Morientes will replace top scorer Shabani Nonda, ruled out for the season with injury, and the Spaniard will start alongside either Dado Prso or Emmanuel Adebayor up front.

Deschamps also has a dilemma with some of his players who were on international duty during the week.

Senegal pair Tony Sylva and Souleymane Camara are the two most likely not to play although Deschamps would have probably picked Flavio Roma in goal ahead of Sylva anyway.

Meanwhile, Deschamps and his team-mates have been on the receiving end of criticism from rival clubs this weekend with their fellow Ligue 1 members still claiming that Monaco`s position in the cash-rich principality gives them an unfair advantage in a league that has strict financial regulations.

Metz v Montpellier: Preview


METZ, September 12 (Ligue 1) - Metz have still only one win to their name since returning to the top flight and will be anxious to get back on the victory trail at home to Montpellier.

The club from Lorraine always insisted that their only aim was to avoid an immediate relegation and, in 16th place going into the weekend, it looks as if they have assessed their potential accurately.

Coach Jean Fernandez was dealt another cruel injury blow on Monday when Senegalese forward Pape Thiaw picked up an injury that will rule him out of Saturday`s match.

His strike partner Hakim Saci is a longer-term injury casualty and Metz are looking decidedly weak up front.

Fernandez has also decided to make a change in goal where Ludovic Batelle will replace Togo international Kossi Agassa

``We think it is the right time to give Ludo a run-out,'' said Fernandez on www.fcmetz.fr. ``It is down to him to show us that we are not wrong.''

The match with Montpellier will be the first of three games against teams Fernandez expects to be relegation rivals with forthcoming matches with Guingamp and Toulouse to follow.

``You can`t plan these things,'' said Fernandez. ``We didn`t plan to lose to Ajaccio and to win at Bastia.''

Montpellier have modest resources but are continuing to play well under coach Gerard Bernardet who saved the club from the drop after inheriting an apparently futile position last season.

They have won two, lost two and drawn one of their five matches but both wins have been hugely impressive - the club`s first ever success at Bordeaux and a famous home win against Paris St Germain.

The architects of the PSG win - Carlos Rui Pataca and Geoffrey Doumeng - should retain their places at the expense of Bertrand Robert and Fode Mansare.

Japanese Nozomi Hiroyama is unavailable because of an injury to his left knee.

There was some good news this week, though, when the club`s Cameroon midfielder Valery Mezague attended training more than a month after the car crash that left him in a coma.

Rennes v Lens: Preview


RENNES, September 12 (Ligue 1) - Rennes are looking to recover from their first defeat of the season but know they will have their work cut out against a Lens team that has recovered from a poor start to post three consecutive victories.

Laszlo Boloni`s side are still digesting their first setback under the Romanian coach, a 2-1 reverse at Auxerre.

They had gone into that match with a win and three draws to their name, no mean feat for a team that flirted with relegation last season.

Cedric Barbosa is unavailable because of his sending-off against Auxerre while Francois Grenet is also ruled out.

Dominique Arribage, the club captain, is suspended too while Boloni must also decide which of his players on international service during the week can answer the call.

It will likely be an emotional occasion for Rennes striker Tony Vairelles who plays against Lens, the team he inspired to the 1998 Ligue 1 title.

That season seemed to herald a glittering international career for Vairelles who, although overlooked for the successful 1998 World Cup campaign, was capped the following season but his career has in fact gone downhill ever since.

Lens coach Joel Muller is perhaps the biggest victim of the week`s international fixtures with his extensive Senegalese contingent still jet-lagged after their exertions in Japan.

Pape Bouba Diop is suspended while Cameroon international Rigobert Song is struggling with an ankle injury.

Muller`s men started the season poorly with a home draw with Le Mans and then a defeat by Nantes.

However, consecutive wins over Marseille, Strasbourg and Nice have lifted the northerners to fifth place in the table.

``We must now keep our spirit in the same state,'' he told www.reclens.fr.

``Now we have a match with Rennes when we have only had our players back for the last day or two.

``It`s never very easy to prepare for a match when some of your players have been absent.''


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Viestit: 1004
Liittynyt: 14.01.2003, 17:14
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Paikkakunta: Heräilemässä

Viesti Kirjoittaja epe »

Bayer Leverkusen v Hamburg SV: Preview


LEVERKUSEN, September 12 (Bundesliga) - Bayer Leverkusen defender Jens Nowotny is set to make his Bundesliga return after two consecutive ligament injuries.

The 29-year-old is eager to play in the home match against struggling Hamburg this weekend but he admits he isn't likely to hit full stride for another month.

``I plan to play for one half,'' he said. ``I4ve not regained 100% fitness yet and I think it will take three more matches until I4m back in full shape.''

Nowotny was one of the premier defenders in Germany before hurting his knee in their hugely successful campaign two years ago.

A German international, he played a vital role for Leverkusen when they challenged for Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and Champions League honours but ultimately finished runners-up in all three.

He returned from the injury after the Christmas break but looking back on it, he says he should have been given more time to recover.

Nowotny offered a verbal jab to the club, claiming he was rushed rushed into an early comeback last January.

``Not everything went smoothly during my last rehabilitation,'' Nowotny said of his comeback earlier this year when he re-injured his knee in his first game.

``They would have probably even sent me out on the pitch on crutches,'' he continued.

Sitting fourth with nine points, Leverkusen coach Klaus Augenthaler hopes to continue the good start despite problematic training conditions.

``I can4t really predict the shape of my team because no one was here. There were so many players on international duty,'' he complained.

Hanno Balitsch (knee), Turkish international Yildiray Basturk (hepatitis) and Zoltan Sebescen are unavailable for selection, while Augenthaler has vowed he will not ``throw Nowotny into the cold water``.

``It4s a different matter if he plays in the fourth division or against the likes of (Sergej) Barbarez or (Naohiro) Takahara,'' the coach stated.

Hamburg will indeed turn to their star players to make their way out of the drop zone. After winning just one of twelve possible points, they4re off to the worst start in 31 years.

Had it not been for Kaiserslautern4s three-point deduction, the Northerners would be rock bottom.

``We can only find a way out of this messy situation if we chalk up away wins and become a force at home again,'' coach Kurt Jara said ahead of the meeting with Leverkusen.

``I4m fully convinced of my team - why should we not win at Bayer?'' Jara asked.

Pivotal defender Bernd Hollerbach may make his first appearance of the season after overcoming Achilles problems, whereas Collin Benjamin (card ban), Milan Fukal (foot surgery) and Mehdi Mahdavikia (rehab) are not ready to play.

New signing David Jarolim might get the nod over Rudolfo Cardoso to make his midfield debut, with Benjamin Schlicke replacing Benjamin in defence.

Hansa Rostock v VfL Bochum: Preview


ROSTOCK, September 12 (Bundesliga) - Traditionally low-scoring Hansa Rostock have hit six goals in their last two matches and will hope to continue their attacking fireworks in their clash with mid-table Bochum.

Summer signing Martin Max has already exceeded all expectations to top the goal scoring chart with six goals in four matches - five of which have come in the last two games.

Max will be presented with the Bundesliga player of the month award before kick-off.

Coach Armin Veh is not expected to change the line-up and Rade Prica, who usually partners Max in attack, is confident he will shake off knee problems to take his place in the team.

Prica said: ``It4s getting better every day. Max and I form a formidable duo. He sets me up and I do the same with him.''

Bochum boss Peter Neururer insisted his squad`s preparation for the game had suffered from a number of high profile absentees.

``It was not at all possible to prepare for the Rostock match,'' he said. ``I can only hope that (Peter) Madsen, (Momo) Diabang and (Thomas) Zdebel return (from international duty) without injuries.''

Neururer will have to find a replacement for midfield playmaker Paul Freier, who broke his foot while training with Germany and is out until December.

Sunday Oliseh (groin) and Miroslav Stevic (flu) are also both expected to miss the Rostock match.

Schalke 04 v VfB Stuttgart: Preview


GELSENKIRCHEN, September 12 (Bundesliga) - High-fliers Stuttgart look to remain the lone Bundesliga side with a clean sheet when they travel to Schalke this weekend.

Felix Magath4s troops have not conceded a goal in four matches and are at the top of the table on 10 points alongside Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund.

The side will go into the game without the distraction of unresolved Champions League bonus payments.

``Both sides (the players and the club) have complied with each other's wishes and we've found a good solution,'' Magath revealed after the head office had originally backed off bonus payments.

``Now the players don't have to think about it any longer and can focus on the tough Bundesliga and Champions League matches in the coming weeks.''

Steffen Dangelmayr (thigh) and Michael Mutzel (knee) are the only men out for the clash at the Arena AufSchalke, where Magath is expected to field the winning line-up from the Kaiserslautern match three weeks ago.

Schalke are in 11th place with just five points.

History favours them in their quest to become the first side to score a goal against the visitors this season as they've found Stuttgart's net in all of the last nine home games against them.

Coach Jupp Heynckes hailed Stuttgart, alongside Bayern Munich, as the ``all-dominating force from last season that will be tough to beat``.

All national team players have returned in good health, leaving only Jorg Bohme (knee), Niels Oude Kamphuis (groin), Kristian Djordjevic (back) and Jochen Seitz (red card ban) on the sidelines.

Newly-acquired Eduard Glieder from Austrian side FC Pasching is set to make his debut.

The forward, a rather unknown last-minute signing after bids for Fernando Morientes of Real Madrid and Chelsea4s Mikael Forssell fell through, might find himself in the starting outfit if Danish international Ebbe Sand4s groin problems turn out to be worse than expected.

Heynckes is hoping for ``a symbiosis of team and crowd'' in a packed Arena AufSchalke.

VfL Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich: Preview


WOLFSBURG, September 12 (Bundesliga) - The three-week break from Bundesliga action may have done more harm than good to Bayern Munich who have a distinct player shortage for their trip to Wolfsburg.

Added to injuries of key players is the fact that Ze Roberto and Roque Santa Cruz both face long, tiring trips back from South America to join the squad for Saturday's match.

Despite having six South Americans in their squad, Wolfsburg's squad has been spared from similar exertions with the majority of them remaining in Germany to continue training.

The newest addition to the samba flair at the VW-Arena is 24-year-old Fernando Baiano.

The Brazilian striker is expected to be given a baptism of fire alongside Argentinian Diego Klimowicz as trainer Jurgen Rober hopes to get some return on his Latin investments.

Another Argentinian is sure to miss the game due to suspension. Andres D'Alessandro was sent off for dissent in Wolfsburg's last game against 1860 Munich and will join German Under-21 defender Maik Franz in the stands after he, too, picked up a red card in the stormy encounter at the Olympic Stadium.

Jurgen Rober will be trying to instil a little more discipline into his side for the visit of the champions and hope to finish the game with eleven men and three points for only the third time this season.

Ottmar Hitzfeld has different worries on his mind as injuries mean he could field almost a full team from those in the treatment room.

Hitzfeld will have to turn to the experienced Mehmet Scholl to fill the gap in his depleted midfield with Thorsten Fink and Piotr Trochowski also being promoted from the reserves to provide cover.

Jens Jeremies and the injury-prone Sebastian Deisler were the first two to fall as a result of the strains of International football.

Michael Ballack and Claudio Pizarro have now added their names to that list and will sit out the Bundesliga game in a bid to be fit for the Champions League opener against Celtic on Wednesday.

``Ballack can't play due to a knee injury and Claudio has a swollen ankle,'' said co-trainer Michael Henke.

The loss of Pizarro is maybe the worst news for Bayern. A goal in each of Bayern's four games so far this season had seen Pizarro earn a regular starting role for the champions and his admirable record of eight goals in eight games against Wolfsburg meant he would have been a certainty to start.

Roy Makaay missed Holland's midweek defeat to the Czech Republic but is likely to start alongside Roque Santa Cruz in an untested frontline for the Bavarians.

Santa Cruz scored a hat-trick against non-league side Borussia Neunkirchen in the first round of the German Cup, putting him firmly in the frame for a long-awaited return to the first team, particularly since Giovanni Elber's move to Olympique Lyon.

Argentinian signing Martin Demichelis has been almost a lone figure at the Bayern training ground over the last ten days, but he has now reached the required level of fitness to merit inclusion in Hitzfeld's squad for the trip to Wolfsburg.

Tobias Rau could get the nod over Bixente Lizarazu at left full-back to make a return to his former club.


Borussia Dortmund v Werder Bremen: Preview


DORTMUND, September 12 (Bundesliga) - Dortmund, who have already lost three regular starters to long-term injuries, must now do without Brazilian ace Marcio Amoroso who will be sidelined for six to eight weeks with a knee injury.

He partially tore his ligaments in a training ground accident, having made a bright start with four goals already this season.

On a positive note ahead of the Bremen match, Borussia welcome back midfielder Sebastian Kehl, who has completed a six-week ban after being sent off in the League Cup final loss to Hamburg.

``It was a long time to dwell on a silly move,'' the 23-year-old said. ``I finally want to make noise on the pitch again.''

The atmosphere at the club, according to Kehl, is ``good'' despite the latest fuss about pay cuts. Dortmund4s head office were planning to freeze bonus and other payments after missing out on the Champions League - and 10 million Euros.

``If the team performs well this season, there won4t be any cuts,'' president Gerd Niebaum said. ``We4ve held many positive negotiations but won4t let anyone put us under pressure,'' he added.

The Westfalenstadion, after the latest rebuilding process, may host a record 83,000 fans for the clash with Bremen as 80,000 tickets have already been sold.

Flavio Conceicao remains hampered by a thigh injury and will miss out, as will long-time injury victims Evanilson, Torsten Frings, Guy Demel (all knee ligaments), Christoph Metzelder (rehab), Leandro (ankle) and Heiko Herrlich (thigh).

League leaders Bremen, who top the table for the first time since the 1994-95 season, travel to their fifth-place rivals without star midfielder Johan Micoud, who suffered a broken rib in a recent training match.

``I can4t put in 100% at the moment,'' the Frenchman admitted. ``And I can4t do any dribbling without pain. A trip to Dortmund would not make much sense, but I expect to rejoin practice on Tuesday or Wednesday.''

He joins Viktor Skripnik and Ludovic Magnin on the injured list, while coach Thomas Schaaf hopes that Frank Baumann, Mladen Krstajic and Kristian Lisztes all return in good health from international duty.

Greek forward Angelos Charisteas has shaken off a minor infection to partner in-form Ailton in attack.

Charisteas said: ``I4m in top shape and will be able to help my team-mates and Ailton without any problems.''

Hertha Berlin v Hannover 96: Preview


BERLIN, September 12 (Bundesliga) - Hertha Berlin hope to end their long goal drought on Saturday when Hannover are the visitors to the Olympic Stadium.

The capital club are the only side in the top three domestic divisions that have yet to find the back of the net this season.

All home hope rests on the shoulders of German international and former Hannover player Fredi Bobic, who ended his personal scoring slump with the opener in Germany`s 2-1 victory over Scotland in the crucial Euro 2004 qualifier on Wednesday night.

Hertha`s business manager Dieter Hoeness said: ``I predicted a Bobic goal and a win on Wednesday and I will predict the same thing again.''

Berlin boss Huub Stevens does not share Hoeness` optimism. ``I just hope he4ll be able to play. All our international guys had tough matches and we have to see how it goes. But no one has showed up injured yet.''

Brazilian ace Marcelinho still nurses a broken foot, while fellow attacker Artur Wichniarek is also doubtful.

The visitors, who have suffered four successive defeats against Hertha, go into the match with a whole host of injuries.

Skipper Altian Lala is hindered by a pelvis injury and joins Per Metesacker (thigh) and Thomas Schneider (ankle) on the treatment table.

And Brazilian Vinicius (groin), Kostas Konstantinidis (thigh), Thomas Brdaric (rip) and Julian de Guzman (knee) are all rated as doubtful.

Coach Ralf Rangnick hopes to snuff out the threat of Bobic, who reclaimed his place in the national side last season following a successful stint with Hannover.

``I was happy with his goal against Scotland but we have to make sure it won4t happen again on Saturday,'' Rangnick said. ``We4ll try not to let him have any good chances.''

TSV 1860 Munich v Cologne: Preview


MUNICH, September 12 (Bundesliga) - 1860 Munich will be eager to continue their impressive start to the season at home to newly-promoted Cologne.

A second consecutive home victory would fire Falko Gotz's side to the higher echelons of the Bundesliga and show there is another side to Munich other than their illustrious neighbours Bayern.

Much of 1860's success so far this season has come from the neat wing play of Harald Cerny and Marcus Purk while Danny Schwarz and Roman Tyce have stepped impressively into the centre of midfield to counter the loss of playmaker Thomas Hassler at the end of last season.

Scoring goals appears to be the Lions` major problem, for while captain Markus Schroth has benefited from their neat approach play, German international striker Benjamin Lauth is still looking to break his duck for the season.

The three-week Bundesliga break came at a bad time for Cologne, for after a run of three successive defeats, they appeared to have turned the corner with a 1-0 win over Dortmund.

Dirk Lottner's curling free-kick was the difference in that timely triumph and it was also his goal that helped Cologne overcome FC Oberneuland in the cup to earn his side a second successive win.

Jorg Heinrich is Cologne's only absentee as he is still suspended following his red card in Schalke, but Moses Sichone and Markus Ebbers both return after completing their suspensions.

1860 will wait until after Friday`s training before deciding if Finnish defender Janne Saarinen will be able to play.

Saarinen sustained a broken nose in Finland's 1-1 draw against Wales, but has had a mask specially made to enable him to maintain his 100% appearance record for the Lions.

He said: ``I really want to play but we'll have to see how it goes with the mask.''

Andreas Gorlitz has recovered from a pulled muscle above his ankle and should keep his place at right wing-back, whereas Daniel Borimirov starts a three-match suspension following his dismissal against Wolfsburg last time out.


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