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BIRMINGHAM V ARSENAL PREVIEW
Arsenal are plagued by suspension problems in the aftermath of the Old Trafford bust-up at the end of the draw with Manchester United.
Ray Parlour, Patrick Vieira, Lauren and Martin Keown are all banned leaving Arsene Wenger with no option but to reshuffle his defence.
Justin Hoyte is tipped to be drafted in at right back, although Kolo Toure could play in that role, but Gilberto Silva will not be risked following his international exertions with Brazil.
Matthew Upson will be aiming to show Wenger what he is missing as he plays in defence for Birmingham, but there is no Christophe Dugarry after the flambuoyant Frenchman sustained a knee injury against Wolves.
David Dunn may be a surprise choice to play in an advanced role alongside Mikael Forssell, despite the claims of Stern John and Clinton Morrison.
Opta Stat: The only teams to score at St Andrews this season have been from London - Charlton and Fulham.
Opta Stat: Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 23 Premiership matches against teams from the Midlands.
EVERTON V WOLVES PREVIEW
Everton are aiming to end their worst run of form under David Moyes as they prepare to welcome fellow strugglers Wolves to Goodison Park.
The Toffees have slipped into the bottom three after picking up just two points from the last 15 with only one goal scored, while Wolves lie second from bottom despite only losing one of their last six Premiership games.
Everton will be without Duncan Ferguson after his bust-up with Moyes in training earlier this week, with the former Newcastle hit-man not being considered in the first team plans.
The hosts will also be without long term injured stars Steve Watson, Alessandro Pistone, Scot Gemmill, Richard Wright and Lee Carsley.
Everton will look to England star Wayne Rooney, who will make his 50th Toffees appearance if he plays, to reproduce his form on the international stage for his club as they aim to solve their goalscoring problems.
Alan Stubbs and Li Tie are back in the squad after recovering from a bout of flu which ruled them out of the defeat to Blackburn.
Wolves, who are still searching for their first win on their travels in The Premiership, are missing Colin Cameron through injury.
Cameron was forced to miss Scotland's Euro 2004 play-off defeat with a stomach problem and he is to see a specialist about the injury.
Nathan Blake is back from his hamstring problem and is pushing Steffen Iversen for a starting place alongside Henri Camara up front.
On-loan goalkeeper Andy Marshall is expected to be on the bench as cover for Michael Oakes, with Matt Murray still sidelined.
Opta Stat: The Toffees have taken just two points from the last 15 - the worst run under David Moyes's stewardship.
Opa Stat: Wolves have scored just one first half goal in The Premiership this season
LEEDS V BOLTON PREVIEW
Leeds welcome Bolton to Elland Road on Saturday as caretaker boss Eddie Gray takes charge for the first time with both sides in desperate need of the points.
Gray takes over with Leeds rooted to the bottom of the table and he has been given the task of steering the club out of trouble.
Leeds, who have lost their last five Premiership and Cup games, will be aiming to erase the memory of the humiliating 6-1 defeat to Portsmouth last time out.
The home side are without influential duo Alan Smith and Dominic Matteo through suspension as they serve one-game bans.
Loan pair Roque Junior and Salomon Olembe may also be unavailable as they were on international duty in midweek and are not expected to return until Friday.
Australian striker Mark Viduka is expected to come back into the starting line-up after being dropped for the last two games under Peter Reid, while Seth Johnson is set to shake off a knee injury to play.
Gray must decide whether or not to play Jody Morris after the midfielder was charged with rape earlier in the week.
Sam Allardyce celebrates his 200th game in charge of Bolton and he will be hoping they can build on their last away clash when they beat Tottenham 1-0.
Bolton are boosted by the return of inspirational forward Youri Djorkaeff after seven weeks out with a calf strain.
Brazilian striker Mario Jardel is again pushing for a place in the starting line-up after scoring in a friendly last week, but Kevin Davies is set to keep him out of the side.
Former Chelsea defender Emerson Thome is likely to miss out with a hamstring problem as Bolton look to pile the misery on Leeds.
Opta Stat: Only one of the last 13 meetings between these two teams in all competitions has ended in a home win.
Opta Stat: Bolton have convered the lowest proportion of their chances (5%) of any Premiership team.
LEICESTER V CHARLTON PREVIEW
Leicester City entertain Charlton hoping the international break has not knocked them off their stride.
The Foxes have won their last two Premiership encounters and manager Micky Adams will hope for another three points against high-flying Charlton.
Foxes keeper Ian Walker injured his shoulder on international duty with England, but should be fit to take his place against Charlton.
A major blow for Leicester is that defender Frank Sinclair may not return before Christmas after suffering an Achilles injury.
Addicks boss Alan Curbishley has a number of problems to contend with, most notably finding a replacement for the suspended Scott Parker.
Claus Jensen is doubtful with a knee problem, while striker Shaun Bartlett is definitely out due to his ankle injury.
Richard Rufus, Luke Young and Gary Rowett are also in the treatment room, but loan star Carlton Cole could figure.
Opta Stat: Charlton have never beaten Leicester away from home in The Premiership.
Opta Stat: Scott Parker has made more tackles (82) than any other Premiership player.
MAN UTD V BLACKBURN PREVIEW
Gary Neville is Manchester United's main injury doubt ahead of the live Premiership Plus clash on Saturday.
The England defender limped out of the defeat to Denmark at Old Trafford last Sunday, and has been receiving extensive treatment on his Achilles problem.
Phil Neville is an obvious replacement for his elder brother, which would free up a place in midfield, where Sir Alex Ferguson has a number of options.
However, the signs are looking encouraging that Neville will be fit to play.
Andy Cole is ruled out of a return to his former club as he is suspended following the sending off at Southampton.
However, the other half of the vintage 1999 United attacking partnership, Dwight Yorke, should be fit after pulling a muscle recently.
David Thompson is a long-term absentee after undergoing a knee operation in the United States, while Lucas Neill is another of Graeme Souness's players who is banned.
Opta Stat: Manchester United have never lost at home to Blackburn in The Premiership.
Opta Stat: Blackburn are the only team in the top flight yet to record a clean sheet.
MIDDLESBROUGH V LIVERPOOL PREVIEW
Liverpool will be looking to get back in the hunt for a UEFA Champions League place when they face a tricky trip to improving Middlesbrough on Saturday.
The Reds fell to a 2-1 defeat at Anfield against Manchester United last time out and will be looking to bounce straight back with a win after suffering their fourth defeat in six league games.
Boro on the other hand are looking to build on a promising run of two wins on the bounce in The Premiership against Wolves and Aston Villa, and completing the hat-trick against Liverpool would see them go level on points with Gerard Houllier's men.
Houllier should have Steven Gerrard and Steve Finnan available despite the pair missing their international friendlies with back and knee problems respectively.
Michael Owen should also be ready for a return to action with the benefit of a full week of training, after recovering from an ankle injury that has limited him to just one appearance in the last four games.
More good news for Houllier came as both Dietmar Hamann and Stephane Henchoz got another 90 minutes of reserve action under their belts and both will be pushing for a return to the starting XI.
Boro boss Steve McClaren will be delighted he can include Franck Queudrue in his side after the Frenchman was let off the hook by The FA after an altercation with Southampton's Kevin Phillips.
Malcolm Christie is a long-term casualty while Mark Schwarzer may return after being excused from the trip to Villa to be with his sick daughter.
Brazilian Juninho is desperate to retain his place in the starting XI after a good performance at Villa Park, while last season's Player of the Year Jonathan Greening is still waiting for a chance to get back in the side.
McClaren has recently been full of praise for summer acquisitions Boudewijn Zenden and Gaizka Mendieta and hopes they can help grab a repeat of last season when Jerzy Dudek's error handed them a 1-0 win
Liverpool's new attacking style has left them open at the back and they have not kept a clean sheet in eight Premiership matches and they desperately need a win to keep their Champions League ambitions alive.
Opta Stat: Middlesbrough have kept five clean sheets in the last seven matches.
Opta Stat: Liverpool are 13 points off the pace - no team has ever won The Premiership after being more than 12 points adrift without games in hand
NEWCASTLE V MAN CITY PREVIEW
Newcastle have been smarting at their mauling by Chelsea for a fortnight and will look to erase the 5-0 defeat from the memory banks when Manchester City visit St James' Park.
Sir Bobby Robson's charges are some way off the blistering pace set by Arsenal but the veteran tactician still harbours hope of reaching the UEFA Champions League places, and a win at home to The Citizens will be viewed as a must.
Jermaine Jenas will be looking to impress after signing a new deal and he will have a major role to play in the midfield.
Robson has been without key players Kieron Dyer and Jonathan Woodgate for a number of weeks due to injury, but they both came through a reserve outing on Monday and are available for selection.
Magpies skipper Alan Shearer missed the spanking at Chelsea due to illness, but should take the field in what will be his 450th league appearance.
City's form was somewhat inconsistent before the international break and manager Kevin Keegan will be looking to put one over on his former club.
Keegan's plans for the trip to Newcastle have been hit by the news that Claudio Reyna has been ruled out due to flu, meaning Paul Bosvelt will in all probability partner Joey Barton in the midfield trenches.
Winger Trevor Sinclair is fit again after shaking off a dead leg and is in contention for a starting berth, but Danny Tiatto is out with a hamstring strain and Shaun Wright-Phillips is suspended.
Long-term knee injury victim, keeper Nicky Weaver has met with a setback and may need another operation.
Opta Stat: City have won only won on two of their last 11 visits in The Premiership to the North East.
Opta Stat: David Seaman has only conceded three goals in his last nine appearances against Newcastle.
SOUTHAMPTON V CHELSEA PREVIEW
Chelsea will be without skipper Marcel Desailly for their trip to Southampton as the French defender has failed to shake off a hip injury.
Stamford Bridge boss Claudio Ranieri is nervous ahead of the trip to St Mary's after a two-week break and wants to hit the ground running against the troubled Saints.
Rumours surrounding the future of boss Gordon Strachan and a possible switch to Leeds United may have unsettled his squad and any weakness on the pitch will surely be punished by Chelsea's all-star side.
Hernan Crespo and Juan Sebastian Veron both played for Argentina in their World Cup qualifier against Colombia on Wednesday and so are unlikely to play a major part in the match after the journey back from South America.
Geremi may also have to settle for a place on the bench after he skippered Cameroon in Japan, while Eidur Gudjohnsen will be fresh and available after he opted out of Iceland's midweek game with Mexico.
Emmanuel Petit continues on the sidelines with the knee injury that will see him unavailable for a further fortnight.
Danny Higginbotham could return to Strachan's side as a replacement for Michael Svensson who serves his one-match ban for the red card he received at Bolton.
The former Derby County stopper has started just three games so far this season and will find himself thrown back in at the deep end if he faces up to Ranieri's title challengers.
Marian Pahars has a chance of playing a part in the match after he returned to action after a year of injuries when he made a late substitute appearance for Latvia in their victorious Euro 2004 play-off with Turkey.
Ecuadorian striker Agustin Delgado has not recovered from back surgery while Matthew Oakley is out for the rest of the season with a knee ligament injury.
Strachan's men have had a mixed season but still sit in a respectable ninth spot in The Premiership, but after losses to Middlesbrough and Manchester City at home they will be hoping to reproduce the form that saw them beat Manchester United at the end of August.
Opta Stat: Southampton have drawn more games 0-0 this season than any other team.
Opta Stat: Chelsea have kept six clean sheets in their last eight Premiership fixtures.
SPURS V ASTON VILLA PREVIEW
Tottenham Hotspur take on Aston Villa at White Hart Lane hoping to end a run of two successive defeats in The Premiership.
Caretaker boss David Pleat should have Anthony Gardner fit after the defender was forced to withdraw from the England squad for last weekend's international friendly against Denmark with a recurrence of a back injury.
Top scorer Frederic Kanoute is close to returning to training from an ankle injury but is unlikely to be considered for the clash against The Villans, while captain Jamie Redknapp is also still some way off a first team return.
The good news for Spurs is that Robbie Keane, Gary Doherty and Stephen Carr returned home from international duty injury-free, although Portuguese striker Helder Postiga has caught the headlines for apparently refusing a dope test after he faced the French Under-21 side and may be the subject of disciplinary action should Uefa decide to take action.
Villa boss David O'Leary is hoping for a double striker boost ahead of the clash, live on Sky Sports One, on Sunday.
Darius Vassell has shrugged off the knee injury that ruled him out of England's defeat to Denmark and Juan Pablo Angel returns fresh from his equaliser for Colombia against Argentina in their South American World Cup qualifier.
The Midlands outfit are only one point and one place off the bottom three and will be hoping Vassell can finally open his goal account against a Spurs side who may be carrying a headache from their cruel North London derby defeat to Arsenal.
O'Leary has to shuffle his midfield with Gavin McCann suspended for his sending off against Newcastle, with Thomas Hitzlesperger likely to deputise.
Opta Stat: There have been only four goals in the last five meetings between these two sides.
Opta Stat: Dion Dublin has scored nine Premiership goals against Spurs - more than he has managed against any other opponents.
Sunderland are one of four clubs who could take over at the top of Division One on Saturday afternoon, at least for a couple of hours, but they could be missing three key players including striker Kevin Kyle when they go to Crewe.
Sheffield United, who may welcome back influential midfielder Michael Brown at Ipswich, Norwich, who face a difficult trip to Preston, and Wigan, who entertain Nottingham Forest, are all in the hunt to move above West Brom at the top of the table at 5pm on Saturday.
The Baggies are in action at tea-time when they face Reading at the Hawthorns, with Jason Koumas getting the chance to make up for his midweek disappointment with Wales in front of the Sky cameras. Read all the team news here...
Burnley v Rotherham
Burnley boss Stan Ternent hopes to have Delroy Facey (foot), Luke Chadwick (toes) and Paul Weller (calf) available for the visit of Rotherham after all three missed last weekend's 2-0 defeat at Derby.
The trio have responded well to treatment and Ternent will give them as long as possible to prove their fitness. Alan Moore (ankle) remains The Clarets' only long-term injury victim.
Gary Montgomery will replace the suspended Mike Pollitt in goal at Turf Moor, while The Millers have a number of injury concerns.
Striker Martin Butler suffered a minor injury in training on Thursday but is expected to play, while Julien Baudet (calf), Nick Daws (Achilles) and Darren Garner (calf) are all receiving treatment.
Coventry v Gillingham
Coventry keeper Pegguy Arphexad is out of the game against Gillingham because of a groin strain, leaving Scott Shearer and Gavin Ward to compete for a starting role.
Veteran defender Richard Shaw is a doubt for Gary McAllister's side because of a thigh injury, having missed the trip to Sunderland through suspension, so Calum Davenport looks likely to keep his place.
The Sky Blues have signed Tottenham midfielder Johnnie Jackson on a month's loan after he impressed in two reserve outings and he is added to the squad.
Gillingham manager Andy Hessenthaler is expected to select himself in a midfield role following last weekend's 2-1 home defeat to Wimbledon, while striker Marlon King could return after injury.
Crewe v Sunderland
Crewe midfielder Kenny Lunt will miss the home game against Sunderland as he serves a one-match suspension for his dismissal against Gillingham a fortnight ago.
Midfielders Neil Sorvel and Justin Cochrane are injury concerns for Alex boss Dario Gradi, with both players facing fitness tests.
Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy has a doubt over striker Kevin Kyle, who returned from international duty with Scotland this week with a hip injury.
Should he miss out, either Tommy Smith or Michael Proctor will partner Marcus Stewart in attack at Gresty Road.
McCarthy could also be without two other key players for the trip to Cheshire, with Colin Healy suffering from a toe injury and Gary Breen struggling with the knee problem he picked up against Coventry. Paul Thirlwell and Joachim Bjorklund are standing by to take their places.
Ipswich v Sheffield United
John McGreal (knee and back) and Martijn Reuser (groin) are back in the Ipswich squad for the visit of Sheffield United, with the latter likely to be among the substitutes.
Pablo Counago (hamstring) is expected to be absent for a further fortnight, while Alun Armstrong is out after suffering a back injury while playing for the reserves in midweek and Alan Mahon is still sidelined by a virus.
Michael Brown will travel to East Anglia with second-placed Sheffield United, but manager Neil Warnock is undecided over whether to select his influential playmaker, who has missed the last three matches with a foot injury. "I want Michael to be right in his mind when he gets back onto the pitch," Warnock said.
Chris Armstrong is another doubt after suffering a minor knee injury in training, but Warnock expects him to continue his partnership with Alan Wright on the left flank.
Robert Page played for The Blades' reserve side in midweek but is still some way from a first team return, while 17-year-old academy defender Dominic Roma has been added to the squad to provide cover.
Millwall v Derby
Kevin Braniff will once again be Millwall's only fit recognised striker for the game against Derby, with Bob Peeters (thigh), Neil Harris (ankle), Mark McCammon (knee) and Noel Whelan (hamstring) all still ruled out. Paul Ifil is likely to partner Braniff in attack.
Striker Lee Bradbury has rejoined Derby on loan from Portsmouth for two months, replacing Danny Dichio, who has returned to West Brom following his loan spell.
Winger Candido Costa (mouth) is a major doubt for George Burley's side, while defender Youl Mawene faces a late fitness test on a hamstring injury.
Preston v Norwich
Claude Davis is available for Preston after making a full recovery from a virus, while defender Chris Lucketti is over his foot injury and returns to the squad.
Back-up goalkeeper Andy Lonergan is away on international duty with the England Under-20s in Dubai and defender Lee Briscoe (tendinitis) is still out.
Paul McVeigh is rated 50-50 for Norwich's trip to Deepdale after he suffered a leg injury in last weekend's surprise defeat to Watford.
Defender Marc Edworthy is also doubtful because of a calf injury, but Phil Mulryne returns after a hamstring injury and on-loan striker Peter Crouch is available again after missing the game against The Hornets through suspension.
Stoke v Bradford
Stoke could be without defender John Halls against Bradford due to an ankle injury, while centre half Wayne Thomas misses the game through suspension and Paul Williams is out with a torn hamstring.
Veteran defender Peter Atherton has recovered from an ankle injury and could make his long-awaited comeback for Bradford, who have Wayne Jacobs in charge at the Britannia Stadium.
David Wetherall is still out with ligament damage but Danny Cadamarteri should continue his comeback after a knee injury.
Walsall v Crystal Palace
Tony Dinning will make his debut for Walsall after completing a move from Wigan that saw Jamie Lawrence move in the opposite direction.
Defender Chris Baird will play the last game of his loan from Southampton, but The Saddlers are without centre back Paul Ritchie, who begins a two-match suspension following his sending-off against Norwich earlier in the month.
Michael Hughes is set to return to the Palace starting line-up after a three-week absence with a hamstring injury. He will replace Shaun Derry, who is suspended, at the Bescot Stadium.
Watford v West Ham
Watford welcome back Paul Devlin and Micah Hyde after international duty for the sell-out clash with West Ham.
Both players missed last week's surprise victory over Norwich at Carrow Road which extended The Hornets' impressive recent run, which has seen them lose only two of their last 11 games.
West Ham look set to welcome back three players from injury for the trip to Vicarage Road, with David Connolly, Kevin Horlock and Richard Garcia all returning to training earlier in the week.
Connolly's recovery from a calf injury is a major boost for manager Alan Pardew, who must make do without striker Jermain Defoe.
Defoe begins a five-match suspension after being sent off for the second time this season in the 4-3 home defeat to leaders West Brom a fortnight ago, having also collected his fifth booking of the campaign.
West Brom v Reading
Striker Danny Dichio is back in the Albion squad for the Sky Live clash with Reading after manager Gary Megson turned down Derby's request to extend his loan spell into a second month.
Dichio may be needed to provide cover for Lee Hughes, who has missed training during the week due to illness, although Megson will assess his condition on Saturday before naming his squad.
Reading defender John Mackie is hopeful of returning to the squad at the Hawthorns, after making his first appearance in a month for the reserves in midweek following a knee operation.
Royals boss Steve Coppell has admitted that striker Shaun Goater is doubtful for the trip to the West Midlands along with one other player, but is keeping his cards close to his chest over his selection policy for the match.
Should Goater miss out, Coppell has the option of handing a start to either Bas Savage, Nathan Tyson or Darius Henderson, although he is more likely to play Nicky Forster as a lone striker.
Wigan v Nottingham Forest
Wigan keeper John Filan is available for the meeting with Nottingham Forest after his red card in the 1-0 defeat at Reading was rescinded.
Jamie Lawrence is in the Latics squad after completing his loan move from Walsall that saw midfielder Tony Dinning move in the opposite direction.
Andy Reid, John Thompson and Stephen McPhail all returned from international duty with Republic of Ireland unscathed so Forest manager Paul Hart has an almost fully fit squad to choose from at the JJB Stadium.
Only defender Davy Oyen and striker David Johnson are long-term injury absentees for Forest, with Johnson insisting he is on target to return from his broken leg early in the New Year.
Wimbledon v Cardiff
The Dons are set to name 17-year-old goalkeeper David Martin among their substitutes against Cardiff to provide cover for Steve Banks, with Paul Heald injured and Lee Worgan suspended.
Winger Jobi McAnuff could return to the side after recovering from a bruised foot, but Alex Tapp, Darren Holloway, Michael Gordon and Malvin Kamara are all doubtful after suffering from flu during the week.
Cardiff look certain to be without their influential midfielder Graham Kavanagh after he picked up an ankle injury on his return to the international scene with Republic of Ireland after a four-year absence.
However, manager Lennie Lawrence is boosted by the return of both defender Rhys Weston and striker Peter Thorne after injury.
Preview: Wrexham v Wycombe
Wrexham boss Denis Smith has seen no fewer than nine of his first-team squad struck down by illness or injury ahead of the match with Wycombe.
Chris Llewellyn is suffering with a dead leg and there are also doubts surrounding the fitness of Paul Whitfield (stomach), Shaun Holmes (groin), Brian Carey (ankle) and Darren Ferguson (knee).
Midfielder Paul Barrett has a niggling knee problem while Lee Jones (calf), Stephen Thomas (hamstring) and Stephen Roberts (dead leg) are also under treatment.
Wycombe manager Tony Adams will add striker Gavin Holligan to his squad after he made a scoring return in the reserves following a knee injury.
Craig Faulconbridge is back after a cruciate knee ligament injury but will not be thrown back into the first team until he is ready.
Loan signing Guy Branston has returned to Rotherham so Ian Simpemba could take his place on the bench.
Mark Rogers is unlikely to return having played twice for Canada on international duty since Saturday.
Preview: Sheffield Wednesday v Luton Town
Sheffield Wednesday have added Paul McLaren (hernia) and Ola Tidman (broken hand) to their long-term injury list ahead of the visit of Luton.
Matt Hamshaw (knee) is out for the season, Terry Cooke has broken a bone in his foot, Paul Smith has a stress fracture of both his tibia and fibula and Craig Armstrong has a recurrence of a calf injury.
Kevin Pressman will continue in goal while Michael Reddy, Adam Proudlock and Lloyd Owusu are all vying for starting places up front.
Luton Town manager Mike Newell faces a defensive crisis as his side prepare for the trip to Yorkshire.
Already without long-term casualties David Bayliss and Russell Perrett, Newell could be missing up to four more defenders this weekend.
Captain Chris Coyne and Sol Davis are suspended while Alan Neilson (calf) and Kevin Foley (thigh) are also struggling.
Teenager Leon Barnett should feature again with Ian Hillier and Emmerson Boyce the only senior defenders available.
Preview: Rushden v Colchester
Rushden manager Brian Talbot will welcome back Onandi Lowe, Ritchie Hanlon (both groin) Andy Edwards (back) and Andy Burgess (knee) for the home game against Colchester.
David Bell is on international duty with the Republic of Ireland Under-20s, Billy Turley is sidelined with a knee problem while fellow shot-stopper Paul Evans is also out with a shoulder injury.
Meanwhile, Barry Hunter and Gary Mills are both unavailable as they serve one-match suspensions.
Colchester midfielder Kem Izzet (knee) remains a major doubt for the trip to Rushden.
However, Us boss Phil Parkinson has been handed a boost with the news goalkeeper Richard McKinney is in contention for the first time since August after recovering from a knee injury.
McKinney played through 90 minutes of the reserves' 3-2 defeat to Reading on Wednesday, and will push Simon Brown for a starting place who is expected to be fully fit after shaking off a minor back problem this week.
Preview: Scunthorpe United v Cambridge United
Scunthorpe will be without key trio Steve Torpey, Alex Calvo-Garcia and Nathan Stanton for the visit of Cambridge.
Striker Torpey serves the last of a three-match ban following his dismissal at York.
Spanish midfielder Calvo-Garcia will be sidelined for up to four months having undergone surgery to resolve a long-standing ankle problem.
And defender Stanton has targeted a Boxing Day return as he recovers from an operation to repair damaged knee cartilage. Kevin Sharp is available following a one-match ban.
Cambridge boss John Taylor welcomes back midfielder Justin Walker for the away day. Walker has been laid low with a virus but has been passed fit to play.
Meanwhile, Mark Venus (hamstring) and Alex Revell (groin) are still out while Dan Chillingworth is a week away from a return following a blow to his knee.
Two relegation battlers face off at the Stadio Del Conero and anything less than a win could plunge Brescia into dangerous waters.
Roberto Baggio’s side currently lies sixth from bottom and is just one point clear of the drop zone. In recent years the fans have become accustomed to Intertoto Cup places and mid-table safety, but new Coach Gianni De Biasi is struggling to give Brescia consistency. Above all their defence is a particular worry, having conceded 20 goals in just nine games.
The midfield is again shorn of the suspended Francelino Matuzalem, so Under-21 international Matteo Brighi steps in. Andrea Caracciolo has recovered from the muscular problem that kept him out of the Azzurrini’s European Championship play-offs this week.
Ancona are now desperate for points and this is a must-win game for them. Only Empoli have done worse so far this season, but Dario Hubner and Maurizio Ganz have not delivered the goals they promised in the summer. Esposito takes over in defence for the suspended William Viali, while Paolo Poggi could take a deeper midfield role.
Ancona (probable): Scarpi; Bilica, Esposito, Milanese; Berretta, Carrus, Poggi, Sommese, Baccin; Parente, Hubner
Brescia (probable) : Agliardi; Martinez, Petruzzi, Dainelli, Schopp; Di Biagio, Brighi, Bachini; Baggio, Caracciolo
Roma climbed into second place, but has the break for international duty dampened their momentum?
Several Giallorossi stars were used in Italy’s recent friendly outings, most notably debutant Antonio Cassano. The youngster is known for personality problems and could either be boosted by this experience or somewhat drained. Captain Francesco Totti also took part in the 1-0 win over Romania, but Damiano Tommasi will probably see his club spot taken by Under-21 star Daniele De Rossi.
Fabio Capello’s men are still unbeaten in Serie A this season and have kept an astonishing six consecutive clean sheets. Cristian Chivu is a major doubt for this game due to a shoulder injury, so Christian Panucci and Jonathan Zebina are ready to take charge. All eyes will also be on Alessandro Mancini following his stunning backheel strike in the Rome derby.
This is quite a task for Bologna, led by ex-Roma Coach and lifelong fan Carlo Mazzone. The veteran was rumoured to replace Capello in the summer following a row between tactician and club, but he opted for a return to the Stadio Dall’Ara instead.
Beppe Signori remains in doubt with a continuing ankle problem, so Fausto Rossini could be partnered by Claudio Bellucci. There is an injury crisis within the Rossoblu as Tomas Locatelli, Carlo Nervo, Marco Zanchi and Cristian Zaccardo are sidelined for several weeks.
Bologna (probable): Pagliuca; Troise, Natali, Juarez; Guly, Dalla Bona, Pecchia, Amoroso, Moretti; Rossini, Bellucci
Roma (probable) : Pelizzoli; Zebina, Samuel, Panucci; Mancini, De Rossi, Emerson, Dacourt, Lima; Totti, Cassano
Milan must shoot down the Flying Donkeys if they are to recover second place from on-form Roma and keep up with leaders Juve.
The Rossoneri have struggled in recent weeks as the packed fixture list of the Champions’ League and Serie A has begun to take its toll, picking up just two points from their last two games. Milan have never won at the Bentegodi, drawing 1-1 in 2001-02 and losing 3-2 last season.
An injury crisis has seen Kakha Kaladze, Serginho, Paolo Maldini and Martin Laursen ruled out, although the Dane should return for this match. Pippo Inzaghi is also back from the start following a thigh strain, while veteran Alessandro Costacurta steps in to central defence. Kaka’ should win the duel with Manuel Rui Costa to take that creative midfield role.
Curiously, Chievo have a far stronger record on their travels than at home this season. The Stadio Bentegodi has seen just one win, a draw and two defeats. Their disciplinary record has also been disappointing, as shown by the fact Lorenzo D’Anna and Francesco Semioli are suspended for this tie.
With Salvatore Lanna and impressive midfielder Mario Alberto Santana also a risk with injury, Coach Gigi Del Neri will have to reshuffle his squad. Luca Marchegiani returns from a ban to start in goal, while Marco Malagò and Under-21 international Andrea Barzagli are given a rare start. Sergio Pellissier retains his spot upfront following a crucial brace at Siena last week.
Chievo (probable): Marchegiani; Moro, Sala, Barzagli, Malagò; Franceschini, Perrotta, Baronio, De Franceschi; Pellissier, Amauri
Milan (probable): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Costacurta, Pancaro; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kaka’; Shevchenko, Inzaghi
Another home defeat would all but doom Empoli to the drop, but it won’t be easy to take points off high-flying Parma.
The Tuscans are firmly lodged at the foot of the table and show few signs of dragging themselves up again. With Antonio Di Natale not on particularly good form, there is precious little else to raise their game. New Coach Attilio Perotti has strung together a run of three consecutive defeats since taking over from Daniele Baldini, in which his side has scored just once.
Parma’s new system is working wonders and they are sitting pretty in fourth place. Sebastien Frey returns from injury to stand between the posts, but Daniele Bonera is suspended. Fellow Under-21 international Paolo Cannavaro steps in to take that defensive berth, while youngster Marco Donadel replaces Manuele Blasi.
This will be the Gialloblu’s second match since Adriano was ruled out until the New Year and Azzurrini star Alberto Gilardino hopes to make the most of this opportunity. Marcello Castellini and Marco Marchionni will also be boosted by their international debuts in the past week.
Empoli (probable): Bucci; Belleri, Lucchini, Pratali, Cupi; Busce, Grella, Zanetti, Rocchi; Gasparetto, Di Natale
Parma (probable): Frey; Cannavaro, Ferrari, Castellini, Junior; Barone, Donadel; Marchionni, Morfeo, Bresciano; Gilardino
Inter are unbeaten under new Coach Alberto Zaccheroni, but risk distraction from the Champions’ League.
The Nerazzurri face a crunch tie with Arsenal on Tuesday and will be tempted to rest several players for this encounter with struggling Reggina. The majority of the squad was kept busy on international duty this week and some big names – Francesco Toldo, Marco Materazzi and Andy van der Meyde – are in doubt to play because of injuries picked up around Europe. Alvaro Recoba is also battling an ankle problem, so youngster Obafemi Martins could be started alongside Christian Vieri.
Reggina have won just one match all season, but gathered enough hard-earned points to be clear of the relegation zone. The Amaranto have only lost one away encounter at Roma and will try to catch the Inter defence on the counter-attack with Davide Di Michele and Emiliano Bonazzoli. Japanese international Shunsuke Nakamura provides another creative option, but he may be left on the bench to begin with.
Inter (probable): Fontana; Cordoba, Cannavaro, Adani; J Zanetti, Lamouchi, C Zanetti, Coco; Kily Gonzalez, Vieri, Martins
Reggina (probable): Belardi; Jiranek, Sottil, Franceschini; Martinez, Baiocco, Paredes, Mozart, Falsini; Di Michele, Bonazzoli
Two teams at crisis point face off at the Stadio Olimpico and Roberto Mancini has a task even picking a starting eleven.
Lazio had the week from hell leading up to the break for international duty, losing 4-0 on home turf to Chelsea before succumbing to local rivals Roma in the derby. That result dropped them down to sixth place on level terms with Inter and the fans are beginning to lose patience with this once exhilarating squad.
Mancio is forced to contend with an injury crisis, as Cesar, Claudio Lopez, Roberto Muzzi, Angelo Peruzzi, Stefano Fiore, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Fabio Liverani are real doubts going into this match. Simone Inzaghi returned to the Azzurri squad last week and will be boosted by that show of confidence, while Bernardo Corradi has recovered from the muscular problem that forced him out of the same Italy games.
If Lazio have problems then Perugia are in a full-blown crisis situation. Without a single Serie A win all season, they have slid to third from bottom. For a side that is confident of progressing to the Third Round of the UEFA Cup that is a very poor run indeed.
Goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac is out of action for a fortnight after pulling a thigh muscle while taking a goal kick, so Michele Tardioli is handed the gloves. Jay Bothroyd’s form has dipped in recent weeks and he may be replaced by the lively Massimo Margiotta.
Lazio (probable): Sereni; Oddo, Stam, Couto, Favalli; Conceicao, Dabo, Giannichedda, Stankovic; Inzaghi, Corradi
Perugia (probable): Tardioli; Diamoutene, Di Loreto, Ignoffo; Ze Maria, Tedesco, Gatti, Obodo, Grosso; Vryzas, Margiotta
Lecce have the opportunity to beat a fellow Serie A new boy and clamber clear of the relegation zone.
Both these sides earned promotion from Serie B in the summer, but have had a very different campaign so far. The Southerners only left the bottom four with their 2-2 draw at Perugia and remain perilously close to the danger zone.
Uruguayan hitman Javier Ernesto Chevanton is key to their fortunes and has found his scoring boots again with a total tally of five goals. His fellow countryman Guillermo Giacomazzi remains sidelined following an emergency appendectomy, so Alessandro Piangerelli retains his midfield spot.
Sampdoria signing Cristiano Doni was just settling into his stride with two goals in as many games when he sprained his ankle. Japanese international Atsushi Yanagisawa could take over in that creative role behind front two Francesco Flachi and new Azzurri star Fabio Bazzani. The Blucerchiati are hoping to build on their two consecutive wins with a crucial result for the relegation dogfight.
Lecce (probable): Amelia; Siviglia, Silvestri, Stovini; Abruzzese, Cassetti, Ledesma, Piangerelli, Tonetto; Chevanton, Bojinov
Sampdoria (probable): Antonioli; Carrozzieri, Conte, Falcone, Bettarini; Diana, Donati, Volpi, Yanagisawa; Flachi, Bazzani
The leaders have the opportunity to break away from the chasing pack but face a tough task at on-form Modena.
The Bianconeri are unbeaten so far this season and have notched up five wins from their last six games. Alessandro Del Piero is still looking for form following two months on the sidelines with a torn calf muscle, but should nonetheless start.
Marco Di Vaio and David Trezeguet were both on target during their international friendlies as the battle for places hots up. Marcello Lippi’s side is already qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions’ League, so the squad rotation system will continue.
Modena have surprised most pundits with their start to the campaign and currently hold eighth place, level on points with Chievo. Alberto Malesani has given the Canarini a solid style that has brought three home wins and a single defeat here, at the hands of Udinese in Week 2.
Since that 1-0 result, no team has been able to put a goal past Marco Ballotta at the Stadio Braglia. All eyes will be on Diomansy Kamara, the Senegalese forward who is hotly tipped for a January move to Juventus, while Nicola Amoruso comes face to face with his former club.
Modena (probable): Ballotta; Pivotto, Cevoli, Ungari; Campedelli, Marasco, Milanetto, Balestri; Allegretti, Kamara; Amoruso
Juventus (probable): Buffon; Birindelli, Ferrara, Iuliano, Zambrotta; Camoranesi, Tacchinardi, Maresca, Nedved, Del Piero; Di Vaio
Just one point separates these two teams and a victory would propel them into the top half of the table.
Both sides fell to heavy defeats in Week 9, Siena unable to get the better of nine-man Chievo on home turf, while Udinese crumbled 4-1 at Juventus. The players will be wary of those mistakes and hope to be more clinical in front of goal this time around.
Martin Jorgensen was boosted by his weekend brace against England and will again provide support for the on form Dino Fava. Youngster Pazienza fills in the midfield role left bare by the suspended Giampiero Pinzi, but Chilean David Pizarro returns from a long-term thigh problem.
Udinese’s home form has been particularly poor so far in this campaign, with one win, a draw and two defeats. Considering they lost here just once through the whole of last season, that is a surprising statistic.
Siena have done very well since earning promotion in the summer for their first ever top flight experience. Enrico Chiesa has struggled to find the net, bagging three of his five goals during the same game, while Tore Andre Flo has taken his tally to two. Coach Giuseppe Papadopulo’s all-attack system has stuttered in recent weeks with one goal scored in two games, but it should be an open match at the Stadio Friuli.
Udinese (probable): De Sanctis; Bertotto, Sensini, Pierini; Manfredini, Pazienza, Pizarro, Jankulovski; Castroman, Jorgensen; Fava
Siena (probable): Rossi; Cufre’, Delli Carri, Mignani, Guigou; Taddei, D’Aversa, Ardito, Lazetic; Flo, Chiesa
Bundesliga matches, November 22-23
Fri 21 November, 2003 12:03
By Patrick Vignal
BERLIN, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich are a long way from having Germany at their feet but they at least want to rule their own town when the champions face city rivals TSV 1860 on Saturday.
The Olympic stadium will be packed for the highlight of the Bundesliga weekend, which Bayern must win to avoid losing ground on the frontrunners.
Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld's men, in fourth place and six points behind leaders VfB Stuttgart, have also been struggling in Europe and could do with a morale boost before visiting Celtic in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Bayern, who lie third in Group A with two games left, would be at risk of making an early exit from the showcase competition for the second year in a row if they failed to win in Glasgow.
Assistant coach Sepp Maier, the goalkeeper of Bayern's great side of the 1970s, has no doubts about the outcome of Saturday's derby.
"We're France, 1860 are Germany," he said, referring to France's 3-0 demolition of Germany in a friendly last Saturday.
Other matches this weekend (league positions in parentheses, kickoff times GMT):
Saturday, November 22 (1430)
VFL WOLFSBURG (7) v BORUSSIA MOENCHENGLADBACH (17) Wolfsburg playmaker Andres D'Alessandro is a doubtful starter after playing two internationals with Argentina. He was due to return to Germany only on Friday.
Moenchengladbach, who have lost their last three trips to Wolfsburg, conceding 11 goals, are hampered by a string of injuries.
- - - -
VFB STUTTGART (1) v HANOVER 96 (10) Leaders VfB Stuttgart, preparing for a Champions League game against Rangers, are undefeated after 12 league games but will miss central defenders Marcelo Bordon and Fernando Meira through injury and suspension respectively.
Hanover 96, who lost 3-0 in Stuttgart last season, have two players suspended in defender Steve Cherundolo and midfielder Nebosja Krupnikovic.
- - - -
WERDER BREMEN (3) v VFL BOCHUM (6) Werder Bremen have never lost at home to VfL Bochum and will be almost at full strength, missing only injured midfielder Viktor Skripnik.
Bochum will be without Iceland midfielder Bjarni Gudjonsson, who is nursing a calf injury.
- - - -
COLOGNE (18) v HAMBURG SV (12) Bottom club Cologne have been struggling since sacking coach Friedhelm Funkel and replacing him with former Switzerland midfielder Marcel Koller earlier this month.
Hamburg SV, who also have a new coach in Klaus Toppmoeller, have several players out injured, most notably Argentine striker Bernardo Romeo.
- - - -
BORUSSIA DORTMUND (5) v BAYER LEVERKUSEN (2) Borussia Dortmund are decimated with 12 players missing through injury or suspension.
Bayer Leverkusen have recovered swiftly from last season's nightmare run and are just one point off the lead.
- - - -
SCHALKE 04 (11) v HANSA ROSTOCK (15) Schalke 04 have failed to meet expectations so far and have two defenders suspended in Anibal Matellan and Tomasz Hajto.
Lowly Hansa Rostock are almost free of injury worries.
- - - -
Sunday, November 23 (1630)
KAISERSLAUTERN (13) v HERTHA BERLIN (14) Defender Hany Ramzy, midfielder Ciriaco Sforza and striker Vratislav Lokvenc are three of several Kaiserslautern players sidelined by injuries.
Fellow strugglers Hertha Berlin will be without suspended Brazilian playmaker Marcelinho.
- - - -
SC FREIBURG (9) v EINTRACHT FRANKFURT (16)
Both sides were in the second division last season and only Freiburg have so far suggested they had the potential to remain in the top flight.
Primera Liga matches, November 22-23
Fri 21 November, 2003 10:32
By Simon Baskett
MADRID, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Barcelona will be out to prove they are not just a one-man show when they visit Villarreal on Saturday (kickoff 2030 GMT) without injured Brazilian forward Ronaldinho.
The World Cup winner, who joined Barcelona from Paris St Germain in a deal worth up to $36 million in July, was in sparkling form before straining a thigh muscle two weeks ago.
The hugely talented 23-year-old has added a new dimension to the Barca attack and has weighed in with four classy goals that have helped propel the club to fourth position in the table.
But coach Frank Rijkaard believes his side can continue their good run without the Brazilian, who is expected to remain on the sidelines for at least another two weeks.
"Ronaldinho has shown that he is a very important player for us," says Rijkaard. "But I am not worried about his injury because we have been improving as a team and we have the ability to show we can win games without him."
Though Villarreal have lost some of their early season edge, they will be difficult opponents on Saturday and are likely to have several former Barca players in the starting line-up.
Argentine playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme has rediscovered his form after an unhappy season at Barca, while Brazilian striker Sonny Anderson could prove a handful for the Catalan defence on his return to the Nou Camp.
Other Primera Liga matches this weekend (league positions in brackets, kickoffs 1600 GMT unless stated):
REAL BETIS (13) v DEPORTIVO CORUNA (1) 1830
Slip ups by Real Madrid and Valencia allowed Depor to return to the top of the pile with a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad, but they will need to be on their guard against a Betis side who are anxious for a win after three defeats in a row.
Betis will be missing Brazilian winger Denilson and talented forward Tote, while Depor will bring in Uruguayan centre-forward Walter Pandiani to replace the injured Diego Tristan. - - - -
REAL SOCIEDAD (14) v REAL MALLORCA (17) 1830
Sociedad are struggling to reproduce the form that saw them run Real Madrid so close for the title last season and are sure to be pressed hard by an improving Mallorca who won 4-1 at home to Murcia two weeks ago. But the Basques will be comforted by the fact they have not lost at home for 20 months. - - - -
CELTA VIGO (16) v ATHLETIC BILBAO (8)
Champions League obligations have taken a heavy toll on Celta and with Russian playmaker Alexander Mostovoi arriving late from international duty this week and complaining of tiredness, preparations for this game have been far from ideal.
Athletic are well placed in the table, but are still looking for their first away win of the season. - - - -
ESPANYOL (20) v SEVILLA (10)
Having romped to a 4-1 home win over Real Madrid last time out, Sevilla face an Espanyol side who are now firmly under the control of new coach Luis Fernandez.
The Andalucians have not won away from home this season and will be without the abrasive Dario Silva, who was sent off against Real, while the bottom-placed Catalans are desperate to record their second win of the season. - - - -
MALAGA (9) v OSASUNA (6)
While their form has slipped a little in the last two games, Javier Aguirre's Osasuna are still flying high in the table. They will be tested, though, by a rejuvenated Malaga, who have won three out of their last four games thanks largely to the goals of former Valencia striker Salva Ballesta. - - - -
MURCIA (19) v VALENCIA (2) 2000
Valencia slipped to only their second defeat of the season against Racing Santander, but will be odds-on favourites to win this one. Murcia coach Joaquin Peiro may call on Argentine striker Juan Eduardo Esnaider as his side look for goals and a second win of the season. - - - -
RACING SANTANDER (7) v REAL ZARAGOZA (15)
With striker Rodolfo Bodipo leading the way, Racing have played some of the most exciting attacking football of the season and another entertaining match is in prospect against an improving Zaragoza who will have to make do without defensive rock Gabriel Milito. - - - -
REAL MADRID (3) v ALBACETE (18) 1800
Real have had two weeks to mull over their humiliating 4-1 defeat at Sevilla and although their preparations have been hampered by the absence of most of their squad on international duty, they are likely to take it out on lowly Albacete.
Michel Salgado is back after suspension, though fellow defender Roberto Carlos is still out injured. But with Ronaldo, who scored twice for Brazil in midweek, looking as sharp as ever, Real should have little trouble making it six wins out of six at the Bernabeu. - - - -
VALLADOLID (11) v ATLETICO MADRID (5)
Atletico visited the Vatican this week as part of their centenary celebrations and will no doubt be hoping that the Papal blessing will help guide them to their sixth straight win.
The versatile Diego Simeone should be fit again for Atletico, while striker Fernando Torres will be looking to continue his fine run of form after seven goals in five games. - - -
(Ananova, Channel 4, Reuters ja Sky-sport)
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