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AC Milan face tricky Reggina trip

Simon Evans

MILAN, March 14 (Reuters) - AC Milan face a tricky trip to battling Reggina on Saturday as they bid to get their fading Serie A title bid back on track.

Milan's draw with Chievo Verona last week, their third in a row at the San Siro, has left them six points behind leaders Juventus and Carlo Ancelotti's side can ill-afford another setback.

Champions Juventus have a relatively straightforward home game against Modena on Saturday while on Sunday second-placed Inter Milan host lowly Como.

Reggina may be locked in the relegation dogfight but they have won their last five home games while Milan's away form has been disappointing with just five wins on the road.

Such was Ancelotti's concern over the threat posed by revitalised Reggina that he left out several key players for Wednesday's Champions League game at Real Madrid which they lost 3-1 having already qualified for the quarter-finals.

Ancelotti has tried a number of different tactics in recent weeks as they try to rediscover their impressive form.

His main dilemma is whether to operate with Andriy Shevchenko and Filippo Inzaghi as an attacking pair or to sacrifice one of his forwards to allow Brazilian Rivaldo and Portugal's Rui Costa to operate behind a lone striker.

But Reggina's Czech defender Martin Jiranek says the formation will count for little in Saturday's game.

'Whichever way they play Milan are a squad to be feared, whether it is with one forward or two it changes little - they simply have so many world class players,' said the Czech Republic international.

'The only way to cope against a team like this is to go on the field with the kind of determination we have become noted for at the Granillo stadium.'

Milan are without Georgian left-back Kakha Kaladze while midfielder Massimo Ambrosini is also doubtful.

BOLOGNA (9) v UDINESE (7) Udinese's unbeaten home record was ended with defeat by Juventus last week while Bologna were unlucky to suffer a home loss to Inter Milan. Both teams have their sights on a place in the UEFA Cup qualification slots and Udinese welcome back midfielder David Pizarro and striker Vincenzo Iaquinta from suspension.

BRESCIA (11) v TORINO (18) Last week's victory over Reggina has boosted Torino's slim hopes of getting out of the bottom four but they need to build up a run of results if they are to survive. Despite a run of 12 games without defeat Brescia are still only four points off the relegation zone themselves - eight of those matches have ended in draws and coach Carlo Mazzone will expect three points from his side.

CHIEVO (5) v PARMA (6) Chievo's battling draw against Milan last week moves them within a point of fourth-placed Lazio and the prize of a first ever place in the Champions League now looks a realistic goal. Parma are not out of the running for that lucrative fourth spot themselves and this game will provide a strong guide as to whether they have enough consistency to make a real push.

INTER MILAN (2) v COMO (16) Injury-hit Inter will have half an eye on next week's crucial Champions League encounter with Bayer Leverkusen but they cannot afford to take things too easy against improving Como. Four points from their last two games have given Como a glimmer of hope in what seemed to be a certain slip into Serie B but Inter will be able to call on Alvaro Recoba and Christian Vieri who are both suspended in Europe.

JUVENTUS (1) v MODENA (13) Nine wins from their last 10 games have given Juve a three-point lead at the top of the table and they will be confident of maintaining that advantage despite Modena being unbeaten in their last give games. Defender Emiliano Moretti, loaned to Modena from Juve, is expected to line up against his former team mates, while Lippi may give a start to Croat Igor Tudor - scorer of the late winner against Deportivo Coruna in the Champions League on Wednesday.

LAZIO (4) v EMPOLI (12) Just three wins at home this season for Lazio and with their unbeaten away form stuck in a series of draws Roberto Mancini's side need to start winning if they are not to lose their grip on their Champions League qualification slot. Empoli are not clear of trouble yet despite last week's enterprising 3-1 win over Piacenza.

PERUGIA (10) v AS ROMA (8) Perugia have claimed some impressive scalps at their Renato Curi stadium with Milan, Inter and Chievo all having lost to Serse Cosmi's unpredictable side. Roma will have taken some heart from hard-earned draws against Lazio and Arsenal in the past week but coach Fabio Capello has a number of players fighting to be fit.

PIACENZA (17) v ATALANTA (14) Atalanta are in the unusual position of being unbeaten in 11 games but are still in the relegation zone and this is a game they must win if they are to move away from trouble. Piacenza have yet to show any sign of a revival - their only hope is a return to form for their experienced striker Dario Hubner - joint top scorer in Serie A last season but with just seven goals this term.


High Energie basement battle

Patrick Vignal

BERLIN, March 14 (Reuters) - Four-times German champions Kaiserslautern continue their bid to avoid being relegated for only the second time in Bundesliga history when they visit bottom club Energie Cottbus on Saturday.

Kaiserslautern, who need to remain in the top flight to be granted the licence required to play professional football in Germany, have suggested they could lift themselves out of danger by going eight competitive matches without defeat.

'This is really a decisive game,' said Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who appears to be recapturing his best form after a frustrating spell.

'But I'm convinced we will win. All we have to do is keep on playing like we have been lately.'

The southwesterners moved off the bottom of the standings up to 16th in the 18-strong table with a 5-0 demolition of fellow strugglers Nuremberg last week.

Kaiserslautern, who have qualified for the German Cup final, are over 30 million euros (£20million) in debt and have had to sell their stadium.

If they were relegated, Kaiserslautern would not have the income to get a licence, which is only granted only to clubs who can prove their financial situation is healthy.

Without it they would only be eligible to play in the amateur regional league - the equivalent of the third division.

BAYER LEVERKUSEN (15) v VFL WOLFSBURG (9) Leverkusen are just one spot above the relegation zone and are without three valued defenders. Lucio and Jens Nowotny are both injured while Diego Placente is suspended. Wolfsburg, who beat Cottbus 3-2 last weekend in new coach Juergen Roeber's first game in charge, will be without midfielder Stefan Effenberg. The former Bayern Munich captain has as calf injury.

VFL BOCHUM (10) v BAYERN MUNICH (1) Bayern love to go to Bochum, where they have not lost in 12 matches. The runaway leaders will be without playmaker Michael Ballack, who is sidelined with an ankle injury and should be replaced by England's Owen Hargreaves. Midfielder Sunday Oliseh is out injured for the home side while playmaker Dariusz Wosz is a doubtful starter because of a sore knee.

HANSA ROSTOCK (12) v WERDER BREMEN (5) Lowly Rostock miss a string of players through injuries, among them midfielder Rene Rydlewicz, but they welcome back midfielder Marcus Lantz from suspension. Werder Bremen, who bounced back after five straight defeats to beat VfL Bochum 2-0 last weekend, will be without Germany defender Frank Baumann, who has a thigh injury.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND (2) v HANOVER 96 (11) Dortmund hope Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky will return from injury for their last warm-up before their decisive Champions League match away to AC Milan next week. Hanover 96, who have been moving up the table with strong performances, have no major injury worries.

ARMINIA BIELEFELD (13) v BORUSSIA MOENCHENGLADBACH (14) Bielefeld will miss injured striker Ilija Aracic for this important clash between two strugglers. Moenchengladbach, who beat champions Dortmund 1-0 last weekend in their first match under new coach Ewald Lienen, have a problem in attack with strikers Peter van Houdt and Joris van Hout both out injured.

HAMBURG SV (6) v SCHALKE 04 (4) Czech defender Milan Fukal is suspended for Hamburg SV, who have not lost at home to Schalke for over 10 years. Schalke have two players suspended - defender Tomasz Hajto and striker Victor Agali.

NUREMBERG (17) v HERTHA BERLIN (7) Nuremberg coach Klaus Augenthaler remained in the job despite a 5-0 defeat by Kaiserslautern last weekend, but his future is still in doubt. Hertha, on a high after their 6-0 demolition of TSV 1860, are almost at full strength.

TSV 1860 MUNICH (8) v VFB STUTTGART (3) TSV 1860 sacked coach Peter Pacult after their embarrassing defeat by Hertha, replacing him with Falko Goeltz. Midfielder Silvio Meissner is suspended for VfB Stuttgart, who are chasing a Champions League berth.


Depor focused on title challenge

Kevin Fylan

MADRID, March 14 (Reuters) - Deportivo Coruna believe they can turn this week's Champions League exit to their advantage by concentrating all their efforts on the domestic title race, starting with Saturday's home clash with Rayo Vallecano.

Deportivo, who clinched the league title for the first time in 2000, have won their last four matches to climb up to third place in the table, just three points behind leaders Real Madrid with 13 games left to play.

Real Sociedad, in second spot, a point behind the leaders, and fourth-placed Valencia, five points off the pace after an indifferent run, are the other sides still in the title race.

Deportivo have arguably the strongest squad of all the challengers, though, and without Europe to distract them they look best placed to challenge Real Madrid for the title.

Coach Javier Irureta will therefore hope to see a real statement of intent on Saturday, when his side take on 19th-placed Rayo in their first game since a last-gasp 3-2 defeat away to Juventus sealed their Champions League fate.

'We have to think positively and focus on the league now,' Irureta said ahead of the Rayo game.

'The fact that Real Madrid and Valencia are still in Europe and will have to split their efforts in two competitions could work in our favour.'

Depor have three players suspended - centre back Cesar and midfielders Aldo Duscher and Victor - while Donato is still recovering from a knee injury.

Irureta will still feel confident of racking up a fifth successive league win, however, against lowly Rayo.

RACING SANTANDER (15) v REAL SOCIEDAD (2) Racing, beaten by Deportivo and Real Madrid in the last two weeks, could slip back into relegation trouble if they suffer another setback against Real Sociedad. The title challenging Basques got their act back together last week with a 3-1 win at home to Alaves and another win here would could take them back top if Real Madrid fail to beat Villarreal. Coach Raynald Denoueix has one major injury doubt over winger Javi de Pedro.

VILLARREAL (12) v REAL MADRID (1) Real Madrid need a fourth successive league win to safeguard their slim lead at the top of the table. Coach Vicente del Bosque could decide to make a couple of changes in his starting line-up with a crucial Champions League clash away to Lokomotiv Moscow in store for Tuesday. Ronaldo, nursing a slight thigh muscle injury, may be one candidate for a rest.

ALAVES (17) v BARCELONA (9) Alaves have conceded 14 goals in their last three league games and they will need a drastic improvement against Barcelona, who beat them 6-1 at the Nou Camp earlier in the season. The Catalans, who made certain of their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a straightforward victory over Bayer Leverkusen midweek, could have Carles Puyol back from injury to boost their defence.

ATHLETIC BILBAO (14) v VALENCIA (4) Valencia have slipped five points behind league leaders Real after a couple of poor results and the defending champions can hardly afford another setback here. They may struggle to stay focused, however, with a decisive Champions League match at home to Arsenal to come on Wednesday.

ATLETICO MADRID (6) v CELTA VIGO (5) Atletico will welcome back Fernando Torres after the young striker missed last week's valuable victory away to Valencia. Celta, who suffered an equally surprising 1-0 defeat at Rayo Vallecano last weekend, have an injury doubt over forward Jesuli but Argentine defender Eduardo Berizzo could be ready to return to the defence.

ESPANYOL (18) v MALAGA (10) Espanyol keeper Toni is recovering from a bout of 'flu and remains doubtful for the Catalans, who could climb out of the relegation zone with victory over a Malaga side likely to be feeling the effects of Thursday's 1-0 UEFA Cup win over Boavista.

OSASUNA (16) v REAL MALLORCA (13) Osasuna are heading back towards relegation trouble after taking just a point from three games since their excellent win over Real Madrid. Mallorca haven't been much better of late but the islanders celebrated landing a place in the King's Cup final with a promising league victory at home to Real Betis last weekend and another good result here could take them back into the top half of the table.

REAL BETIS (7) v RECREATIVO HUELVA (20) Betis have lost three on the spin and are in danger of dropping out of the European qualification places. In theory this should be a simple task against the league's basement side but Betis have failed to beat Recre in three attempts in league and cup so far this season and they will be taking nothing for granted.

VALLADOLID (11) v SEVILLA (8) Sevilla are pushing hard for a UEFA Cup place after a run of three successive victories and coach Joaquin Caparros should stick with Antonito up front in place of Mariano Toedtli after his strong performance in last weekend's success over Osasuna. Valladolid did well to hold Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp last weekend and Pepe More is not expected to make changes.


Martigues playing PSG for pride in Cup

Jean-Francois Rosnoblet

MARTIGUES, France, March 14 (Reuters) - Third division Martigues will be playing for the pride of Provence when they host first division Paris St Germain in the quarter-finals of the French Cup on Saturday.

Martigues is a seaside town located about 20 kilometres west of Marseille and the club say they are keen to avenge PSG's impressive 3-0 league victory over Olympique Marseille at the Stade Velodrome last week.

'The victory of the PSG at Marseille was like a cold shower on our region,' said Martigues coach Roland Gransart. 'Marseille made the mistake of playing the game inside their heads before coming on to the pitch.

'We must avoid the same trap. We have nothing to lose and everything to win. We will not let ourselves be disturbed by the atmosphere around this match.'

PSG are banking on the French Cup to secure a berth in European club competition as it's now unlikely they will finish in the top three of the league and win a place in the Champions League.

The ambitious Parisian club are sixth in the league and trail leaders Monaco by seven points with eight matches remaining.

Coach Luis Fernandez has announced that he will be off in June, but promised to do everything he in his power to help the club land some silverware.

At Marseille, the Parisians - inspired by a brilliant performance from Ronaldinho - enjoyed their best outing of the year and outclassed their arch-rivals from the start.

'It was 15 years since Paris had won in Marseille,' said Gransart, a former Marseille player. 'We are the last club from the south still in contention.

'The Cup is always kind for the small clubs like ours. If she wants to smile on us we will more than happy to carry on a little bit.'


Holders Lorient, who were relegated from the top flight last year, face a tough match at resurgent Girondins Bordeaux, who handed Monaco their first defeat in 13 outings last week to move up to fourth in the first division.

The match will give the Brittany side the opportunity to avenge Bordeaux's 3-0 victory in the French League Cup final last year.

'We can go the whole way. But we must take it step by step,' said Bordeaux striker Jean-Claude Darcheville, who joined Girondins from Lorient this season.

'I know most of the players. And it's going to be fun to face them. But there will be no room for sympathy.'

Fifth division amateurs Schiltigheim will be looking to continue their fairytale run with another upset when they host struggling first division club Stade Rennes at Strasbourg, the nearest city to their village.

'We still have the same motivation and the same will,' said coach Jose Guerra. 'We are not going to change anything. We are going to play this match like any other.'

Schiltigheim have beaten top-flight Troyes and second-division Beauvais and Toulouse on their journey to the last eight.

Sunday's final quarter-final sees third division Angouleme take on AJ Auxerre, who are eighth in the top flight.


Premiership Team News

Aston Villa v Manchester United

We say: Away win

Bet 365 odds - Home: 4.50 Draw: 3.40 Away: 1.67

William Hill odds - Home: 4.20 Draw: 3.25 Away: 1.72

Manager Graham Taylor is set to keep faith with striker Dion Dublin and midfielder Joey Gudjonsson. Taylor has made it clear he was far from happy with the nature of their sending-offs - Dublin for a head-butt and Gudjonsson for a two-footed tackle - in the derby defeat by Birmingham. The Villa chief must also decide whether to give a first home outing to Alpay after he asked to be given a second chance with Villa. Alpay was booed by Villa fans when he figured at Charlton and was left out of the derby clash. Mark Delaney, Steve Staunton, Ian Taylor and Juan Pablo Angel - recuperating after a knee operation in his native Colombia - are all again ruled out.

Nicky Butt and Mikael Silvestre have been given the all-clear. Butt suffered an ankle knock in the latter stages of Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Basle but has been cleared to play, while Silvestre returns at left-back to what should be a more recognisable United side. David Beckham, Fabien Barthez, Paul Scholes, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ryan Giggs are all set for starting berths but Roy Keane (hamstring) and Juan Sebastian Veron (knee) continue to miss out. There is unlikely to be room for promising youngster Darren Fletcher, whose midweek debut earned rave reviews from the United staff.

Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal

We say: Away win

Bet 365 odds - Home: 4.00 Draw: 3.25 Away: 1.80

William Hill odds - Home: 3.75 Draw: 3.30 Away: 1.80

David Dunn's hamstring problem will keep him out but Damien Duff will return after six weeks out with the same injury. David Thompson also misses the match after a knee operation while Lucas Neill is suspended. Strikers Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Hakan Sukur will be vying for two places up front.

David Seaman's 1,000th senior appearance must be delayed after a hamstring injury puts him out along with skipper Patrick Vieira and centre-back Sol Campbell. Stuart Taylor will take over from Seaman and Ray Parlour and Pascal Cygan replace Vieira and Campbell. Martin Keown is the likely stand-in captain but full-backs Oleg Luzhny (calf) and Ashley Cole (hernia) are still out.

Charlton Athletic v Newcastle United

We say: Away win

Bet 365 odds - Home: 2.62 Draw: 3.20 Away: 2.38

William Hill odds - Home: 2.62 Draw: 3.10 Away: 2.37

Richard Rufus has recovered from a leg injury but may have to settle for a place on the bench. Charlton boss Alan Curbishley said: 'He's been training all week but he's been out a month and may not have done enough.' Striker Kevin Lisbie, who has been suffering from flu this week, is expected to be fit.

Kieron Dyer travelled with the Newcastle squad after a scan on his problem hamstring showed nothing sinister. But French winger Laurent Robert, who scored the winner when the two sides met at St James' Park in October, misses the game after aggravating an ankle injury in Tuesday's 2-2 draw with Inter Milan in the Champions League. Jonathan Woodgate, who is not eligible to play for Bobby Robson's side in then Champions League, returns to tomorrow's starting line-up.

Everton v West Ham United

We say: Home win

Bet 365 odds - Home: 1.73 Draw: 3.25 Away: 4.33

William Hill odds - Home: 1.66 Draw: 3.30 Away: 4.50

Manager David Moyes looks set to field an unchanged side at Goodison Park. Moyes is celebrating a year in charge and the club is on course for a place in Europe. Striker Duncan Ferguson played a full game for the reserves in midweek after a back injury and could be on the bench. Midfielder Tobias Linderoth is again ruled out with a hamstring problem.

Jermain Defoe and Glen Johnson have recovered from gastritis and are in the West Ham squad. Steve Lomas is fit again after a knee injury and Don Hutchison will also travel if his knee problem suffers no reaction to training. Lee Bowyer and Freddie Kanoute are suspended, Paolo di Canio is still training in Italy, and Nigel Winterburn is rested as he recovers from a wrist operation.

Fulham v Southampton

We say: Away win

Bet 365 odds - Home: 2.20 Draw: 3.25 Away: 2.80

William Hill odds - Home: 2.00 Draw: 3.20 Away: 3.20

Fulham's goalkeeper crisis means Martin Herrera will be thrown in for his full debut. Argentinian Herrera, 32, has played just 51 minutes of first-team football for Fulham - and the substitute goalkeeper tomorrow, 22-year-old Glyn Thompson, has just been recalled from loan at Second Division relegation-battlers Northampton. Midfielder Sean Davis starts a three-game suspension tomorrow. Winger Luis Boa Morte is out after sustaining an ankle injury in training yesterday, although injury-plagued midfielder Lee Clark is available after recovering from his latest calf problem. More good news for Jean Tigana is that striker Steve Marlet (knee) and centre-back Alain Goma (hamstring) are both expected to return.

England Under-21 captain David Prutton is expected to earn an immediate recall. Prutton missed last weekend's FA Cup 2-0 win against Wolves as he was cup-tied but he is poised to return with Swedish midfielder Anders Svensson still struggling to overcome an ankle injury. Defender Paul Telfer is fit again after a hamstring strain but midfielder Rory Delap (knee) is out for a further three weeks while strikers Marian Pahars (ankle) and Agustin Delgado (back) are long-term absentees.

Leeds United v Middlesbrough

We say: Away win

Bet 365 odds - Home: 2.20 Draw: 3.25 Away: 2.80

William Hill odds - Home: 2.25 Draw: 3.30 Away: 2.62

Seth Johnson is out and will be missing for the rest of the season as he requires immediate knee surgery. Manager Terry Venables is also without hamstring injury trio Dominic Matteo, Gary Kelly and Michael Duberry. However, with Jason Wilcox fit following a bout of flu, the winger should return to the left side of midfield, with Raul Bravo dropping to left-back, pushing Ian Harte to the bench. Eirik Bakke and Nick Barmby are also in contention for midfield places after their recent recovery from injuries, while Harry Kewell should play despite a recurrence of a back injury during the FA Cup sixth-round defeat at Sheffield United on Sunday.

Full-back Franck Queudrue misses the trip after the former Lens player failed to recover from a knee injury. Veteran Colin Cooper and teenager David Murphy compete to replace Queudrue, who suffered the injury in the derby victory over Newcastle. Brazilian midfielder Juninho (ankle) faces a late fitness test although Michael Ricketts (virus) is more doubtful as Boro look to extend an unbeaten four-match run.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers

We say: Draw

Bet 365 odds - Home: 2.30 Draw: 3.20 Away: 2.70

William Hill odds - Home: 2.25 Draw: 3.20 Away: 2.75

New Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy is facing a triple injury blow. Midfielders Kevin Kilbane and Jason McAteer are both doubts with illness and a hamstring problem respectively, while defender Jody Craddock picked up a thigh problem in training yesterday. England international Gavin McCann starts a two-match suspension after reaching 10 bookings for the season, while Emerson Thome and Claudio Reyna remain on the casualty list with knee problems.

Striker Henrik Pedersen could make a surprise return after a shoulder injury. Pedersen was not expected to return until the Tottenham match on Monday week but has made a quick recovery. Defender Simon Charlton is expected to play even though he has not trained all week because of a knee problem.
Sunday's matches

Manchester City v Birmingham City

We say: Home win

Bet 365 odds - Home: 1.80 Draw: 3.25 Away: 4.00

William Hill odds - Home: 1.83 Draw: 3.30 Away: 3.60

Peter Schmeichel is set to return from a six-match absence. The veteran Manchester City goalkeeper has been plagued by a calf injury which has cast doubt over whether he will accept a new one-year contract in the summer and extend his career. Eyal Berkovic (groin) is not likely to be involved, while Danny Tiatto has been ruled out as City try to establish the cause of the Australian's recent series of niggling injuries. Manager Kevin Keegan could have £5million striker Jon Macken available but the former Preston man can expect a place on the bench at best. Steve Howey is also hoping for a recall after being ditched for the recent trip to Blackburn, where a 1-0 defeat extended a recent unhappy run of just four points from six games.

New goalkeeper Andy Marriott, signed from Barnsley for a nominal fee, is likely to be on the bench with Ian Bennett given the number one jersey in place of knee ligament injury victim Nico Vaesen. Bennett will be looking to atone for his horror show in his last performance when he was to blame for two goals in a 4-2 defeat at Bolton last month. Blues boss Steve Bruce is unlikely to make many other changes from the side which won 2-0 at Aston Villa. Midfielder Robbie Savage will again be walking a disciplinary tightrope as he is only one booking away from having to serve a two-match ban for 10 yellow cards.

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool

We say: Away win

Bet 365 odds - Home: 2.50 Draw: 3.20 Away: 2.50

William Hill odds - Home: 2.40 Draw: 3.10 Away: 2.60

Tottenham are hoping to have Robbie Keane back after the Republic of Ireland striker missed the last two matches with a knee injury but is close to full fitness again. Gustavo Poyet will also be back in the squad after missing the defeat at West Ham with an ankle injury.

Emile Heskey, surprise starter at Celtic and then goal hero, will need to have his troublesome hamstring injury assessed. manager Gerard Houllier must also decide whether El-Hadji Diouf stays in the side after the spitting incident at Parkhead. Djimi Traore will continue in central defence as injured Stephane Henchoz's replacement. With the second leg next Thursday, Houllier must also decide whether to shuffle his pack at Spurs or continue to field his strongest side in a bid to ensure Champions League qualification.

West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea

We say: Away win

Bet 365 odds - Home: 4.33 Draw: 3.25 Away: 1.73

William Hill odds - Home: 4.00 Draw: 3.40 Away: 1.72

Striker Jason Roberts returns from serving a three-match suspension after being sent off for violent conduct in the 2-1 win at Manchester City. Midfielder Andy Johnson has still not recovered from the broken toe sustained shortly before he scored the equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Bolton. Defenders Igor Balis and Des Lyttle are also included in the squad as Albionstrive for their first home league win since the end of November.

Marcel Desailly, Graeme Le Saux and Mario Stanic are all in line for a recall after missing last week's 2-2 FA Cup quarter-final draw with Arsenal at Highbury. Desailly (hip) and Le Saux (groin) are all back in full training, along with goalkeeper Ed de Goey who could reclaim his place on the bench, while Stanic is available again after a one-match suspension. Boss Claudio Ranieri will not finalise his side until after training.

Brighton v Nottm Forest: Preview


Defender Robbie Pethick and striker Gary Hart return to the Brighton squad for the home game against Nottingham Forest.

Pethick has missed the last five matches with a back injury during which the Seagulls have won three times with Ivar Ingimarsson in central defence.

Hart is available again after completing a four-match suspension and both he and Pethick safely came through a reserve match against Portsmouth in midweek.

Hart was displaying his best form before the ban and manager Steve Coppell must decide whether to recall him in place of the on-loan Tony Rougier or Paul Brooker.

Rougier has partnered Bobby Zamora in the last three games after coming off the bench to score on his debut against Millwall.

Nottingham Forest are ready to send out a three-pronged strike force.

The First Division's leading scorer David Johnson returned as a substitute in the 2-2 draw with Grimsby on Monday after minor knee surgery.

And now the 24-goal striker is ready to link up with Marlon Harewood and loan-signing Darren Huckerby in the quest for goals.

Manager Paul Hart said: "I was considering playing all three when Darren arrived but with David out injured we have not had the chance to work on things in training. But it is stating the obvious to say that there is a lot of goalscoring potential between the three of them.

"We were delighted to have David back so early. He has been positive and was determined to return as quickly as possible."

Should Johnson start, Hart must decide whether to drop a midfielder from the line-up.

Derby v Bradford: Preview


Derby winger Lee Morris is battling to regain fitness in time to face fellow Division One strugglers Bradford at Pride Park.

The 22-year-old, back from a one-game suspension, was initially believed to have fallen victim to a hamstring strain but Rams physiotherapist Stuart Walker has traced the problem to the player's back.

Morris will be subject to a late fitness test, while midfielder Giorgi Kinkladze will also undergo a late assessment on a niggling back problem of his own.

Meanwhile, scans have revealed central defender Lewis Hunt sustained no serious damage when picking up an injury to his eye socket during a reserve-team outing at Leicester.

A dazed Hunt was substituted 20 minutes into Tuesday's 3-1 win at the Walkers Stadium, with the 20-year-old later pessimistic about the chances of making manager John Gregory's weekend squad.

But if the swelling around Hunt's eye recedes, he could be in line for a first-team recall.

Bradford midfielder Jamie Lawrence returns to contention for the Bantams after a one-match suspension.

However, manager Nicky Law will be without defenders Wayne Jacobs and Robert Molenaar.

Jacobs remains out of action with a hamstring problem sustained in the defeat to Walsall, while Molenaar could be sidelined for two months with a calf injury.

The Bantams suffered no major new injuries in last weekend's home win over Crystal Palace and, aside from the possible inclusion of Lawrence, Law is expected to field a similar side at Pride Park.

Gillingham v Rotherham: Preview


Defender Barry Ashby has been ruled out of Gillingham's home game against Rotherham after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring problem.

Ashby was rated 50-50 to face Wimbledon in midweek, proved his fitness, but lasted just 24 minutes before aggravating the injury.

Roland Edge is also doubtful with a sore thigh sustained against the Dons, but Nayron Nosworthy returns after serving a one-match ban.

Player-boss Andy Hessenthaler added: "There's a touch of flu going round at the moment.

"Tommy Johnson and Vince Bartram missed the game on Tuesday with it, and Jason Brown's struggling now, but hopefully they will be available."

Gareth Farrelly could miss out on his Rotherham debut after injuring his foot in training.

Farrelly arrived at Millmoor on a loan deal from Bolton this week but is doubtful to face Andy Hessenthaler's side.

Youngster Will Hoskins could win a place on the substitutes' bench as a crippling injury crisis sweeps across Millmoor.

The 16-year-old has netted 16 goals for the juniors this season and also been on target five times for the reserves, including a hat-trick.

Andy Monkhouse (knee), Rob Scott (shoulder), Darren Garner (ankle) and Marvin Bryan (calf) are all out with injury, forcing boss Ronnie Moore to look to Hoskins.

Chris Swailes and Darren Byfield will also miss out as they serve one-match suspensions.

Grimsby v Watford: Preview


Grimsby Town have a worry over on-loan Portsmouth midfielder Richard Hughes ahead of the clash with Watford at Blundell Park.

Hughes - impressive since arriving from Fratton Park - has strained ligaments in a knee and has not trained in the latter half of the week.

Michael Boulding is still out with an ankle injury and has seen a specialist this week to determine the extent of the problem.

Ray Lewington's FA Cup semi-finalists will come back down to earth with a bump.

The Watford boss gave his players two days off after their 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday, and he admits it will be difficult to focus minds on the play-off race at Blundell Park.

He said: "We gave them two days off to let it all sink in but the talk hasn't died down and I don't think we will be able to forget it because it's an incredible avhievement.

"I hope it will be easier when we get to the ground and it puts it all into perspective. We feel we still have an outside chance of making the play-offs."

Midfielder Allan Nielsen missed Sunday's quarter-final with a calf injury and will not make the trip north.

But defender Sean Dyche is fit despite suffering facial injuries after receiving an elbow in a reserve game this week.

Norwich v Coventry: Preview


Striker David Healy goes straight into the Norwich squad for the home clash with Coventry after re-signing on loan from Preston until the end of the season.

Healy impressed during a month-long spell at Carrow Road recently in which he scored once in five appearances.

Defender Darren Kenton is also available after sitting out the Canaries' midweek defeat at Portsmouth through suspension.

Midfielder Neil Emblen came on for the last three minutes of the 3-2 loss after shaking off an ankle problem, and he will hope for a longer run-out against the Sky Blues.

Coventry player-manager Gary McAllister is a shock inclusion in the Sky Blues squad.

The Highfield Road chief was stretchered off during last weekend's 2-2 home draw with Wimbledon, with ankle ligament damage expected to have put paid to his season if not the veteran midfielder's career.

Youssef Chippo, who limped out of the Dons clash after sustaining knee ligament damage, has also been included in the squad alongside fellow Moroccan Youssef Safri who has recovered from a hernia operation.

David Pipe has overcome severe bruising to the foot and will make the trip but Dean Gordon is unlikely to feature while Mo Konjic's broken hand has consigned the defender to a three-week spell on the sidelines.

Pompey-Wolves Preview


Midfielder Nigel Quashie is suspended for Portsmouth's clash with in-form Wolves at Fratton Park.

Quashie passed the 10-booking mark at Millwall and now serves a two-game ban, although he suffered a knee injury during Pompey's 3-2 win against Norwich in midweek and would have been struggling for fitness.

Kevin Harper came off at half-time against the Canaries to be replaced by Gary O'Neil.

Pacy winger Harper, who had been doubtful going into the game, suffered what was thought to be a recurrence of a niggling calf strain.

Wolves will welcome back captain Paul Ince from a two-game suspension.

The combative midfielder was ruled out of Wolves' FA Cup quarter-final exit at Southampton on Sunday, as well as Wednesday's 1-0 victory at Reading.

After completing his suspension and recovering from a gashed knee, 35-year-old Ince is expected to return alongside Alex Rae who is performing well in the absence of broken-leg victim Keith Andrews.

George Ndah continues to be ruled out by a hamstring and fellow frontman Nathan Blake played through the discomfort of a back injury to feature at the Madejski Stadium and is tipped to feature at Fratton Park too.

Midfielder Colin Cameron should feature despite carrying a knee problem.

Reading v Crystal Palace: Preview


Reading manager Alan Pardew is unlikely to make any panic moves after losing to Wolves and the starting line-up against Crystal Palace could be unchanged.

Skipper Adie Williams is still ruled out with a knee ligament injury and has targeted Tuesday's visit to Ipswich for his comeback.

John Mackie - who will deputise for Williams at the Madejski Stadium - plays his last game before serving a three-match suspension.

Pardew may be tempted to give John Salako a start against his old club at the expense of Nathan Tyson.

Luke Chadwick plays in his last home game before briefly returning to Manchester United.

Chadwick then rejoins Reading on loan on transfer deadline day, which would enable him to appear in the play-off semi-finals - but not the final itself.

Kit Symons is back in contention for Crystal Palace after recovering from a hamstring injury which had been complicated by a back problem.

The Eagles defender missed Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Ipswich but is back in training.

Striker Dele Adebola is ruled out with a groin injury but Dougie Freedman is pushing to start after scoring twice for the reserves.

Finnish international midfielder Aki Riihilahti misses out with a thigh injury but will resume full training next week.

Full-back Jamie Smith came through his first run-out this season in the reserves but will not be added to the squad.

Sheff Wed v Ipswich: Preview


Sheffield Wednesday will be without on-loan winger Allan Johnston for the home game with Ipswich Town.

The Middlesbrough man would have played the last match of a three-month deal against Town, but a broken toe picked up in training last week means his stay at Hillsborough is over for now.

Manager Chris Turner has the same squad on duty which travelled to the Walkers Stadium last weekend, with keeper Paul Evans expected to keep his place despite gifting the Foxes their equaliser.

Evergreen defender David Burrows is nearing a return after a hamstring problem, but is not expected to feature.

Ipswich defender Chris Makin is a major doubt after damaging his hamstring in the 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on Tuesday.

Makin was replaced by Pablo Counago nine minutes into the second period at Selhurst Park and is fighting to be fit for the weekend.

Attacking midfielder Darren Ambrose picked up a knee injury midway through the first half and is also struggling.

Alun Armstrong, Finidi George, Hermann Hreidarsson, John McGreal, Tommy Miller and Mark Venus are also out of the clash, leaving Royle with serious selection problems.

Stoke v Sheff Utd: Preview


New signing Mark Williams goes straight into the Stoke squad for the clash with Sheffield United after arriving at the Britannia Stadium from Wimbledon.

Tony Pulis has yet to decide if the 32-year-old will start but he is expected to play some part against the high-flying Blades.

Lee Mills is ruled out after bruising his knee in the goalless draw at Ipswich.

But Wayne Thomas is back in contention after recovering from the arm and calf injuries that ruled him out last weekend.

Former England Under-21 midfielder Mark Wilson has been signed on a month's loan from Middlesbrough and could feature.

Promotion-chasing Sheffield United could be without three key players for the trip.

Veteran playmaker Stuart McCall, striker Dean Windass and midfielder Nick Montgomery all picked up injuries in the 4-2 midweek win against Burnley.

Manager Neil Warnock says he is "hopeful" McCall (ankle) and Windass (dead leg) will be fit, but Montgomery (ankle) looks set for a spell on the sidelines.

The Blades have a good recent record against the Potters, and have not lost there in the last five visits.

Walsall v Burnley: Preview


Walsall defender Ian Roper will miss the clash with Burnley as he is suspended after accumulating 10 bookings.

Danny Hay's shoulder injury is proving slow to heal, meaning Walsall boss Colin Lee will also be without the New Zealand international.

Jamaican international midfielder Fitzroy Simpson is another consigned to the treatment table, the 33-year-old's thigh injury ruling him out of the weekend action.

Walsall-born Karl Hawley is another expected to miss out despite netting four goals in as many games for the Saddlers' reserves.

Burnley manager Stan Ternent is once again expected to ring the changes.

Ternent described his side's first-half display in the 4-2 defeat at Sheffield United on Wednesday as "hopeless".

He made three changes to the side at Bramall Lane with fit-again trio Glen Little, club captain Steve Davis and Paul Weller coming in.

They replaced Paul Cook and Tony Grant, relegated to the bench, and Alan Moore who was dropped from the 16 altogether.

Robbie Blake netted a late consolation as a substitute against the Blades and it may be enough to earn him a starting berth at Walsall in what is Burnley's fifth successive game on the road.

Wimbledon v Millwall: Preview


Wimbledon striker David Connolly is doubtful for the clash with Millwall after jarring his knee during Tuesday's 3-3 draw at Gillingham.

The Republic of Ireland marksman is just back from a hamstring injury, but will train this week in a bid to shake off his latest niggle.

Midfielder Lionel Morgan returns to the squad after recovering from an ankle knock.

Full-back Darren Holloway is also included after playing for the reserves in midweek, but new signing Ben Chorley is still waiting to make his first appearance.

Nigel Reo-Coker and Alex Tapp should both start the match after signing new contracts with the club this week.

Millwall captain Stuart Nethercott is expected to rejoin the squad after recovering from a groin injury.

Nethercott has been out since January but came through a reserve match in midweek along with Dennis Wise, who will have to be content with a place on the bench again.

Wise was left out of the side that defeated Walsall 2-1 after a bout of food poisoning.

Republic of Ireland winger Steven Reid is set to deputise at right-back in the absence of Matt Lawrence (foot) and Alan Dunne (broken wrist).

But Mark Phillips remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, and Tim Cahill is weeks away from returning after a knee injury.

Leicester v Preston: Preview


Leicester defender Frank Sinclair is pushing for a first-team recall ahead of the promotion-chasers' clash with Preston North End.

City face Craig Brown's Deepdale outfit with Sinclair eyeing a return after watching last week's 1-1 draw from the substitutes' bench and missing the goalless draw at Bradford through suspension.

Alan Rogers is certain to miss out though after the Liverpudlian midfielder fell victim to a hamstring injury.

Wales international Matt Jones has recovered from a twisted ankle to ensure his inclusion in Micky Adams' squad.

Although Callum Davidson remains out of the manager's reckoning for the weekend, the Scotsman's return to full training this week augurs well for a rapid return following his recovery from groin problems.

Preston are hopeful goalkeeper Jonathan Gould can overcome his groin injury and take his place in the Lilywhites' line-up.

Gould was replaced by David Lucas during last weekend's 4-2 victory over Derby and he is standing by in case Gould is unable to play.

Defender Colin Murdock is definitely out after suffering a recurrence of his knee ligament problem in the midweek reserve game against Tranmere and is undergoing a scan to determine the extent of the problem.

Mark Rankine is also sidelined by sciatica, while Rob Edwards is 50/50 with an ankle injury.

Simon Lynch pressed his claims for a starting spot with a hat-trick for the reserves but Craig Brown is expected to partner George Koumantarakis and Richard Cresswell in attack.


Lens v Nantes: Preview


LENS, March 13 (Ligue 1) - Lens and Nantes meet at the Stade Felix-Bollaert on Friday night in a match which is pivotal to both sides` hopes of making it into next season`s UEFA Cup.

Hosts Lens - 10th in the table - have been boosted by the availability of key midfielder Bouba Diop, who has finally returned to full fitness after a persistent groin injury.

To counter that, though, Lens coach Joel Muller will have to do without second choice keeper Guillaume Chabbert, who has a shoulder problem, and defender Adama Coulibaly, out for the rest of the season following a wild tackle by Montpellier`s Sebastien Michalowski in a Ligue 1 game at the end of February.

For his part, Michalowski received a two-month suspension but that will not benefit a Lens side who are just three points adrift of fifth-placed Nice.

Nantes, the 2001 champions, are two points and two places better off than their opponents.

But they too have their selection problems with midfielder Eric Djemba back in his native Cameroon for personal reasons and central defender Nicolas Gillet remaining on the sidelines for another month as he continues his recuperation from a calf strain.

Also absent is Romanian international Viorel Moldovan as he has a thigh problem.

Lille v Montpellier: Preview


LILLE, March 13 (Ligue 1) - The fight to avoid the drop is as tight as the title race in Ligue 1 and two of the teams entrenched in the bottom five meet at the Stade Grimonprez-Jooris on Friday night as Lille take on Montpellier.

Lille are the side most in need of the victory as they currently lie third from bottom of the table, just three points better off than basement outfit Troyes.

Les Dogues coach Claude Puel does have a number of selection problems though as both Djezon Boutoille, who has a groin problem, and Stephane Pichot are injured, while Mathieu Chalme is suspended.

Montpellier boss Gerard Bernardet knows Friday`s opponents are desperate for points and that it will be a tight encounter.

``I know that our rivals, who drew 0-0 in Sochaux last time out, are like us, they need points,'' he said.

Bernardet will be without defender Serge Blanc and striker Habib Bamogo who are both suspended, with Guillaume Moullec and Abdoulaye Cisse set to step into the breach.

Goalkeeper Rudy Riou is still absent with a thigh injury while Sebastien Michalowski is still serving a two-month suspension for a horrendous tackle on Lens defender Adama Coulibaly in a Ligue 1 game at the end of February.

Montpellier are two places and a point better off than Lille but have played a game more.

Sochaux v AC Ajaccio: Preview


SOCHAUX, March 13 (Ligue 1) - Sochaux coach Guy Lacombe has warned his ambitious northern outfit not to take Corsican stragglers Ajaccio lightly in their rescheduled Ligue 1 clash at the Stade Bonal on Friday night.

Sochaux, seventh in the table and just seven points off the pace set by Monaco, were originally due to host newly-promoted Ajaccio on February 5 but the match was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

At first glance it would seem the 19th-placed islanders represent easy pickings and Sochaux would move up to fourth if they secure maximum points.

But Lacombe has been around long enough to know things are never that cut and dried, even though Sochaux beat Ajaccio last autumn in both La Ligue and the Coupe de la Ligue.

``I have previously coached teams who were fighting for survival and I know the state of their fighting spirit at the end of a season,'' Lacombe said on Thursday.

``Every single point counts and Ajaccio will be looking to gain as many as they can against any side.''

Lacombe has no injury concerns, except former Manchester City stopper Laurent Charvet, who has a thigh problem.

Ajaccio's Argentinian striker Esnaider is available again after a calf problem while defender Yohan Demont is back from suspension.

However, coach Rolland Courbis will be without Dmitri Ananko because of a damaged calf and the suspended Christophe Destruhaut.


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