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Aston Villa v Tottenham

Aston Villa manager David O'Leary must choose between Peter Whittingham and Thomas Hitzlsperger on the left-flank.

Whittingham had been preferred, but Hitzlsperger scored a stunning winner after coming on as sub at Bolton.

Tottenham welcome back Timothee Atouba after a knee injury, while Ledley King is expected to recover from a knee knock that ruled him out for England.

Sean Davis is still missing with a knee injury, while Jamie Redknapp may be handed a recall in midfield.

Aston Villa (from): Sorensen, De la Cruz, Delaney, Mellberg, Samuel, Solano, Hendrie, McCann, Whittingham, Hitzlsperger, Angel, Cole, Postma, Ridgewell, L Moore, Davis.

Tottenham (from) Robinson, Pamarot, Naybet, King, Edman, Mendes, Redknapp, Keane, Kanoute, Defoe, Davies, Jackson, Brown, Carrick, Ziegler, Atouba, Fulop (gk).

Blackburn v Birmingham

Blackburn will give Jonathan Stead a late fitness test on his injured ankle, while Jay Bothroyd is suspended.

Defender Craig Short needs a test on a hamstring injury, while David Thompson could start after appearing as a substitute at Manchester City.

Birmingham will be without Muzzy Izzet, who is serving a one-match suspension after being sent off against Everton.

David Dunn and Clinton Morrison return after injury, but Stan Lazaridis is ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Blackburn (from): Friedel, Enckelman, Gray, McEveley, Todd, Gresko, Short, Johansson, Jansen, Matteo, Neill, Tugay, Reid, Thompson, Ferguson, Flitcroft, Emerton, Dickov, Stead, Douglas, Gallagher, Djorkaeff, Pedersen.

Birmingham (from): Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Upson, Cunningham, Gray, Johnson, Savage, Clemence, Anderton, Dunn, Morrison, Yorke, Heskey, Bennett, Martin Taylor, Tebily, Clapham.

Chelsea v Bolton

Chelsea will be without Joe Cole, who has been given compassionate leave because his grandmother is ill.

Robert Huth is out with an ankle injury sustained on duty with Germany, while Alexei Smertin will be rested.

Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen is back from suspension and will replace stand-in Kevin Poole.

Jay-Jay Okocha will return after two games out with a calf injury, while Stelios Giannakopoulos is also fit after a groin strain.

Chelsea (from): Cech, Cudicini, Johnson, Babayaro, Makelele, Carvalho, Lampard, Kezman, Duff, Gallas, Geremi, Robben, Bridge, Parker, Ferreira, Gudjohnsen, Terry, Tiago.

Bolton (from): Jaaskelainen, Poole, Hunt, N'Gotty, Jaidi, Gardner, Hierro, Giannakopoulos, Campo, Okocha, Speed, Nolan, Pedersen, Davies, Diouf, Ben Haim, Ferdinand, Oakes, Barness.

Crystal Palace v Newcastle

Crystal Palace will give a late test to top scorer Andy Johnson, who missed the defeat at Liverpool with a hip injury.

Dougie Freedman may deputise while defender Fitz Hall may also miss out with a knee injury.

Newcastle captain Alan Shearer is a major doubt after picking up a thigh strain in training.

And Newcastle manager Graeme Souness is without full-back Stephen Carr (knee) and central defender Andy O'Brien (hamstring) for a month.

Crystal Palace (from): Kiraly, Speroni, Boyce, Hall, Granville, Butterfield, Leigertwood, Hudson, Popovic, Powell, Borrowdale, Hughes, Watson, Riihilahti, Kolkka, Lakis, Routledge, Kaviedes, Johnson, Freedman, Torghelle, Soares, Danze, Derry, Shipperley.

Newcastle (from): Given, Harper, Hughes, Bernard, Taylor, Elliott, Bramble, Johnsen, Butt, Jenas, Robert, Bowyer, Dyer, Ambrose, Milner, , Bellamy, Kluivert, Ameobi.

Everton v Fulham

Everton have Joseph Yobo and Gary Naysmith back in their squad, although manager David Moyes is likely to name an unchanged side.

Yobo has been out with a succession of minor injuries, while Naysmith has had a calf problem.

Fulham are without Denmark midfielder Claus Jensen, who is still recovering from a torn hamstring.

Dutch striker Collins John also misses out with the small muscle tear, while Mark Crossley should continue in goal.

Everton (from): Martyn, Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs, Pistone, Cahill, Carsley, Gravesen, Kilbane, Osman, Bent, Naysmith, Ferguson, Watson, Wright, McFadden, Chadwick, Yobo.

Fulham (from): Crossley, van der Sar, Volz, Knight, Rehman, Bocanegra, Malbranque, Diop, Pembridge, Boa Morte, Cole, Radzinski, McBride, Legwinski, Rosenior, Hammond

Middlesbrough v Liverpool

Middlesbrough have Szilard Nemeth back in their squad after a lengthy absence because of a hip injury.

Four other players are out through injury - Ugo Ehiogu, Gaizka Mendieta, Stuart Parnaby and Chris Riggott.

Liverpool are without striker Milan Baros, ruled out for a month with the hamstring injury sustained on duty with the Czech Republic.

Manager Rafael Benitez must decide whether to choose Florent Sinama-Pongolle or Neil Mellor up front.

Middlesbrough (from): (from): Schwarzer, Queudrue, Southgate, Cooper, Boateng, Zenden, Parlour, Downing, Viduka, Hasselbaink, Job, Riggott, Nemeth, Doriva, McMahon, Graham, Morrison, Wilson, Davies, Wheater, Peacock, Nash.

Liverpool (from): Kirkland, Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Kewell, Gerrard, Alonso, Hamann, Garcia, Riise, Sinama-Pongolle, Mellor, Dudek, Diao, Biscan, Finnan

Portsmouth v Man City

Portsmouth may have Eyal Berkovic back after nearly a month on the sidelines with a calf injury.

Long-term absentee Steve Stone is unlikely to return yet, while Nigel Quashie faces a late fitness test after being injured playing for Scotland.

Manchester City have Joey Barton and Jon Macken back in their squad.

Barton has missed City's last six games after ankle surgery, while Macken has not figured since picking up a back problem in the 4-3 defeat at Newcastle.

Portsmouth (from): Hislop, Primus, de Zeeuw, Stefanovic, Unsworth, Faye, O'Neil, Quashie, Berger, Hughes, Berkovic, Cisse, Taylor, Griffin, Fuller, LuaLua, Mezague, Stone, Ashdown.

Manchester City (from): James, Waterreus, Onuoha, Mills, Distin, Dunne, Bosvelt, Flood, D'Lareya, S Wright-Phillips, Barton, Sibierski, McManaman, Anelka, Fowler, Jordan, Macken, B Wright-Phillips.

Man Utd v Charlton

Manchester United will be without Louis Saha after he picked up a knee injury in France's goalless draw with Poland.

United are hopeful Ruud van Nistelrooy will shake off the hip problem which forced him off in the first half of Holland's win against Andorra.

Charlton have striker Shaun Bartlett available again following his one-match ban after being sent off at Tottenham.

Manager Alan Curbishley has no fresh injuries to other members of his squad after the midweek internationals.

Manchester United (from): Carroll, Howard, Ricardo, G Neville, P Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Brown, O'Shea, Heinze, Fortune, Ronaldo, Bellion, Keane, Scholes, Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson, Fletcher, Giggs, van Nistelrooy, Rooney, Smith, Saha.

Charlton (from): Kiely, Andersen, Young, Perry, Fortune, Hreidarsson, Murphy, El Karkouri, Stuart, Holland, Euell, Thomas, Johansson, Jeffers, Lisbie, Rommedahl, Hughes, Bartlett, Kishishev.

Norwich v Southampton

Norwich have a major doubt about goalkeeper Robert Green, who suffered a dead leg in the defeat at Charlton.

Darren Ward is likely to come in, and Norwich may recall David Bentley and Phil Mulryne after impressive displays as substitutes at The Valley.

Southampton captain Jason Dodd is in line to start his first game since the opening day of the season as after recovering from a back injury.

On-loan goalkeeper Kasey Keller keeps his place with Antti Niemi injured.

Norwich (from): Green, Ward, Edworthy, Fleming, Charlton, Drury, Bentley, Mulryne, Francis, Huckerby, Svensson, McKenzie, Holt, Helveg, McVeigh, Jonson, Safri, Doherty, Lewis.

Southampton (from): Keller, Dodd, Lundekvam, Kenton, Le Saux, Fernandes, Delap, Telfer, A Svensson, Phillips, Beattie, Blackstock, Nilsson, Jakobsson, Crouch, Higginbotham, Griffit, Prutton, Folly, Blayney.

Arsenal v West Brom

Arsenal face a midfield crisis, with Edu out with a broken foot and fellow Brazilian Gilberto Silva sidelined until next year with a back injury.

Sol Campbell is still out with a calf injury, but Ashley Cole should overcome a knee problem to play.

West Brom captain Kanu is doubtful with a groin strain.

Geoff Horsfield and Rob Hulse are on alert to replace Kanu if he is unfit, w

Arsenal (from): Lehmann, Almunia, Taylor, Lauren, Cole, Hoyte, Toure, Cygan, Senderos, Vieira, Fabregas, Pires, Reyes, Ljungberg, Pennant, van Persie, Henry, Bergkamp.

West Brom (from): Hoult, Scimeca, Moore, Purse, Clement, Contra, Johnson, Greening, Gera, Earnshaw, Kanu, Hulse, Horsfield, Koumas, Gaardsoe, Albrechtsen, Robinson, Dyer, Sakiri, Kuszczak.

Brighton v Burnley preview
Brighton's surprise 1-0 victory at West Ham last weekend came at a cost, with key defender Danny Cullip and stand-in striker Adam Virgo both picking up suspensions.
Virgo was sent off for clashing with Hammers defender Hayden Mullins, while Cullip (pictured) collected his fifth yellow card of the season.
Leon Knight should step off the bench to partner veteran Steve Claridge in the absence of Virgo, with Kerry Mayo most likely to come in for Cullip.
Burnley's injury problems continue to limit Steve Cotterill's options and the Clarets boss has revealed that another player has picked up an injury in training, although he would not reveal his identity.
Graham Branch and Ian Moore both stepped up their fitness with a run-out in the reserves in midweek, but Cotterill is still without Danny Coyne, Richard Chaplow, Frank Sinclair and Jean-Louis Valois.
Burnley have lost only one of their last six on their travels, winning 2-1 at Leeds in their last away outing.
They have the meanest away defensive record in The Championship, conceding just six goals in nine games, while Brighton's six league wins this season have all been by the only goal.

Crewe v Gillingham preview
Crewe manager Dario Gradi should be able to name an unchanged side for the visit of Gillingham after Dean Ashton was passed fit to play
The Alex top scorer suffered an ankle injury in the 1-0 derby defeat to Stoke last weekend but returned to training on Thursday and will start against Andy Hessenthaler's side.
Fellow striker Luke Varney has also recovered from a minor ankle injury and will take his place among the substitutes.
Gillingham's lengthy injury list is at last beginning to clear and they should have three players back to travel to Cheshire.
John Robinson, Alan Pouton and Darren Byfield are all expected to play some part at Gresty Road.
However, player-manager Hessenthaler and midfielder Nicky Southall are both still absent through injury for The Gills, who have yet to score in November.

Derby v Sheff Utd preview
Derby are expected to bring back Marco Reich for their home clash with Sheffield United as they look to build on their recent fine run of form.
The German winger has started every home game this season but has been used sparingly away and was left on the bench at Gillingham last weekend.
Defender Richard Jackson was injured in that game and could be replaced by Pablo Mills, while Marcus Tudgay hobbled out of a reserve fixture in midweek and is set to miss out.
George Burley's side have taken 13 points from their last five matches to move up to seventh in The Championship, one place and one point above Saturday's opponents.
New signing Luke Beckett is likely to be on the bench for United having completed his £50,000 move from Stockport in midweek.
Danny Cadamarteri and Paul Shaw have started the last two games in attack, with Andy Gray deputising for the injured Michael Tonge in midfield.
Neil Warnock's side have taken just two points from their last three league games and will be keen to get back on track at Pride Park, although they are likely to be without Tonge once again.

Leeds v QPR preview
John Oster will make his home debut for Leeds against QPR having produced two impressive performances away from home for Kevin Blackwell's side.
Blackwell says he wants Oster, on loan from Sunderland, to remain at Elland Road for as long as possible, at least until the anticipated returns of Seth Johnson and Eirik Bakke in the New Year.
Leeds have lost four of their last five Championship matches and Blackwell has voiced his concern that he could be deprived of several key players through suspension in the near future.
Clarke Carlisle, Danny Pugh and Sean Gregan are all on four bookings and one more caution would cost them a one-match suspension.
Rangers travel to West Yorkshire amid speculation that their manager Ian Holloway is set to become the new boss of Championship rivals Wolves.
Holloway has led Rangers to fifth place in the table and they defeated leaders Wigan 1-0 at Loftus Road last weekend.
Midfielder Marc Bircham sat out that game through suspension but will return to the side, with Holloway's only concern surrounding the fitness of defender Georges Santos, who has missed training this week because of an Achilles problem.
Arthur Gnohere, Martin Rowlands, Tony Thorpe, Richard Edghill and Nick Culkin are all still sidelined by injury.

Nottm Forest v Reading preview
Nottingham Forest manager Joe Kinnear is set to hand a debut to recent signing Adam Nowland, who has been struggling with a hamstring injury since his move from West Ham.
Nowland (pictured) was unable to play any part at Burnley last weekend, as Forest suffered their fourth defeat in five Championship matches, but should replace Ross Gardner against high-flying Reading.
Injury limited David Johnson to a place on the bench last weekend, but he could return against The Royals, with Kinnear having the option of a three-pronged attack.
Influential midfielder Andy Reid was forced to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland squad in midweek because of an ankle injury, but should be fit to play.
Reading have a doubt over Dave Kitson, the Championship's top scorer with 12 goals, who is struggling to overcome hamstring and calf injuries.
Kitson has been battling with niggling injuries for the past few weeks, but has still managed to find the net in each of his last five games.
With Nicky Forster and Shaun Goater still ruled out by injury - both are expected to return within two weeks - Dean Morgan is the favourite to partner Lloyd Owusu up front should Kitson miss out.
Glen Little and Andy Hughes are both expected to be in Steve Coppell's squad despite recent hamstring problems.
Reading have won seven of their last 12 games to remain firmly in the hunt for automatic promotion, although eight of their 11 league wins this season have been at The Madejski Stadium.

Plymouth v Stoke preview
Northern Ireland winger Tony Capaldi is closing in on a first team return for Plymouth after a six-week absence with a broken leg.
Capaldi (pictured) came on as a second half substitute in the 2-1 defeat at Coventry last weekend and then played for an hour in the friendly against Weymouth in midweek.
Marino Keith, who was hoping to make his comeback after an ankle injury, suffered a fresh injury problem after only 10 minutes of that game.
Plymouth have won only once in their last six home games after a testing run of fixtures which included visits from Leeds, Wolves, Wigan, West Ham and Reading.
Stoke striker Carl Asaba has declared himself fit for the trip to Home Park after missing the 1-0 derby win over Crewe because of a knee injury.
However, defender Marcus Hall is a doubt because of his recent knee trouble. Hall returned after a three-match absence against Crewe, but only after having three injections.
Manager Tony Pulis has confirmed that a number of first team players have missed training this week and admits he could be forced to make further changes to his team.
Pulis is keen to make moves in the transfer market, saying he needs to sign four or five players to add competition to his squad.

Watford v Rotherham preview
Watford will welcome back Heidar Helguson after suspension for the visit of rock-bottom Rotherham to Vicarage Road.
The Icelandic striker had been in magnificent form prior to his one-match ban for collecting five yellow cards, scoring seven goals in his last seven matches.
He is likely to partner veteran Bruce Dyer, with Hameur Bouazza dropping down to the bench.
The Hornets are still without top scorer Danny Webber, winger Paul Devlin and defender Marcus Gayle through injury.
Manager Ray Lewington has urged his players to 'rip up the league table' and concentrate on playing to their strengths against Rotherham, who have yet to win in 19 league outings.
Rotherham are at least boosted by the return of key defender Chris Swailes, who missed the 2-1 defeat to Wolves last weekend through suspension.
He will return alongside Martin McIntosh at the back, with Shaun Barker reverting to a midfield role.
Striker Junior will play the last game of his loan spell from Derby, partnering fit-again Martin Butler in attack, but Darren Garner and Scott Minto are both likely absentees.
The Millers are without a win since May 1, when they beat Burnley 3-0 at Millmoor

Wigan v Leicester preview
Championship leaders Wigan still have a number of injury concerns as they bid to get back to winning ways after two consecutive defeats.
Top scorer Nathan Ellington has trained this week after sustaining a shoulder injury at QPR last weekend, so could be included, but Lee McCulloch is a major doubt because of an ankle problem.
Alan Mahon strained a stomach muscle at Loftus Road and is also rated doubtful, although Leighton Baines will play after recovering from a head injury.
Manager Paul Jewell is still without Emerson Thome, Jason Jarrett and Per Frandsen.
Leicester hope to have midfielder Gareth Williams available after a month out of action with a hamstring injury.
Manager Craig Levein is expected to hand a debut to goalkeeper Stuart Taylor, signed on loan from Arsenal, with veteran Kevin Pressman dropping to the bench after making several costly errors in recent weeks.
Martin Keown is back in the squad after missing four games with a sciatic nerve problem, but Matt Heath and Nikos Dabizas are expected to form the central defensive partnership.
City have won only once in their last eight Championship matches and were beaten 1-0 at home by Sunderland last weekend.

Wolves v Coventry preview
Jody Craddock will return to the Wolves starting line-up for the lunchtime West Midlands derby with Coventry, replacing Mikkel Bischoff in the centre of defence.
Bischoff's loan spell from Manchester City was curtailed by a serious shoulder injury which has ruled him out of action for three months.
Wolves are boosted, however, by the return of defender Mark Clyde and winger Mark Kennedy after injury, and they could replace Keith Lowe and Lee Naylor in the full-back roles.
Seol Ki-Hyeon is expected to start ahead of Shaun Newton on the right side of midfield after impressing as a substitute in the 2-1 victory over Rotherham, but Paul Ince is ruled out for two weeks after surgery on a toe injury.
Goalkeeper Matt Murray could be in line for his first appearance of the season after recovering from a hernia problem.
Wolves, who have won their last three home games, have been linked with a move for QPR boss Ian Holloway, but caretaker manager Stuart Gray remains in charge for this match.
Coventry manager Peter Reid will select from an unchanged squad for the short trip to Molineux.
The Sky Blues have taken seven points from their last four Championship matches to ease the pressure on Reid following a sequence of nine without a win.

Millwall v West Ham preview
Millwall's injury problems are clearing up and they have an almost fully-fit squad to choose from for the visit of local rivals West Ham.
Paul Ifill and Danny Dichio both featured in the draw at Preston last weekend and followed that up by playing for the reserves in midweek.
Jody Morris, meanwhile, expects to return to the first team squad after missing the last three weeks through injury, although Adrian Serioux completes a suspension.
Scott Dobie, a £750,000 signing from West Brom, will make his home debut for the Lions, having started up front alongside Barry Hayles at Deepdale.
West Ham have moved to strengthen their defensive options by signing Mauricio Taricco from Tottenham on a free transfer, and he could go straight into the starting line-up at The Den.
Boss Alan Pardew is also hoping to sign giant centre half Darren Powell on loan from Crystal Palace to replace Calum Davenport, who has been recalled by Tottenham.
Malky Mackay is still ruled out by injury while Hayden Mullins is suspended having been sent off in last weekend's 1-0 home defeat to Brighton.
Former Millwall striker Teddy Sheringham has been out for a month with a hip injury and is unlikely to face his old club.
The Hammers, beaten 4-1 in this fixture last season, are without a win in six away matches and have lost two of their last three Championship games.

Sunderland v Ipswich preview
Sunderland have lost only once in their last 33 home matches, but that fine record will face a stern test from in-form Ipswich on Sunday.
Joe Royle's side are unbeaten in 11 Championship matches, winning the last four to go level on points with leaders Wigan.
Sunderland have the best home defensive record in the division, but that will also be subject to a thorough examination from a team which has scored in 31 consecutive league matches.
The Black Cats have received a timely injury boost, with George McCartney and Stephen Wright both returning to training, while Mark Lynch has been passed fit after spraining his ankle in the 1-0 win at Leicester.
Midfielder Carl Robinson is out for four weeks after undergoing surgery to repair his broken nose, but McCartney's return softens the blow.
Ipswich could be without key midfielder Tommy Miller, who is battling to overcome an elbow injury and is rated as 50/50 to start at the Stadium of Light.
Dean Bowditch replaced Miller shortly after half time in last Saturday's 1-0 home win over Leeds and is standing by to start at Sunderland.

Bundesliga matches, November 20-21
Fri 19 November, 2004 12:39
By Kevin Fylan
FRANKFURT, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich are poised to return to the top of the Bundesliga 18 months on from their 2002-03 title triumph when they play at home to relegation threatened Kaiserslautern on Saturday (kickoff 1430 GMT).
A month ago, Bayern were lying six points off the championship pace and contemplating another season of under-achievement after a 1-0 defeat at home to Schalke 04.
Bayern's European form has remained indifferent but at home they seem to have regained some of their old swagger. A run of four wins in five games has taken them up to second, within a point of Wolfsburg.
The leaders are not in action until Sunday, leaving Bayern clear to reclaim the leadership at last.
Coach Felix Magath has a doubt over Ze Roberto, who is still to recover from the concussion he suffered against Borussia Moenchengladbach, while Jens Jeremies has 'flu.

The good news for the coach is the recovery of midfielder Sebastian Deisler, who suffered a further bout of depression four weeks ago but is now ready to return to the squad.
"Sebastian is in contention for a place," Magath said. "If he continues to look good in training, he could be picked for Saturday."
Kaiserslautern claimed a valuable 1-0 win at home to Borussia Dortmund last weekend to edge clear of the relegation zone but they remain in deep trouble in 15th place. - - - -
Other Bundesliga matches being played this weekend (league positions in parentheses):
Saturday (kickoff times 1430 GMT):
Werder's hopes of a successful title defence took another knock when they were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Bayer Leverkusen last weekend, a result that left them six points behind leaders Wolfsburg.
Their chances against tough-as-teak Bielefeld will rest to a large extent on in-form striker Miroslav Klose, who came off the bench to score twice in Germany's 3-0 win at home to Cameroon in a friendly international on Wednesday. Bielefeld are led by 10-goal South African striker Delron Buckley. - - - -
Dortmund have Czech striker Jan Koller suspended for accumulation of yellow cards but nothing less than a win will do for a side edging closer towards the relegation zone and already out of the Cup. - - - -
Bayer could do with victory to set themselves up for next week's crucial Champions League clash with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Coach Klaus Augenthaler has no injuries to worry about but he will have to be concerned about a possible backlash from Schalke, whose six-match winning streak came to an end with a surprise 3-1 defeat at home to Hertha Berlin last weekend. - - - -
Joerg Berger faces a tricky first test as Hansa Rostock coach after replacing Juri Schluenz in the wake of a 6-0 defeat at home to Hamburg on Sunday. Hertha were outstanding in their victory over Schalke last weekend and a similar display would surely be too much for Rostock. - - - -
Both sides have struggled of late, taking just a point apiece from their last three league games, and Mainz fans in particular will be worried by their side's performance in a 2-0 defeat by Hanover 96 last time out.
Bochum played well for the majority of last weekend's game against Bayern Munich, only to be swept away in the final quarter of an hour and lose 3-1. - - - -
Stuttgart have lost their last two matches 3-0 and they urgently need a return to their early-season form to remain in the title hunt. They will be without midfielder Silvio Meissner for accumulation of yellow cards, as well as a total of six players because of injury. - - - -
Sunday (kickoffs 1630 GMT):
Wolfsburg are still without Argentine playmaker Andres d'Alessandro but that will be of little concern to coach Erik Gerets after watching his side strengthen their position at the top with a brilliant 3-0 win at home to Stuttgart last Saturday.
Hamburg, 6-0 winners at Hansa Rostock last time, are likely to provide just as tough opposition this weekend. - - - -
Hanover have won five of their last six league games and will start as favourites against a Nuremberg side hit badly by injuries. The home team will pin their hopes on the form of Slovakia striker Marek Mintal, who leads the Bundesliga scoring chart with 10 goals.

Primera Liga matches, November 20-21
Fri 19 November, 2004 12:10

By Simon Baskett

MADRID, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Locked in combat at the top of the Primera Liga, Barcelona and Real Madrid renew their rivalry at the Nou Camp on Saturday (kickoff 2100 GMT) in the most keenly awaited Spanish derby for years.

For the first time in five seasons there will be more than pride at stake as the two sides go into the game occupying the top two places in the table.

Leaders Barcelona lost their unbeaten record in the league last weekend with a 2-1 defeat at Real Betis, while Real closed the gap at the top to four points thanks to a 6-1 thrashing of Albacete at the Bernabeu.

The Catalans, who will be roared on by a 98,000 capacity crowd at their stadium, have played some sparkling attacking football this season, but know that they will need to be at their very best if they are to put one over their arch rivals.

"You can't predict what will happen in these sort of games," says midfielder Xavi, who has been the stand-out player at Barca this season.

"A lot will depend on who gets control of the ball, but with the support of our fans we have to get the three points and it would be fantastic if we could put seven between us and Real."

The game will be given added spice by the presence of African Player of the Year Samuel Eto'o who joined Barca from Real Mallorca at the start of the season after Real decided not to use their option to buy him.

The lively Cameroon international, who has an excellent record against Real, has been in electrifying form this term. He leads the Primera Liga scoring charts with nine goals and will be keen to prove that his former club Real were wrong to let him go.

Former Barca players Luis Figo and Ronaldo can be assured of a hostile reception as they return to the Nou Camp.

Real won 2-1 in the equivalent fixture last season, their first victory at the Nou Camp for 20 years.

They are almost certain to be without centre-back Ivan Helguera, who is suffering from knee problems, Barca midfielder Ludovic Giuly is also likely to miss out because of a thigh injury, but inspirational defender Carles Puyol should be available.

The game will give Michael Owen his first chance to savour the atmosphere of the most intense game in Spanish football, but the England striker is almost certain to start the game on the bench with Real and Ronaldo leading the Real attack.

Other matches being played this weekend (league positions in brackets, kickoff times 1900 GMT unless stated)

Playing on Saturday:

MALAGA (14) v VALENCIA (7) 1900

Claudio Ranieri's side gave a marginally better performance in last week's 0-0 draw against Real Zaragoza, but they have still not won in 10 games in all competitions and another slip-up will heap even further pressure on the embattled Italian.

Malaga have not won in their last five league outings and will be looking to strike partnership of Paulo Wanchope and Marcio Amoroso to get them back on track.

- - - -


Villarreal lost their first game in six with a 2-1 defeat at Athletic Bilbao last week but are unbeaten at home this season and have yet to concede a goal at the Madrigal. They will have problems in midfield, though, with Sebastian Battaglia, Marcos Senna and Josico all out.

The return of Mauro Silva from injury has given Depor more stability in midfield and the Galicians will provide a tough test for the home side.

- - - -

Playing on Sunday:


Primera Liga newcomers Getafe will be favourites for this one after their impressive back-to-back victories over Malaga and Valencia. Albacete dropped into the relegation zone last week after their toothless display in the crushing 6-1 defeat at the Bernabeu.

- - - -


Atletico are flattered by their eighth place in the standings and have been fortunate to scramble late draws in their last three games. Numancia will be buoyed by their shock victory in Sevilla and could cause another upset.

- - - -


Betis put an end to Barca's unbeaten record with a disciplined performance last week but they will be tested out by Bernd Schuster's high-flying Levante who have only lost once at home this season.

- - - -


A tight affair in prospect at El Sardinero as both sides look to recover some sort of consistency. Racing will be without forward David Aganzo, who broke his arm in last week's 2-1 defeat at Espanyol, while Osasuna will have to make do without Australian international John Aloisi up front.

- - - -


Although it may be overshadowed by the Barca-Real match, the Basque derby is certain to be just as fiercely contested as both sides look to haul themselves up the table.

Bilbao have played some good football this season but the results have not gone their way. They will be favourites to edge this one over a Sociedad side that have struggled to find the net.

- - - -


Zaragoza have been unstoppable at home this season, winning all five of their matches and cracking in 16 of their 18 goals in front of their own fans. Basement side Mallorca will need to produce an exceptional performance if they are to stop the in-form Zaragoza forwards.

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After a great start to the season Sevilla have gone off the boil in recent matches, while Espanyol surged up into third place in the table after last week's win over Racing.

Sevilla have yet to lose at home, however, and the Espanyol attack will be without the injured Raul Tamudo and the suspended Maxi Rodriguez.
Italian Cupista löytyy jutustelua linkistä (englanniksi)

(BBC, Sky-Sport, Reuters)


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