Manchester United v Leeds United
Failure to secure maximum points could see United knocked into third place by Newcastle, who also play tonight.
Although unbeaten in eight Premiership games Man United have drawn their last two, the first at home to rivals Manchester City and the last game away to Bolton.
Leeds United, having lost their last three away games will also be looking to improve their own league status and despite never having won at Old Trafford in the Premiership, Terry Venables’ side were victorious in the same fixture at Elland Road in September.
Venables, however, expects a tough game and believes that the pain incurred on Manchester United in the League Cup final,on Sunday, could result in a backlash.
“Every team that loses a game I would expect them to react, but losing a game of that magnitude then they will be very hurt,” declared Venables.
The Leeds also went on to say that the league titlewas beyond Manchester United and that they should concentrate on Europe, a suggestion that mirrored Alex Ferguson’s taste for well-timed word play.
Despite this provocation, Ferguson reserved his words for a another adversary claiming that Arsenal could trip up in the title race if they are too self-assured.
“When you are over-confident, as Arsenal have been, the nature of football is that it will come back and kick you in the teeth,” said the Unitedboss.
Mickael Silvestre could be unavailable for Man United, having picked up a knee injuryduring Sunday’s Worthington Cup final defeat and a recurring hamstring problem could rule out Wes Brown.
This could force Roy Keane into central defence, a position that he occupied against Juventus last week.
Venables however, faces numerous selection problems with many Leeds players sustaining injuries in the last few weeks. Matteo, Duberry and Bakke are all unavailable while Jason Wilcox has come down with a bout of flu. Gary Kelly and Lucas Radebe are both doubtful but most worrying for Venables is the one-match suspension of Harry Kewell, who scored against Man United in September. However, Leeds can take some consolation in the return of Mark Viduka who has just completed a three-match ban.
Middlesbrough v Newcastle United
Even Middlesbrough boss, Steve McClaren, believes that Newcastle are a good bet for the league title should Arsenal not take advantage of their current lead.
McClaren said: “I’m sure if Arsenal slip up Newcastle will be there or thereabouts and ready to cash in.”
Sir Bobby Robson will be hoping Leeds get a result at Old Trafford tonight which would enable Newcastle to go second, above Manchester United, and bring them within five points of leaders Arsenal.
Middlesbrough will be looking to defeat their north east rivals and also gain some points to assist a flagging season that started well but has tailed off since January.
The match, which takes place at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, was originally scheduled for earlier in the season but was called off due to adverse weather conditions, much to the annoyance of Bobby Robson.
Middlesbrough will be looking to avenge the defeat they suffered in November at St. James’ Park in which Ameobi and Caldwell scored the goals for Newcastle and Franck Queudrue was sent off forBoro.
The home side will be without recent signing Chris Riggott as well as Ugo Ehiogu, who is recovering from a punctured lung.
McClaren has so far kept tight-lipped about the return of World Cup star Juninho, but the diminutive Brazilian is likely to play some part after coming off the bench and scoring against Everton, – his first competitive game since the World Cup final.
Striker Malcolm Christie is also doubtful for Boro after contracting a virus.
After numerous X-rays that revealed no long-term damage, Kieron Dyer is available for selection, as are Laurent Robert and Steve Harper who have both completed suspensions. Jermaine Jenas makes the subs’ bench after a short period out with an Achilles problem.