Chelsea will be looking to end a miserable week on a high when they take on Liverpool in the Carling Cup final.
The game will again be played under the closed roof of The Millennium Stadium, and two of the newest managers in the Premiership this season, Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez will do battle for the first piece of silverware of this season.
Although originally at the bottom of Mourinho’s list of priorities, the Carling Cup will now take on much greater significance after such a poor week.
The Blues’ quadruple hopes were dashed last week at Newcastle, while their Champions League dreams took a knock with the defeat in Barcelona.
The Portuguese tactician must now rouse his team for a major final in Cardiff with, not least, the prospect of a third defeat in a week.
Mourinho has chosen to play his second string teams in domestic cup competitions so far this season, but that may change with a trophy up for grabs.
Wayne Bridge is out for Chelsea while they are still without Dutchman Arjen Robben, but Damien Duff is available after making a somewhat surprise appearance in Spain on against Barca, Didier Drogba should also play.
Liverpool are prolific winners of the League Cup, and the Anfield giants are going for a record eighth win.
Benitez’s side faired much better in their Champions League game, this week with a 3-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen coming without the services of skipper Steven Gerrard.
Gerrard will return to the side while Fernando Morientes and Mauricio Pellegrino are also available again after being cup-tied in midweek.
Xabi Alonso, Djibril Cisse, Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Chris Kirkland are all absentees, although recent returns of Harry Kewell and Vladimir Smicer do offer Benitez some much-needed options.
Joe Cole may be the man to watch, , as he has scored the winner in both Chelsea’s 1-0 Premiership wins this season – but Liverpool who still feel aggrieved about the Tiago handball incident at Anfield that went unpunished, will want revenge.
Chelsea will be favourites given their wealth and depth of expensive talent, but Liverpool will be on a high after Tuesday’s win, while they also have League Cup, and recent Millennium Stadium history on their side.
The intriguing clash between England’s two best midfielders Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, – possibly Chelsea’s midfield parnership next season – and Sunday’s encounter has the makings of a classic cup final.
Southampton v Arsenal
A vital game for both ends of the Premiership table sees Southampton take on Arsenal in the early kick-off on Saturday.
The Gunners will be looking to keep their faint title hopes alive, while Harry Redknapp would view any points from the game as a vital gain in the race for survival.
Arsene Wenger takes a squad depleted by injuries and suspensions to St. Mary’s, particularly in the wake of their controversial FA Cup tie with Sheffield United.
Forwards Dennis Bergkamp and Jose Antonio Reyes both miss the game after receiving three-match suspensions for violent conduct following their part in a scuffle involving Blades defender Danny Cullip.
Spanish starlet Francesc Fabregas is also suspended, although Ashley Cole should recover sufficiently from flu to reclaim his place.
Sol Campbell and Edu are both sidelined, the England international is still suffering an ankle injury whilst the Brazilian midfielder has suffered a recurrence of his hamstring knock.
Meanwhile Redknapp will be hoping that his in-form strikers can prove a test for the weakened Arsenal defence.
Loan-signing Henri Camara has made a bi impression since joining on loan, whilst Peter Crouch has picked up five goals in the last eight games.
Reserve Paul Smith may continue in goal as Saints will want to avoid taking unnecessary risks with Antti Niemi, who could return from a cartilage operation.
Anders Svensson should return to the squad after missing the last two games with a virus, however French winger Fabrice Fernandes could miss out again after his ankle injury picked up in training last week
Mancester United v Portsmouth
Ruud van Nistelrooy is to return to Manchester United’s front line for the visit of Portsmouth on Saturday.
The Dutch striker made his comeback from three months on the sidelines with injury as a substitute in the Champions League defeat to Milan on Wednesday.
In addition to van Nistelrooy starting, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson could opt to give Louis Saha or Alan Smith some much-needed match practice.
That will allow Ferguson to rest Wayne Rooney as the teenager has led the line on his own during the past few weeks, while captain Roy Keane may also receive a day off.
Ferguson has no fresh injury worries, with John O’Shea having taken a place on the bench in midweek, although Darren Fletcher is sidelined. Mikael Silvestre is also available after completing a domestic
Portsmouth, who beat The Red Devils 2-0 at Fratton Park in October, have not won at Old Trafford since 1957 and face opponents who have conceded just six goals in their last 16 matches.
Velimir Zajec takes his team north on the back of a poor run of form which has seen Pompey lose five of their last six games in the league. The Croation boss is likely to keep faith with Kostas Chalkias in goal, despite the Greece international having failed to convince since moving to Fratton Park.
With Jamie Ashdown and Shaka Hislop both having struggled with flu this week, it should lead to Chalkias being granted a temporary reprieve.
The visitors have no new injury worries, with Andy Griffin, Arjan De Zeeuw and Gary O’Neil recovering from knocks.
Aston Villa v Everton
Everton, currently fourth in The Premiership are chasing a place in next season’s Champions League, while mid-table Aston Villa beat Portsmouth at Fratton Park in their last outing and need a good run to boost their Uefa Cup hopes.
Villa have struggled for goals this season and David O’Leary will be looking for Juan Pablo Angel to rediscover his touch.
Everton have not won at Villa Park since 1987 and face a tough task on Saturday as Aston Villa’s home form has been good all season.
Carlton Cole remains on the Villa injury list after damaging his knee on England Under-21 duty, and the game has come too soon for Darius Vassell as he continues his comeback from a broken ankle.
James McFadden is doubtful for The Toffees with back and hamstring injuries, but Mikel Arteta is definitely fit following a hamstring injury.
Tim Cahill is available following suspension for Everton and Duncan Ferguson also has a chance of being fit following treatment on a back injury.
Crystal Palace v Birmingham City
Steve Bruce returns to Selhurst Park with Birmingham on Saturday to face a Crystal Palace side dangerously close to the relegation zone.
Bruce left Palace in November 2001 in acrimonious circumstances, turning his back on the club to accept the manager’s job at St Andrews just four months after taking over The Eagles.
He is sure to face a hostile reception from Palace fans, along with midfielder Julian Gray who refused a new contract last summer to join the Blues on a free transfer.
However, Iain Dowie and his team will be more concerned about on-pitch matters as they look for what could be a vital win in their battle against relegation.
The Eagles have only one win in their last six fixtures in all competitions, and have lost their past two Premiership games against Bolton at home and Arsenal away.
They still sit two points above the bottom three, but with Chelsea and Manchester United to come next in the league they will be aware of the need for three points against Birmingham.
Dowie will be without the services of midfielder Aki Rihilaahti who has failed to shake off a calf injury picked up in the recent 5-1 defeat at Highbury.
There is also a doubt over defender Darren Powell who has a thigh complaint, although Fitz Hall and Gonzalo Sorondo are likely to start in the heart of Palace’s defence.
The home side are likely to start with two up front with Dougie Freedman partnering top scorer Andy Johnson who also faces his former club.
Blues will have to make do without Emile Heskey for the trip to south east London, the England international picked up his fifth booking of the season in the win over Liverpool last time out and is suspended.
As a result Robbie Blake will partner Walter Pandiani in attack with the Uruguayan having made an impressive start to life in England.
Muzzy Izzet is still some way from a first-team return due to a knee injury, while David Dunn will miss the rest of the season following a back operation.
Palace will be hoping to complete a double over their opponents having won 1-0 thanks to a Johnson goal at St Andrews earlier in the campaign.
Tottenham v Fulham
Tottenham hope to improve on a poor record in London derbies when they entertain Fulham at White Hart Lane.
Sean Davis seems unlikely to figure against his former club as coach Martin Jol will not rush the midfielder back into action but Pedro Mendes is fit and Andy Reid returns after being cup-tied for last weekend’s draw with his former side Nottingham Forest.
The news is not so good regarding the other arrival from Forest, Michael Dawson, who has fractured his shinbone. Fellow defender Anthony Gardner is closer to fitness but Thimothee Atouba is rated doubtful with a knee problem.
Fulham midfielder Mark Pembridge is set to miss the match with a calf injury.
Steed Malbranque made his comeback from an ankle problem in the reserves’ 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal but Coleman is unlikely to rush his influential playmaker back into action.
Collins John and Brian McBride both scored in the reserves to promote their claims.
Ian Pearce is ruled out with a back strain although Claus Jensen is in contention for a starting spot after a bad time with injuries.
Newcastle v Bolton
Bolton Wanderers have enjoyed a fine start to the calendar year and are unbeaten in ten matches in 2005.
The team’s efforts have put them back in the hunt for an outside chance of qualifying for a Champions League spot and have also secured an FA Cup quarter final place.
Sam Allardyce may make changes from the team which beat Fulham in the cup last week as Bolton chase their first win at St James’ Park since 1959.
Allardyce will be pressed into one necessary change as Kevin Nolan is suspended, with Stelios Giannakopoulos likely to take his place.
El Hadji Diouf, who scored against The Magpies in the 2-1 success at The Reebok Stadium in October, is likely to be restored to the team.
Newcastle can take heart from their form in cup competitions of late but must now seek to improve their league standing as they have recorded onlythree wins in the last 16 matches.
Magpies manager Graeme Souness will assess any physical damage from the game with Heerenveen on Thursday before selecting his line-up.
Jean-Alain Boumsong and Lee Bowyer are available again after missing out against Heerenveen due to being cup-tied and suspended, respectively.
Patrick Kluivert was absent against the Dutch outfit due to illness and may return, with Souness also having to assess Alan Shearer’s tight hamstring. Celestine Babayaro has flu and Steve Harper is recovering from chicken pox.
Middlesbrough v Charlton Athletic
Middlesbrough have a number of injury worries ahead of the visit of Charlton Athletic on Sunday.
Stewart Downing and James Morrison were forced out of Boro’s 2-1 UEFA Cup victory over Grazer AK on Thursday.
England international Downing suffered a hamstring injury late in the contest and manager Steve McClaren must hope the injury is not serious.
Morrison injured his groin against the Austrian side and is doubtful to play while the contest is likely to come too soon for Mark Viduka and George Boateng.
Gaizka Mendieta, Ugo Ehiogu and Malcolm Christie remain long-term injury victims for the North East side.
Goals are unlikely to be on the menu at The Riverside with the pair netting just two between them in the last four Premiership meetings on Teesside.
Charlton should be fresh for the trip up north following an eight-day break after their shock 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Leicester last weekend.
Alan Curbishley has a selection headache with Radostin Kishishev available after a hamstring strain, while Jerome Thomas is pushing Dennis Rommedahl for a starting role.
Norwich City v Manchester City
Norwich continue their fight for Premiership survival by hosting Manchester City on Monday night.
Worthington is set to shake up his defence, with Simon Charlton replacing Adam Drury at left back and the returning Marc Edworthy slotting in at right back after his calf injury. Jim Brennan will not be available for the match after an ankle injury ruled him out of action for three weeks.
City could have two returning midfielders involved, with American Claudio Reyna back after injury and Paul Bosvelt back from suspension.
Defender Ben Thatcher is a doubt though, as he struggles with a hamstring injury.