Looking ahead to this weekend’s Premiership matches …
Aston Villa v Chelsea
Aston Villa’s bid to prevent their worst ever start to a Premeirship campaign whilst, in the process, ending their opponents’ best, may be thwarted somewhat by the news that striker Milan Baros is likely to be absent with an Archilles tendon injury he sustained against Wycombe in midweek.
If he does miss out, he will join Kevin Phillips – who is suffering from a groin strain – on the sidelines.
Defender Wilfred Bouma, however, has been past fit to play, after recovering from a similar injury to Phillips’.
Aside from Asier Del Horno – a long term absentee – Chelsea have no injury worries ahead of the tie which, if they were to win, would make them the first side ever to collect maximum points from their opening 7 fixtures in the Premiership, beating Newcastle’s record of 6 in 1994.
Newcastle United v Manchester City
It is likely to be a severely depleted Newcastle United team who host Manchester City at St. James’ Park on Saturday.
Definitely missing are Scott Parker and Steven Taylor (both suspended), as well as Albert Luque (hamstring), and Peruvian winger Nolberto Solano, who has yet to recover full fitness. Therefore, Graeme Souness will not risk playing him.
Kieran Dyer and Emre are also rated extremely doubtful, having both sustained hamstring injuries similar to Luque’s earlier in the season, as the Magpies look to record their fourth consecutive home Premiership victory over the visitors. Indeed, City have only ever beaten Newcastle once in the Premiership at St. James’ Park, and that was 11 years ago.
City – who last week relinquished their 13 match unbeaten run to Bolton – are without Trevor Sinclair (hamstring) and Robbie Fowler (back). And, owing to a hamstring injury which kept him out of City’s Carling Cup defeat against Doncaster in midweek, Andy Cole may not be deemed fit enough to face his former club.
West Ham v Arsenal
Arsene Wenger has several key injury concerns to contend with as his side to look to record their first away points of the season against West Ham at Upton Park.
Aside from Thierry Henry, who is still nursing a long-term injury, midfielder Robert Pires is definitely out, after failing to recover from a thigh strain he incurred during Arsenal’s victory over Everton on Monday. Dennis Bergkamp (back) are said to be “big doubts”.
As such, Italian striker Arturo Lupoli – who scored a hat trick for the reserves in their 5-3 defeat of Portsmouth earlier in the week – may start on the bench for the Gunners.
West Ham, looking for their fourth consecutive win in all competitions, have Jeremie Aliadiere out injured with a groin strain but, as he is on loan from Arsenal, Premeirship rules would have prevented his involvement anyhow.
Teddy Sheringham should be restored to the starting line up to partner the in-form Marlon Harewood after being rested for the Hammers’ Carling Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday, with David Bellion and/or Bobby Zamora likely to start as a sub.
West Brom v Charlton
Seeking to recover from their first Premiership defeat of the season against Chelsea last weekend, Charlton will be boosted by the fact that on loan Russian midfielder Alexi Smertin – who was contractually obliged to sit out the 2-0 defeat – is once again available for selection.
Moroccan midfielder Talal El – Kakouri and Gonzalo Sorondo – on loan from Internazionale – are also pressing for a place in the starting XI. Darren Ambrose, however, will miss the journey to the Hawthorns owing to a niggling groin problem.
West Brom – who’s defensive record (the worst in the top flight) was recently excoriated by manager Bryan Robson – may also face problems up the other end of the pitch, seeing as Diomansy Kamara is definitely out (ankle), and Kanu and Geoff Horsefield are struggling with hamstring and calf injuries respectively. Furthermore, Martin Albrechtsen is suspended.
More positively for the Baggies, however, is the news that Chris Kirkland and Zoltan Gera have recovered from recent knocks (back and hand), and should be fit to start.
Everton v Wigan
Having now gone three games undefeated in the top flight, Wigan will be full of confidence ahead of their tie against Everton ant Goodison Park, especially as the hosts have lost their last five ties in all competitions. David Moyes’ side have been particularly barren at home this season, having yet to register either a point or a goal.
Everton face something of a striker’s crisis ahead of the tie, with Duncan Ferguson likely to join James Beattie and James Vaughan on the sidelines after picking up a back injury in training.
Winger Andy van der Meyde and Per Kroldrup will also miss out, as they are not yet fully fit to play, although Matteo Ferrari – the club’s other signing from Serie A in the summer, is likely to retain his place at left-back at the expense of Nuno Valente.
Lee Carsley and Alessandro Pistone also miss out, owing to long-term knocks.
Meanwhile, Wigan boss Paul Jewell is expected to make several changes from the largely ‘second string’ side he fielded in the Latic’s Carling Cup match against Bournemouth on Tuesday.
Midfielder, and captain, Jimmy Bullard has recovered from a dead leg and should be fit to make his 115th consecutive appearance for the club.
Manchester United v Blackburn
Mark Hughes returns to his old stomping ground to lead his Blackburn side – who have failed to register a win in their last four Premiership ties – out against an unbeaten Manchester United.
The former Wales coach – who scored 162 goals in 472 appearances for the Red Devils during his two spells at the club – will be boosted by the news that Andy Todd is eligible again for selection, after completing a suspension.
Morten Gamst Pederson is in line for a recall after being rested in midweek, whilst Paul Dickov and Brett Emerton are likely to be demoted to the bench.
Tactically, Hughes will probably employ an attritional 4-5-1, with fit-again Craig Bellamy as the lone striker and Zurab Khizanshvil switching from centre-back to right-back.
United, for their part, will be missing full-backs Gabriel Heinze and Gary Neville, as well as skipper Roy Keane, all of whom are long term absentees.
Therefore, Richardson and O’Shea will retain their places in defence, whilst Darren Fletcher should come in for Keane, with Alan Smith occupying the defensive midfield berth vacated by Keane.
Ronaldo may also be rested, after failing to recapture his form since the death of his father, and may be replaced by either Park or Giggs.
Birmingham v Liverpool
Liverpool – unbeaten after four Premiership games despite having only scored one goal -will be without striker Fernando Morientes, who is still nursing a hamstring injury, and Mohammed Sissoko who, according to manager Rafael Benitez has a “slight muscle strain”. Either Dietmar Hamman or Bolo Zendon could be drafted in to replace the Malian midfielder, should ‘Rafa’ opt for his favoured 4-5-1 formation.
Despite recently returning to full fitness, left back Djimi Traore is likely to start on the bench given Steven Warnock’s impressive early season form.
Birminham who, if they win will overtake their opponents in the league table, have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the tie.
Bolton v Portsmouth
Portsmouth will be without Zvonimir Vukic for their trip to the Reebok after. The Serbian midfielder injured his ankle whilst he and his tem mates were playing a cross between football and baseball in a recent training session.
Alan Perrin is also likely to be without Congolese striker Lomana Lua Lua, who has yet to fully recover from a knock he sustained against West Brom last week. It will be a huge blow for the beleaguered boss, who has presided over the club’s worst ever start to a Premiership season. Were Pompey to lose tomorrow, it will be their 11th defeat in 13 Premeirship matches.
Bolton, meanwhile, will be without midfielder Ivan Campo, who is out for two months with a fractured foot. Other than that, the Trotters have a clean bill of health going into the tie.
Sam Allardyce’s men are unbeaten in their last four in all competitions, and have not conceded in 180 minutes of Premiership football.
Middlesborough v Sunderland
Middlesborough have received a boost ahead of Sunday’s local derby against Sunderland with the news that five of their players have returned to full fitness.
Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink, Gaizka Mendietta, Slizard Nemeth, Chris Riggot and Stuart Parnaby have all resumed full training after being sidelined through injury and, according to boss Steve McClaren, the quintet will be “considered” for selection on the weekend.
However, Stewert Downing, who is out for up to three months with a knee injury, will miss the tie, and looks likely to be joined on the treatment table by goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, James Morrison and Ray Parlour, all of whom have minor injuries.
Sunderland who picked up their first point of the campaign against West Brom last week, will be without the injured Carl Robinson, although Julio Arca and Tommy Miller are expected to shake off respective hamstring and back problems, and should start.
Tottenham v Fulham
After lambasting his “immature” strikers over their recent barren run (the club have score just one goal in their last four Premeirship ties), Tottenham boss Martin Jol will be relieved to hear that Egyptian centre-forward Mido is once again eligible for selection, after serving a three match suspension.
Edgar Davids should also be available after recovering from a groin in jury that kept him out of the club’s last two games against Aston Villa and Grimsby.
However, centre-halves Anthony Gardner (thigh) and Michael Dawson (hamstring) are unavailable, as is midfielder Michael Carrick (ankle).
As such, Nourredine Naybet could make his first Premeirship start of the season alongside Ledley King in central defence, whilst either Pedro Mendes or Teemu Tainio should deputize for Carrick.
Fulham – who, like their opponents, are looking to avoid a fourth consecutive loss in a London derby – welcome back Papa Bouba Dioup, Tony Warner and Claus Jensen, who have all recovered from knocks they sustained against West Ham last Saturday.
Meanwhile, Thomasz Radzinski and Brian McBride are expected to be restored to the starting line – up, after being rested for the narrow Carling Cup win over Lincoln.