LONDON -- Arsenal and champions Manchester
United have not enjoyed the best of starts, so this season's
first premier league showdown between the two at Highbury on Sunday comes
laden with intrigue.
These two have already met in the League Cup at Highbury
this season, when Arsenal's 'reserves' thrashed United's
'reserve reserves' 4-0. Both will field very differnet lineups
Thierry Henry scored a goal of the season contender in this
fixture last season but Arsenal looked low on confidence in
its 2-0 Champions League defeat by Deportivo Coruna on
Wednesday. Richard Wright (knee) faces a fitness test, otherwise
novice Stuart Taylor plays in goal.
United looked more solid defensively in its 1-1 draw at
Bayern Munich on Tuesday. Ryan Giggs (hamstring) is out, with
Quinton Fortune likely to deputize.
Other matches this weekend (league positions in
BOLTON WANDERERS (8) v FULHAM (11)
Bolton striker Michael Ricketts has made a real splash this
season and his expert strike against Ipswich last week was his
ninth league goal of the season. Striker Kevin Nolan (foot) is
hoping to be fit. Promoted Bolton insists its would still be
happy just to avoid relegation, but the club is only four points
off the top.
Fulham has an impressive striker of its own in Louis
Saha, scorer of a wonder goal against Newcastle last week. Luis
Boa Morte, Lee Clark and Jon Harley are hoping for recalls at
CHELSEA (7) v BLACKBURN ROVERS (9)
Despite only one defeat so far, Chelsea continues to
underwhelm but it remains on the fringe of the title race and
victory at Stamford Bridge will catapult the winners into the
title race. Carlo Cudicini will start in goal after Mark
Bosnich's latest injury setback.
Blackburn, whose striker Corrado Grabbi was linked with a
move back to Italy this week, is looking increasingly
impressive with David Dunn, Tugay Kerimoglu and Matt Jansen all
catching the eye against Liverpool last week. Australian
defender Lucas Neill is back in training but won't be risked.
LEICESTER CITY (18) v EVERTON (12)
Leicester was a mite unfortunate to lose at Old Trafford
last week and manager Dave Bassett will see this match as a
chance to consolidate its pull away from the bottom. Bassett
hopes to have signed Middlesbrough's Brian Deane, a striker he
knows from his Sheffield United days, in time to start, which
casts further doubt over the future of Ade Akinbiyi.
Everton will be without strikers Duncan Ferguson (ankle) and
Kevin Campbell (back). Paul Gascoigne and Danny Cadamarteri are
in line for recalls.
NEWCASTLE UNITED (6) v DERBY COUNTY (17)
Kieron Dyer is back in training after his longstanding shin
injury but will have to wait for his Newcastle return. Bobby
Robson's side was well beaten at Fulham last week but this is a
must-win match. If Newcastle triumphs by five goals, it will go
top, at least for 24 hours.
Derby fluked a win over Southampton last week with an
extraordinary goal which was later attributed to Southampton's
James Beattie. Strikers Malcolm Christie and Deon Burton should
SOUTHAMPTON (20) v CHARLTON ATHLETIC (16)
Gordon Strachan is due a bit of good fortune and this match
could offer bottom club Southampton the chance to record its
long-awaited first win at its new St Mary's Stadium, until now
a jinx. Matt Le Tissier, suffering from his own personal injury
jinx, hopes to be fit. Ecuador captain Kleber Chala could make
his debut in midfield.
Charlton is still recovering from its 4-4 home draw
with West Ham United on Monday but the club can ill afford to lose
this game. Graham Stuart hopes for a recall.
WEST HAM UNITED (15) v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (10) The battle of the 'Glenns' sees both sides playing their
second London derby in a week. Hammers manager Glenn Roeder used
to work alongside Spurs boss Glenn Hoddle with the England team,
so the tactical battle will be interesting.
Joe Cole will be on the bench again for West Ham as he
continues his gradual recovery from an ankle injury. Striker
Jermain Defoe is pressing for a recall but may have to wait
after Paul Kitson's hat trick at Charlton. Spurs have midfielder
Stephen Clemence and Steffen Iversen back in training.
LEEDS UNITED (2) v ASTON VILLA (3)
Leeds's first league defeat of the season at Sunderland last
week will have focused minds at Elland Road. The club will once
again be without Australian pair Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell,
who are on World Cup duty, so Alan Smith should start alongside
Robbie Keane. A 2-1 win in the UEFA Cup against Grasshoppers on
Thursday will have boosted Leeds.
Villa's fortunes have dipped since they went top of the
table last month. Paul Merson could return but Moroccan Mustapha
Hadji (knee) is a doubt. Dion Dublin may be recalled to the
attack after last week's blank against Middlesbrough.
LIVERPOOL (1) v SUNDERLAND (13)
The league leaders were given a lesson by Barcelona in the
Champions league on Tuesday and acting manager Phil Thompson
will be looking for a reaction. Emile Heskey (groin) and in-form
Michael Owen (hamstring) are both expected to be fit.
Last week's win over Leeds was only Sunderland's second
victory in nine games and lifted the pressure on boss Peter
Reid. Striker Kevin Phillips, who this week celebrated the birth
of twins, will hope to exploit any residual nerves in the
Liverpool defense. Kevin Kilbane (ankle) expects to be fit.
MIDDLESBROUGH (14) v IPSWICH TOWN (19)
Two wins and a draw from its last three games have
brightened the atmosphere at the Riverside and victory on Sunday
against Ipswich could lift the club into the top half.
Sound financial results, a new stand and a UEFA Cup 1-0 win
over Inter Milan on Thursday, cannot disguise the fact that
Ipswich is in deep trouble. Racked by injuries, manager George
Burley's side is hoping to arrest a run of 11 league games
without a win.