Saturday, December 23, 2006


United set to be unchanged for Villa clash

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is set to keep faith with the side surprisingly beaten by West Ham when the Premiership leaders travel to Aston Villa on Saturday.

United's defeat by the Hammers means they are just two points ahead of second-placed reigning champions Chelsea heading into the busy Christmas holiday period of matches.

Patrice Evra (calf) remains doubtful, while Alan Smith is still not being considered as he battles for full fitness.

Villa midfielder Gavin McCann is also battling to be fit having been unable to train since suffering a hamstring injury against Bolton last weekend. Youngster Craig Gardner stands by as a replacement.

Chelsea captain John Terry is doubtful for the match at Wigan with a back injury, with Khalid Boulahrouz ready to stand in.

Goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini is still struggling with a muscle injury, so Hilario could continue while midfielder Joe Cole is out with a broken foot.
Wigan are without Henri Camara, who faces six weeks out with a knee injury, and Lee McCulloch, who starts a three-match ban.

Rafael Benitez, manager of third-placed Liverpool, may name an unchanged line-up for the home match with bottom-of-the-table Watford after his side's unexpected rest following the postponement, due to fog, of their League Cup tie against Arsenal in midweek.

Left-sided duo Fabio Aurelio and Stephen Warnock both played for the reserves on Wednesday and could come into contention.

Watford defender James Chambers faces up to six weeks on the sidelines with a gashed ankle.

On-loan Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Foster is unlikely to recover from a knee injury in time to play, while defender Clarke Carlisle (thigh) and forward Marlon King (knee) remain long-term casualties.

Arsenal (fourth) are without full-back Emmanuel Eboue (ankle) at home to Blackburn -- Justin Hoyte is his probable replacement, as fit-again Lauren won't be rushed back.

Midfielders Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky are in the squad but William Gallas (thigh), captain Thierry Henry (sciatic nerve) and Freddie Ljungberg (hamstring) are out.

Blackburn's top scorer and South Africa international Benni McCarthy is suspended.

Meanwhile strugglers Charlton have several injury concerns ahead of their match away to Middlesbrough. Darren Ambrose (knee), Dennis Rommedahl (foot), Hermann Hreidarsson (Achilles) and Radostin Kishishev (calf) face fitness tests, while winger Jerome Thomas (virus) is another doubt.

Elsewhere, Kanu is set to keep his place in high-flyers Portsmouth's attack for the visit of Sheffield United despite showing signs of a knee injury in the 2-2 draw at Arsenal, one of the striker's former clubs, last week.

Benjani Mwaruwari (hamstring) and Lomana Lualua (thigh) are out until January but Andy Cole is fit again after an Achilles injury.
Today's EPL Fixture

Fulham vs West Ham United

Arsenal vs Blackburn Rovers

Aston Villa vs Manchester United
Liverpool vs Watford
Manchester City vs Bolton Wanderers
Middlesbrough vs Charlton Athletic
Newcastle United vs Tottenham Hotspur
Portsmouth vs Sheffield United
Reading vs Everton
Wigan Athletic vs Chelsea

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