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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 23 July, 2014

All of the weekend’s Premier League team news

The North London derby dominates the weekend’s calendar, but both Manchester clubs also face stiff tests in the race for the title.

Image: Steve Drew/EMPICS Sport

Chelsea v Bolton (Saturday, 15.00)

An English Premier League match at home to struggling Bolton should be an attractive prospect for Chelsea as they seek a return to form.

Andre Villas-Boas’ Chelsea team are without a win from their past five matches in all competitions.

The latest calamity arrived in the Champions League round of 16 on Tuesday, when Chelsea were outclassed in a 3-1 loss away to Serie A side Napoli.

What the 34-year-old Portuguese tactician needs most is a win to quieten the voices of unrest, and there can be few more likely targets than second-from-bottom Bolton Wanderers.

Bolton have struggled to cope with injuries and the loss of key players in 2011/12.

They were forced to sell Gary Cahill to Chelsea in the January transfer window, and with John Terry sidelined by knee surgery, his young England colleague is likely to line-up against former employers Bolton at centre-back.

Long-term injuries to key midfielders Stuart Holden and Chung-Yong Lee have also taken their toll, meaning Bolton have managed just six victories in 25 league matches this season.

As well as Holden and Lee, Bolton will also be missing versatile veteran Ricardo Gardner and fullback Tyrone Mears, while striker Kevin Davies is in doubt with a knee injury.

Villas-Boas has close to a full complement of players to choose from, with club captain Terry their only absentee.

Newcastle v Wolves (Saturday, 15.00)

Newcastle have a chance to move to fourth spot on the English Premier League table when they host Wolverhampton on Saturday.

Alan Pardew expects to have three of his better players back on Saturday.

Cheik Tiote is back from the African Cup of Nations, Yohan Cabaye returns from suspension and Ryan Taylor should be fit after recovering from a horrible tackle by Aston Villa’s Stephen Warnock in Newcastle’s 2-1 victory at the start of the month.

Tiote provides the steel in midfield and Cabaye injects some class and skill, while Taylor can fill many different roles.

Wolverhampton’s supporters will no doubt be happy to watch their team play and focus on some football after their club’s search for a new manager has dominated news in the past fortnight.

Terry Connor, who was former manager Mick McCarthy’s assistant, will lead Wolves on Saturday after being given the job until the end of the season.

Connor is hopeful that defender Sebastian Bassong will be back after his hamstring injury.

A win for Wolverhampton would most likely take them out of the relegation spots.

QPR v Fulham (Saturday, 15.00)

After a humiliating defeat to Fulham earlier this season, Queens Park Rangers will be out for revenge when they meet again on Saturday.
Led by Andrew Johnson’s hat-trick, Fulham handed QPR a 6-0 thrashing when the London rivals, whose grounds are situated just three miles apart, met in October.

Bobby Zamora was also on the scoresheet that day, and the forward now dons QPR colours after moving in January.

QPR, who are winless in four matches in all competitions and sit 16th in the English Premier League, have replaced Neil Warnock with Mark Hughes since the embarrassing loss.

Zamora could be in for an interesting reception from the visiting fans at Loftus Road after making the move on January 31.

Djibril Cisse, who scored on his debut after joining in January, was sent off against Wolves on February 4, and serves the second match of a three-game ban against Fulham.

Likely to be joining him on the sidelines are QPR top-scorer Heidar Helguson and fellow attacker DJ Campbell because of injury.

Martin Jol has injury concerns of his own with Philippe Senderos and Steve Sidwell missing, while Johnson is also likely to play no part in the derby.

It shapes as an opportunity for Fulham to record back-to-back league wins for the first time since April last year, although QPR will be desperate to get even after the crushing loss earlier this season.

West Brom v Sunderland (Saturday, 15.00)

Sunderland will be out to continue their resurgence under Martin O’Neill when they take on West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Under the Northern Irishman, who first took charge in their 2-1 win over Blackburn on December 11, Sunderland have collected 22 of a possible 33 points in the English Premier League.

Now sitting ninth, O’Neill’s men have also progressed to the FA Cup quarter-finals after overcoming Arsenal in the fifth round.

Attacker Stephane Sessegnon (seven assists and six goals in the league) has been in excellent form.

With Nicklas Bendtner returning from injury, O’Neill will be forced into a difficult decision as to whether to persist with Sessegnon alone up front or to accommodate the Dane.

Roy Hodgson’s West Brom have struggled at the Hawthorns throughout the campaign, and should avoid a major relegation tussle if they can start winning at home.

In 12 league matches at home this season, West Brom have lost eight times and netted only nine goals.

Paul Scharner is a major fitness doubt with a chest injury, but in positive news for Hodgson – captain Chris Brunt is almost fully fit.

Sunderland will be without defender Titus Bramble (Achilles) after he was ruled out for at least another month, while Wes Brown remains sidelined.

With O’Neill inspiring a Sunderland revival, West Brom will need to be at their best if they are to improve their poor home record.

Wigan v Aston Villa (Saturday, 15.00)

Aston Villa visit Wigan Athletic on Saturday desperate for a win to avoid joining their hosts in an English Premier League relegation scrap.

Wigan sit bottom of the table, three points adrift of safety and with just four wins to their name in 25 league matches this season.

Alex McLeish has several injury worries ahead of Saturday’s match, with defenders Richard Dunne (shoulder) and Ciaran Clark (knee) out until April and March respectively.

Further forward, on-loan midfielder Jermaine Jenas is likely to sit out the rest of the campaign with an Achilles injury, while Barry Bannan is in doubt due to an ankle problem.

Wigan have no new injuries worries, their only absentees remain goalkeeper Chris Kirkland (back) and midfielder Shaun Maloney (calf), who are sidelined indefinitely.

Man City v Blackburn (Saturday, 17.30)

Carlos Tevez is back in the fold but unlikely to feature when Manchester City host Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League.

Tevez returned to England last week, ending nearly four months of self-imposed exile in Argentina following a falling out with City manager Roberto Mancini in September last year.

On Tuesday the striker issued a full, unreserved apology for his part in the well-publicised feud.

Mancini said he has accepted the apology, and expects the former Manchester United striker to be in contention for a return to action within two to three weeks.

That means City will have to make do with their expensively assembled strike force of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli as they welcome strugglers Blackburn to Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The absence of Tevez appeared to have little effect on City’s form for much of his time away, with the team still topping the Premier League standings by two points from reigning champions United.

They will be looking to make it three league wins in succession against Blackburn, after recovering from a 1-0 defeat at Everton with victories over Aston Villa and Fulham.

Steve Kean has several selection concerns to contend with coming into the match.

Club captain Chris Samba could return from a hamstring injury, but his fellow defender Gael Givet is suspended, as is midfielder Jason Lowe.

David Dunn is in doubt due to a calf injury, while a hip problem has sidelined veteran Vince Grella indefinitely.

Mancini, by contrast, has the luxury of a fully fit squad to choose from, with no suspensions, as City target their first top-flight title since 1968.

Arsenal v Tottenham (Sunday, 13.30)

Tottenham have a chance to pile more misery on arch-rivals Arsenal when the two north London clubs meet at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Arsenal have endured a horrible week that included being knocked out of the FA Cup and humiliated in the Champions League.

Tottenham lead the Gunners by ten points in the English Premier League heading into the game at Emirates Stadium, although both clubs struggled in the FA Cup last weekend.

Harry Redknapp’s men failed to overcome Stevenage and will have to play the League One club in a fifth round replay after their 0-0 draw on Sunday, although Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will be even more disappointed after his side was knocked out by Sunderland 2-0.

A goal from Kieran Richardson and an own goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were enough to eliminate Arsenal and they are now almost certain to finish their seventh season in a row without a trophy.

Arsenal’s hopes of Champions League glory were all but extinguished three days before the Sunderland defeat when they lost 4-0 away to AC Milan, despite the fact the second leg in London has not been played yet.

Tottenham had a big win in their most recent hit-out in the league, when Louis Saha and Emmanuel Adebayor starring in a 5-0 rout of Newcastle.

Adebayor is confident he will play against his former club despite twisting his knee last week.

The Togolese striker will most likely be joined by both Luka Modric, who missed the draw against Stevenage with illness, and Rafael Van der Vaart, who has been out for three matches with an injured calf.

But Redknapp will most likely have to do without Benoit Assou-Ekotto after the left-back had minor surgery on his groin last week.

For Arsenal, defender Laurent Koscielny is expected to return after limping off against Milan.

Norwich v Man United (Sunday, 13.30)

Norwich will be hoping their new-found defensive potency can see them shock Manchester United on Sunday and put pressure on Liverpool.

Last time these two teams faced each other in Norwich, the home side claimed a 2-0 victory but despite this, and the promoted club’s surprisingly good form this season, Manchester United are the obvious favourites.

The Red Devils are second on the table with 58 points, just two points behind rivals Manchester City, plus the reigning champions have the best away record in the Premier League.

Wayne Rooney should be back after missing the Europa League game against Ajax with a throat infection, while Anderson could also be included.

Norwich are expected to have defenders Kyle Naughton, Zak Whitbread and Marc Tierney back after absences through injury, which makes the idea of a third straight clean sheet at home in the Premier League a stronger possibility.

Stoke v Swansea (Sunday, 15.00)

Stoke City will hope to take out their Europa League frustrations on visiting Swansea City in the English Premier League on Sunday.

Stoke’s Europa League adventure finished this week with a 2-0 aggregate loss to Valencia and they could make up to nine changes against Swansea, including key players Ryan Shawcross, Peter Crouch, Matthew Etherington and Jonathan Walters, who were left in England to prepare for Sunday’s game.

Swansea are unlikely to rest anybody for their trip.

The Welsh club have not played since February 11, when they lost 3-2 to Norwich.

Midfielder Joe Allen will be back for the visitors after being left out against Norwich with a hamstring problem, while Kemy Agustien should also return from his ankle injury.

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