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Saturday, 23 December, 2000, 11:24 GMT
English Premier League preview
Giggs and Ferguson
Manchester United are hoping for a bumper Christmas
Christmas is often regarded as a crucial halfway point in the football season.

The glut of fixtures gives teams the chance to revive their fortunes and play catch up with frontrunners Manchester United and Arsenal.

One of the most intruiging matches on Saturday sees Middlesbrough chief Terry Venables return to his once beloved Tottenham.

The festive progamme gets underway with struggling Coventry desperate for points against Southampton this evening.

BBC Sport Online previews all of the weekend's top-flight games.


CHARLTON ATHLETIC v EVERTON

Charlton striker Shaun Bartlett faces a late fitness test on the hamstring injury he made worse during South Africa's 2-1 win over Liberia. Richard Rufus is back after a one-match ban but Graham Stuart is doubtful.

Charlton (from): Kiely, Kishishev, Konchesky, Shields, Rufus, Fish, Brown, Tiler, Powell, Stuart, Kinsella, Parker, Jensen, Robinson, Johansson, Svensson, Salako, Bartlett, Pringle, Bagheri, Caig.

Everton boss Walter Smith will make a late decision on who to play in goal at Charlton when he assesses the fitness of Thomas Myhre and Steve Simonsen. Smith also has serious problems with Kevin Campbell and Mark Pembridge struggling with flu. Duncan Ferguson could be on the bench.

Everton (from): Simonsen, Myhre, Watson, Weir, Ball, Naysmith, Gravesen, Alexandersson, Gemmill, Hughes, Unsworth, Moore, Cadamarteri, Nyarko, Pembridge, Campbell, Tal, Ferguson.

  • Full match preview


    CHELSEA v BRADFORD CITY

    Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink serves the final game of his three-match ban but Celestine Babayaro is back in contention after injury. Albert Ferrer is fit after an ankle problem while John Terry will again be hoping to keep Frank Leboeuf out of the starting line-up.

    Chelsea (from): De Goey, Cudicini, Babayaro, Desailly, Leboeuf, Terry, Melchiot, Lambourde, Bogarde, Harley, Ferrer, Wise, Jokanovic, Poyet, Morris, dalla Bona, Aleksidze, Zola, Gudjohnsen.

    Bradford manager Jim Jefferies is to name an unchanged squad as his side look for their first away Premiership win. Goalkeeper Matt Clarke has refused to travel with the side after handing in a transfer request, while Stan Collymore is still suspended.

    Bradford (from): Walsh, Nolan, Myers, McCall, Lawrence, Blake, Carbone, Beagrie, Molenaar, O'Brien, Windass, Sharpe, Rankin, Atherton, Saunders, Jacobs, Petrescu, McKinlay, Davison.

  • Full match preview


    DERBY COUNTY v NEWCASTLE

    Giorgi Kinkladze returns to the Derby squad after recovering from a pelvic injury and playing in a reserve game. Stefano Eranio is expected to start despite picking up an ankle injury against Coventry.

    Derby (from): Poom, Martin, Carbonari, Riggott, West, Eranio, Powell, Delap, Burley, Johnson, Christie, Morris, Burton, Murray, Oakes, Higginbotham, Kinkladze.

    Newcastle's Peruvian midfielder Nolberto Solano is out with a groin injury. Wales skipper Gary Speed is suspended while Alain Goma (calf) and Carl Cort and Kevin Gallacher (both hamstring) are still out and AWOL full-back Didier Domi has not returned from France.

    Newcastle (from): Given, Harper, Griffin, Barton, Hughes, Marcelino, Caldwell, Lee, Dyer, Bassedas, Acuna, Glass, Gavilan, Shearer, Cordone, Lua Lua, Ameobi.

  • Full match preview


    LEEDS v ASTON VILLA

    Robbie Keane is set to be on the bench for Leeds after joining on loan from Inter MIlan. Lucas Radebe returns from a one-match suspension. Olivier Dacourt is banned for one match and David Batty could play.

    Leeds (from): Robinson, Kelly, Harte, Radebe, Woodgate, Keane, Viduka, Kewell, Bowyer, Huckerby, Wilcox, Smith, Mills, Bakke, Matteo, Batty, Burns, Maybury, Ferdinand, Martyn.

    Aston Villa are again without midfielder Ian Taylor and striker Julian Joachim due to injuries. But Darius Vassell returns to the squad after shaking off a hamstring strain. Villa boss John Gregory is set to retain the same side that started against Man City.

    Villa (from): James, Alpay, Southgate, Barry, Stone, Boateng, Hendrie, Merson, Wright, Ginola, Dublin, Staunton, de Bilde, Delaney, Vassell, Enckelman.

  • Full match preview


    LEICESTER v WEST HAM UNITED

    Muzzy Izzet is expected to return to the Leicester side against West Ham after recovering from a knee injury. Arnar Gunnlaugsson is pushing for a start after scoring in the defeat of Charlton. Callum Davidson is out with an ankle injury.

    Leicester (from): Flowers, Rowett, Elliott, Taggart, Guppy, Impey, Savage, Jones, Izzet, Akinbiyi, Eadie, Benjamin, Oakes, Gunnlaugsson, Royce, Sinclair.

    Titi Camara goes straight into the West Ham squad at Leicester after completing his 1.5m move from Liverpool. Joe Cole, Craig Forrest and Christian Basilla all return from injury while John Moncur is available after suspension.

    West Ham (from): Hislop, S Pearce, Song, I Pearce, Winterburn, Lomas, Carrick, Lampard, Sinclair, Di Canio, Camara, Suker, Kanoute, Diawara, Cole, Moncur, Basilla, Tihinen, Potts, Byrne, Forrest.

  • Full match preview


    MANCHESTER UTD v IPSWICH

    Manchester United could hand David Healy or Jonathan Greening a start against Ipswich as Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Dwight Yorke (ban) are absent. Another option could see Ryan Giggs partner Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in attack.

    United (from): Barthez, Irwin, G Neville, Brown, Silvestre, Beckham, Keane, Butt, Scholes, Giggs. Solskjaer, Fortune, Greening, Healy, Wallwork, P Neville, van der Gouw.

    Ipswich's top scorer Marcus Stewart is a doubt for the trip to Manchester United. He missed Tuesday's Worthington Cup quarter-final victory at Manchester City with a thigh strain and faces a late fitness test before the match. Alun Armstrong or David Johnson stands by to deputise.

    Ipswich (from): R Wright, Wilnis, McGreal, Venus, Hreidarsson, Croft, J Wright, Magilton, Holland, Clapham, Scowcroft, Stewart, Armstrong, Johnson, Bramble, Reuser, Branagan, Karic.


    SUNDERLAND v MANCHESTER CITY

    Don Hutchison is expected to replace the suspended Kevin Phillips in the Sunderland attack after recovering from a hamstring injury. Niall Quinn returns and could form a new partnership in attack with Danny Dichio. Reid has to decide whether to recall Jody Craddock and Gavin McCann.

    Sunderland (from): Sorensen, Williams, Gray, Craddock, Thome, Varga, Kilbane, Rae, McCann, Schwarz, Arca, Quinn, Hutchison, Dichio, Oster, Thirlwell, Marriott.

    Paulo Wanchope faces a late fitness test on his knee injury before City finalise their line-up. Steve Howey has recovered from a hamstring scare, while Gerard Wiekens and Jeff Whitley should shake off knocks and be fit, but Andy Morrison is suspended.

    City (from): Weaver, Wright, Charvet, Dunne, Howey, Prior, Wiekens, Horlock, Bishop, Haaland, Jeff Whitley, Tiatto, Kennedy, Wright-Phillips, Dickov, Goater, Wanchope.

  • Full match preview


    TOTTENHAM v MIDDLESBROUGH

    Middlesbrough striker Alen Boksic will undergo a late fitness test on his injured hamstring while Ugo Ehiogu and Curtis Fleming return from suspension. Brian Deane is expected to shake off a knock.

    Boro (from): Schwarzer, Crossley, Fleming, O'Neill, Gordon, Stockdale, Ehiogu, Vickers, Cooper, Festa, Gavin, Ince, Mustoe, Karembeu, Okon, Boksic, Deane, Whelan, Job.

    Tottenham striker Steffen Iversen is still not fit after a knee operation and is unlikely to figure over Christmas. Defenders Ben Thatcher, Luke Young and Mauricio Taricco are also out. Norway midfielder Oyvind Leonhardsen could challenge Stephen Clemence for a left-side role.

    Spurs (from): Sullivan; Carr, Perry, Campbell, Thelwell, Anderton, Sherwood, King, Clemence, Leonhardsen, Rebrov, Ferdinand, Armstrong, Freund, Doherty, Davies, Korsten, Walker.

  • Full match preview

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