Arsenal v Middlesbrough
England defender Ashley Cole returns to Arsenal's squad and could feature for the first time since October.
Centre-back Sol Campbell, though, is ruled out with ankle injury, as is Robin van Persie (broken toe) and Dennis Bergkamp (virus) is doubtful.
Middlesbrough are without suspended left-back Emanuel Pogatetz and Franck Queudrue is out with a ligament injury.
Skipper Gareth Southgate is out with an ankle problem and Stewart Downing and Ray Parlour are both injured.
Arsenal (from): Lehmann, Lauren, Djourou, Senderos, Gilbert, Cygan, Pires, Fabregas, Flamini, Gilberto, Hleb, Bergkamp, Reyes, Henry, Almunia, Quincy, Larsson, Lupoli.
Middlesbrough (from): Jones, Schwarzer, Parnaby, Taylor, Riggott, Bates, Wheater, Doriva, Mendieta, Cattermole, Morrison, Rochemback, Johnson, Kennedy, Yakubu, Hasselbaink, Viduka, Maccarone.
Aston Villa v West Ham
Aston Villa striker Milan Baros returns after suspension, but Gareth Barry is banned after five bookings and will be replaced at left-back by JLloyd Samuel.
Eirik Bakke should return after missing the FA Cup win at Hull because of the terms of his loan deal from Leeds.
West Ham midfielder Yossi Benayoun faces a late fitness test on his thigh injury, but is rated as doubtful.
Keeper Roy Carroll should return along with centre-back Anton Ferdinand, but striker Teddy Sheringham is not fit.
Aston Villa (from): Sorensen, Taylor, Hughes, Delaney, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Samuel, McCann, Bakke, Milner, Davis, Angel, Baros, Moore, Gardner, Whittingham, Hendrie.
West Ham (from): Carroll, Hislop, Bywater, Dailly, Repka, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Collins, Konchesky, Clarke, Reo-Coker, Mullins, Fletcher, Benayoun, Etherington, Noble, Newton, Harewood, Zamora, Aliadiere, Katan.
Charlton v Birmingham
Charlton midfielder Danny Murphy returns after a hamstring problem, while Luke Young also returns.
Midfielder Alexei Smertin is doubtful with a knee injury and Gonzalo Sorondo has a broken foot, but Thomas Myhre should keep his place in goal.
Birmingham will give a debut to striker Chris Sutton, with the ex-Celtic man partnering Emile Heskey up front.
David Dunn, Muzzy Izzet, Mario Melchiot, Mikael Forssell and Matthew Upson are all fit for the Blues.
Charlton (from): Myhre, Young, Fortune, Hreidarsson, Powell, Rommedahl, Holland, Murphy, Hughes, Bent, Bartlett, Spector, Kishishev, Andersen, Perry, Lisbie, Ambrose, Thomas, Kiely, Smertin.
Birmingham (from): Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Cunningham, Martin Taylor, Upson, Bruce, Lazaridis, Gray, Pennant, Johnson, Izzet, Butt, Clemence, Kilkenny, Gray, Sutton, Heskey, Jarosik, Dunn, Vaesen, Painter.
Blackburn v Bolton
Blackburn manager Mark Hughes has no fresh injury worries.
Hughes has given his squad a clean bill of health after Wednesday's 1-1 Carling Cup semi-final first-leg draw with Manchester United.
Bolton quartet Jay-Jay Okocha, El-Hadji Diouf, Abdoulaye Faye and Radhi Jaidi are at the African Cup of Nations.
But Wanderers welcome back Kevin Nolan, Kevin Davies and Ivan Campo after suspension while Nicky Hunt and Gary Speed are doubtful through injury.
Blackburn (from): Friedel, Neill, Khizanishvili, Nelsen, Matteo, Bentley, Tugay, Savage, Pedersen, Dickov, Kuqi, Enckelman, Emerton, Bellamy, Thompson, Gray, Peter, Johnson, Gresko, Todd, Reid.
Bolton (from): Jaaskelainen, O'Brien, Ben Haim, N'Gotty, Gardner, Campo, Speed, Giannakopoulos, Nakata, Fadiga, Nolan, Davies, Borgetti, Vaz Te, Hunt, Walker, Fernandes, Fojut.
Sunderland v Chelsea
Sunderland can bring back Gary Breen and Steve Caldwell after suspension.
Christian Bassila is available again but Kevin Kyle, who made his comeback in the reserves after 18 months out, is not ready for the first team.
Jose Mourinho includes Lassana Diarra after the midfielder's good display in the FA Cup win over Huddersfield.
Didier Drogba is with Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations, so Carlton Cole comes in, while Michael Essien is missing with ankle ligament problems.
Sunderland (from): Davis, Hoyte, Breen, Caldwell, D Collins, Lawrence, Whitehead, Miller, Arca, Stead, Le Tallec, Alnwick, Bassila, Nosworthy, Murphy, Welsh, Woods, Stubbs, N Collins.
Chelsea (from): Cech, Cudicini, Ferreira, Johnson, Gallas, Carvalho, Bridge, del Horno, Terry, Carvalho, Huth, Makelele, Lampard, Diarra, Gudjohnsen, Robben, Duff, Crespo, J Cole, C Cole, Wright-Phillips.
Portsmouth v Everton
Portsmouth's new signings Sean Davis, Pedro Mendes and Noe Pamarot will all be included in Harry Redknapp's squad.
Benjani Mwaruwari may not play if Zimbabwe require him for the African Cup of Nations, but keeper Jamie Ashdown should return after injury.
Joseph Yobo will play his final game for the Toffees before flying off to join up with Nigeria to prepare for the African Cup of Nations.
Duncan Ferguson, Mikel Arteta and Nigel Martyn are all doubtful with injury.
Portsmouth (from): Ashdown, Westerveld, Primus, Pamarot, O'Brien, Taylor, Priske, Griffin, O'Neil, Hughes, Mendes, Davis, Diao, LuaLua, Benjani, Todorov, Cisse, Vignal.
Everton (from): Wright, Hibbert, Yobo, Ferrari, Weir, Kroldrup, Nuno Valente, Kilbane, Osman, Neville, Cahill, Davies, Arteta, McFadden, Bent, Beattie, Martyn, Turner, Arteta, Ferguson.
Fulham v Newcastle
Fulham's new signing Antti Niemi goes straight into the squad after the goalkeeper joined from Southampton.
Defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Moritz Volz are back as are strikers Brian McBride and Heidar Helguson, but Steed Malbranque is rated as doubtful.
Newcastle are without Scott Parker, Kieron Dyer, Craig Moore, Emre, Shola Ameobi, Steven Taylor and Michael Owen because of injuries.
Amdy Faye is away at the African Cup of Nations, but Lee Bowyer is back.
Fulham (from): Niemi, Warner, Drobny, Rosenior, Knight, Pearce, Jensen, Rehman, Goma, Bocanegra, Leacock, Volz, Elrich, Legwinski, Boa Morte, Elliott, Timlin, Milsom, Malbranque, John, Radzinski, Helguson, McBride.
Newcastle (from): Given, Harper, Caig, Carr, Ramage, Babayaro, Elliott, Boumsong, Bramble, Clark, Bowyer, Solano, N'Zogbia, Brittain, Shearer, Luque, Chopra.
Liverpool v Tottenham
Liverpool's Fernando Morientes should return, leaving Bolo Zenden as the only player in the treatment room.
Jose Reina should return in goal in place of Scott Carson, while new boys Jan Kromkamp and Daniel Agger may play.
Tottenham are without injured captain Ledley King (groin) and star midfielder Edgar Davids (ankle).
Andy Reid, Lee Young-Pyo and Teemu Tainio are available and Mido can play before joining up with Egypt, but Noureddine Naybet is with Morocco.
Liverpool (from): Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Warnock, Traore, Luis Garcia, Gerrard, Hamann, Alonso, Sissoko, Kewell, Cisse, Morientes, Sinama Pongolle, Crouch, Kromkamp, Agger, Carson.
Tottenham (from): Cerny, Robinson, Stalteri, Lee, Tainio, Gardner, King, Dawson, Carrick, Jenas, Davids, Brown, Kelly, Defoe, Keane, Mido, Rasiak, Lennon, Routledge, Reid.
Man City v Man Utd
Loan signing Albert Riera could make his City debut as Claudio Reyna and Danny Mills are both out injured.
Ben Thatcher and David Sommeil are suspended, while Sun Jihai is likely to replace Nedum Onuoha at right-back.
Paul Scholes will sit out the match after a bang on the head at Birmingham on December 28.
New signings Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra are both included in the squad, while top scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy is set to return in place of Louis Saha.
Man City (from): James, De Vlieger, Jihai, Onuoha, Dunne, Distin, Jordan, Sinclair, Croft, Barton, Ireland, Musampa, Riera, Cole, Vassell, Wright-Phillips, Fowler.
Man Utd (from): Van der Sar, Howard, Neville, Bardsley, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Brown, Vidic, Evra, O'Shea, Richardson, Park, Ronaldo, Smith, Fletcher, Giggs, Van Nistelrooy, Rooney, Saha, Rossi.
Wigan v West Brom
JJWigan striker David Connolly is out with a hamstring injury, while Lee McCulloch is a major doubt.
Paul Scharner is standing by to make his full debut for his new club while Leighton Baines is pushing for a recall after a hamstring strain.
West Brom midfielder Zoltan Gera is out as he has failed to recover from a double hernia operation.
Thomas Gaardsoe is out with a hamstring injury, while Diomansy Kamara is at the African Cup of Nations with Senegal.
West Brom (from): Kuszczak, Kirkland, Watson, Albrechtsen, Davies, Moore, Robinson, Greening, Wallwork, Inamoto, Carter, Ellington, Horsfield, Campbell, Chaplow, Earnshaw.
Brighton v Leeds
Brighton boss Mark McGhee has no fresh injury concerns for the home clash with high-flying Leeds.
Charlie Oatway, Alexis Nicolas, Jason Dodd and Chris McPhee are still out, but left-back Joel Lynch, who was cup-tied last weekend, is available.
Gylfi Einarsson and former Seagulls left-back Dan Harding will face late fitness tests before being included in the Leeds squad.
Stephen Crainey remains on standby to deputise for Harding.
Cardiff v Burnley
New signing Steven Thompson will make his Cardiff debut, but midfielder Jeff Whitley misses out through suspension.
Jason Koumas returns, but Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu only makes the bench while Glenn Loovens (hamstring) and Paul Parry (knee) are out.
Burnley skipper Frank Sinclair (finger) should be available and striker Gifton Noel-Williams could feature after recovering from eye problems.
Back-up goalkeeper Lee Grant returns to Derby after the Bluebirds clash.
Reading v Coventry
Reading boss Steve Coppell is expected to make changes to the side which drew 1-1 with West Brom on Saturday.
Marcus Hahnemann, Ibrahima Sonko, Glen Little, Bobby Convey and Kevin Doyle should all receive recalls, while Graeme Murty (back) is in contention.
Coventry will be missing only long-term absentees Robert Page (cheekbone) and Stuart Giddings who has a knee problem.
Isaac Osbourne (knee) is out for the rest of the season while Stephen Hughes is struggling with an Achilles injury.
Derby v Crewe
On-loan Middlesbrough striker Danny Graham is likely to return to the Derby squad for the home clash with Crewe.
Fellow Middlesbrough loanee Andrew Davies is suspended, but Richard Jackson (thigh) and goalkeeper Lee Camp (hip and thigh) are both fit to return.
Ben Williams (viral meningitis) and Anthony Tonkin (hamstring) are both missing from the Crewe squad.
On-loan goalkeeper Ross Turnbull is likely to return after being cup-tied, but Juan Ugarte (knee) is sidelined
Hull v Crystal Palace
New striker signings Darryl Duffy and Jon Parkin go straight into Peter Taylor's Hull squad.
Full-back Andy Dawson (foot) joins Ben Burgess, Ian Ashbee, Steve McPhee, Alton Thelwell and Danny Coles on the Tigers' long-term injury list.
Crystal Palace welcome back striker Clinton Morrison from a ban and he may replace Dougie Freedman in attack.
Aki Riihilahti (hamstring) should be included, but Fitz Hall is banned and Marco Reich (foot) is sidelined.
Ipswich v Sheff Utd
New recruit Alan Lee will make his Ipswich debut with forwards Nicky Forster, Adam Proudlock (both knee) and Sam Parkin all missing.
Skipper Jim Magilton (back) is likely to be fit, while Owen Garvan is also expected to recover from a dead leg.
Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock will make wholesale changes to the side beaten by Colchester last Saturday.
New signing Garry Flitcroft goes straight into the squad while Craig Short is back in contention.
Sheff Wed v Leicester
Striker Deon Burton and goalkeeper Nicky Weaver both return to the Sheffield Wednesday squad after missing last week's FA Cup clash with Charlton.
John Hills is also available after a suspension, while left-back Peter Gilbert is fit again and could feature.
New Leicester signing Matty Fryatt is rated at 50-50 with a hamstring knock with Danny Tiatto and Patrik Gerrbrand suffering similar problems.
Ryan Smith and Joey Gudjonsson begin one and two-match bans respectively.
Wolves v Luton
Wolverhampton Glenn Hoddle is pessimistic about the chances of left-back Lee Naylor (knee) regaining fitness in time for the game.
Jody Craddock is back from a calf injury, but striker George Ndah (knee) will miss out again.
Luton have doubts over midfielder Steve Robinson (knee) and defender Markus Heikkinen for the game.
Leon Barnett could come in for centre-back Heikkinen who is still recovering from a knock.
Preston v Millwall
Preston are without defender Matt Hill who faces three weeks out with a calf injury sustained in the warm-up before the 2-1 win over Crewe last week.
New signing Simon Whaley is included, with midfielders Paul McKenna, Adam Nowland and Brian O'Neil all sidelined.
Millwall's Jody Morris (calf) is likely to be back in contention after missing the FA Cup clash with Everton.
Defender Alan Dunne and midfielder Josh Simpson were also ruled out of the cup clash but both are expected to be fit
Plymouth v Norwich
New Plymouth signing Lilian Nalis is available for selection while loanee Elliott Ward returns to the squad.
Nick Chadwick (hamstring) and Lee Hodges (back) will also be included, but playmaker Akos Buzsaky is likely to be ruled out with a pelvis injury.
Robert Green (neck) and Dean Ashton (groin) are doubtful for injury-hit Norwich and face late fitness tests.
Darren Huckerby replaces the suspended Paul McVeigh in attack, while Jurgen Colin (groin) is fit to return.
QPR v Southampton
QPR defender Matthew Rose will miss out after tearing a stomach muscle and will be joined on the treatment table by midfielder Martin Rowlands (ankle).
Keeper Jake Cole also looks set to miss the game with calf trouble, but Steve Lomas could return to the squad.
Matt Oakley (calf), Darren Powell (hamstring) and Danny Higginbotham (groin) all return for Southampton.
Theo Walcott has been included in the Saints squad despite Arsenal's strong interest in signing him.
Ascoli - Empoli
Serie A minnows Ascoli and Empoli are both in awful form presently, but will regard this Stadio Del Duca clash as a great chance to take three points.
Week 18’s 4-1 mauling at the hands of Lazio took Ascoli’s record to only one win in eleven. Despite an impressive start, Swiss-born Coach Marco Giampaolo has admitted that the Bianconeri must strengthen the squad if they are to survive. So far the only change has been the new turf laid over Christmas which Ascoli have been trying to get used to in training.
Empoli are also struggling to pick up points. The Tuscans are now without a win in seven matches and after a prolific start to the season, Real Madrid target Francesco Tavano hasn’t scored since his penalty against Lazio in Week 13. Coach Mario Somma, pre-season favourite to win the sack race, is finally starting to feel the pressure. He was summoned before the directors after Week 18’s 3-1 defeat against fellow-strugglers Messina, a defeat here may be the final straw.
The home side’s record at the Del Duca so far this season suggests that a goal-fest is unlikely. Giampaolo’s side have scored 11 goals there and conceded only nine this season.
Giampaolo, who spoke of his disappointment at his side’s second half performance against Lazio, is still lacking Mirko Cudini and Domenico Cristiano, but receives a boost with the return of Ivano Della Morte. Cristiano Del Grosso remains suspended.
The visitors have a full strength squad except for Francesco Pratali who was dismissed last weekend.
Ascoli (probable): Coppola; Comotto, Domizzi, Paci, Tosto; Foggia, Biso, Guana, Fini; Quagliarella, Bjelanovic
Empoli (probable): Berti; Vanigli, Coda, Lucchini; Bonetto, Buscè, Ficini, Almiron, Vannucchi; Tavano, Riganò
Fiorentina - Chievo
Cesare Prandelli’s Fiorentina will hope to find their pre-Christmas form again after a poor start to 2006, but will be severely tested by a Chievo side that is confident and making a habit of overachieving.
Prandelli warned the Viola that they may struggle to keep the momentum of a superb start to the season after the Christmas break and it appears that he was right to be concerned. After a fortuitous 1-1 draw with Reggina came a 4-1 thrashing in the Coppa Italia against Juventus on Tuesday. The surprise package of Serie A are looking vulnerable for the first time.
The Christmas break seems to have served Chievo better. Beppe Pillon’s side bounced back from Week 17’s 4-0 hammering against Roma with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Lecce. Despite the pre-season target of survival, the Gialloblu are sitting in sixth and have been boosted by the form of French marksman Sergio Pellissier, who took his season tally to seven with a brace last weekend.
The Viola’s main goal threat, Serie A Capocannoniere Luca Toni, is finally going through a dry spell. After finding the net 16 times in 13 games, the giant ex-Palermo striker has not scored since he lost his lucky amulet five games ago. The game will also be played on the neutral ground of Perugia after crowd trouble during Fiorentina's Cup match versus Juventus before Christmas.
Michele Pazienza is suspended and goalkeepers Sebastien Frey and Cristian Cejas are injured, but Prandelli has a strong squad at his disposal. The visitors will have to do without Federico Cossato who has a recurring knee injury and Fabio Moro who is not match-fit. Victor Obinna, whose move to Inter will be finalised within the next fortnight, will not have his swansong for the Flying Donkeys as the Nigerian Football Federation have refused to release him from their African Nations Cup squad.
Fiorentina (probable): Roccati; Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Di Loreto, Pasqual; Fiore, Brocchi, Donadel, Jorgensen; Pazzini, Toni
Chievo (probable): Fontana; Malagò, Mandelli, D’Anna, Lanna; Semioli, Brighi, Giunti, Franceschini; Amauri, Pellissier
Inter - Cagliari
Roberto Mancini will accept nothing less than a commanding win from his Inter side after last weekend’s miserable 0-0 draw with Siena, but a gutsy Cagliari side will be determined to make the Nerazzurri fight for maximum points in this San Siro clash.
Inter’s Week 18 stalemate with Siena brought a six game winning streak to an end and allowed Juventus to extend their advantage over Mancini’s men to 10 points. Mancini will see this weekend as a chance to put the pressure back on their Milan rivals who must travel to Roma. His side will certainly be strong favourites. They have only lost once at home whereas their opponents have lost eight of nine games on their travels.
However, under Nedo Sonetti, Cagliari are getting stronger and stronger. Week 18’s 2-1 win over Udinese took the Sardinians out of the relegation zone and demonstrated how far the Rossoblu have come with the guidance of their fourth Coach of the term. The travelling fans will expect little but can also take heart from last season’s 3-3 draw at the Stadio Sant’Elia.
Roberto Mancini is suffering from a lack of depth in his squad. Both Obafemi Martins and new signing Victor Obinna are away on African Nations Cup duty with Nigeria and, after Alvaro Recoba limped off against Siena, the Nerazzurri have few striking options. Juan Sebastian Veron is suspended while Zè Maria and Marco Andreolli are injured. Marco Materazzi also remains sidelined.
Sonetti has few injury concerns. Claudio Pani has been ruled out and Andrea Capone is also injured. Massimo Gobbi is nursing a knock but is likely to start.
Inter (probable): Julio Cesar; J Zanetti, Cordoba, Samuel, Favalli; Figo, Pizarro, Cambiasso, Stankovic; Cruz, Adriano
Cagliari (probable): Chimenti; Bega, Bizera, Canini, Agostini; Esposito, Abeijon, Conti, Conticchio, Cocco; Suazo
Juventus - Reggina
Juventus are seemingly unstoppable at the moment and will be confident of maintaining their perfect home record against a battling Reggina side in this Stadio Delle Alpi clash.
Fabio Capello’s superstars are showing no signs of easing off after Christmas. The Bianconeri followed Week 18’s 2-1 victory over Palermo, their 16th in 18 games, with a 4-1 demolition of Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia on Thursday.
Alessandro Del Piero has hit top form. His hat-trick against the Viola took him past Giampiero Boniperti’s goal scoring record and reinforced his bid for a ticket to Germany. The key to the League leaders’ success at home has been a mean defence - they have only conceded twice at the Delle Alpi all season.
Reggina boss Walter Mazzarri will try and inspire his side to repeat last season’s shock 2-1 victory over Juventus at the Stadio Oreste Granillo, but will be only too aware of the Amaranti’s poor away record. Reggina are without an away win and 16 of their 19 points have been earned at home and they have only scored five times on the road. However, Mazzarri must have been delighted with his side’s performance in Week 18’s 1-1 draw with high-flying Fiorentina and will ask his side to show belief in their ability to trouble Serie A’s giants.
Gigi Buffon played in the Coppa Italia tie on Tuesday, but Christian Abbiati - soon to return to Milan - may start. Capello’s only injuries are Alessandro Birindelli and Robert Kovac, both out for a month, and long-term absentee Jonathan Zebina who is approaching fitness.
The visitors welcome back Maurizio Lanzaro and Giacomo Tedesco, but must do without Rolando Bianchi. Francesco Cozza remains suspended.
Juventus (probable): Abbiati; Zambrotta, Thuram, Cannavaro, Chiellini; Camoranesi, Emerson, Vieira, Nedved; Ibrahimovic, Trezeguet
Reggina (probable): Pavarini; Lanzaro, Franceschini, De Rosa; Lucarelli; Mesto, Paredes, Tedesco, Modesto, Vigiani; Amoruso
Lecce - Sampdoria
Lecce will hope to add to the pressure on Sampdoria Coach Walter Novellino by taking maximum points against off-form Doria at the Via Del Mare and in the process leave the relegation zone.
Novellino slammed his side after last week’s 2-0 defeat to Livorno and warned that without reinforcements the Blucerchiati will be in for a mid-table finish. Sampdoria are now down to ninth and haven’t won since they beat Empoli in Week 14. A positive result looks essential to prevent a dangerous rift between Coach and President.
Silvio Baldini’s Lecce were beaten 3-1 by Chievo last weekend, but have by no means been cut adrift at the bottom due to their pre-Christmas improvement. While the Giallorossi have found consistency a big problem, they have shown themselves to be capable of upsetting more illustrious opponents who underachieve such as Udinese in Week 15.
The home side will be delighted to have five-goal striker Mirko Vucinic back from suspension. He may be partnered by new arrival Luca Saudati or he may front a trident including Ivory Coast forward Axel Konan. Despite Press speculation linking him with Celtic, Finnish midfielder Alexei Eremenko looks likely to feature. Vincenzo Sicignano has a knee injury so Francesco Benussi steps in. Guillermo Giacomazzi will also miss out.
Novellino is short of options and may have to ask his players to fight fatigue after a midweek Coppa Italia clash with Cagliari. Andrea Gasbarroni is out injured and joins a long list of long-term absentees. Francesco Flachi is suspended after his dismissal against Livorno and, with Emiliano Bonazzoli out for the season, there are few striking options. Ex- Ascoli hitman Corrado Colombo looks likely to start. Giulio Falcone shows no signs of playing his first game of the season and Angelo Palombo also faces a lengthy spell in the stands.
Lecce (probable): Benussi; Angelo, Diamoutene, Stovini, Rullo; Delvecchio, Ledesma, Eremenko; Konan, Saudati, Vucinic
Sampdoria (probable): Antonioli; Zenoni, Castellini, Pavan; Pisano; Diana, Volpi, Dalla Bona, Tonetto; Bazzani, Colombo
Livorno - Siena
In this latest Tuscan derby between Livorno and Siena, all eyes will be on Cristiano Lucarelli as the Granata striker tries to back up his claim for a place at the World Cup. In light of his recent form, Lucarelli had announced it was his dream to join the Azzurri in Germany and has since been told by Marcello Lippi that the door is still very much open for him. After his two goals against Sampdoria on Sunday, the Livorno captain will be desperate to impress again this week.
The Siena defence will be hoping not to make things too easy for him though. The Bianconeri previously owned the title of Serie A’s worst defence but the encouraging clean sheet against Inter in Week 18 saw that record passed on to Parma. Igor Tudor and co will not be eager to reclaim their title especially after such an encouraging improvement against the likes of Adriano.
But their local rivals will be hard to stop. Livorno are flying high at the moment and find themselves in fifth place, within touching distance of Champions League qualification. With Giuseppe Colucci their only absentee they will be eager to get a good result here to really pile the pressure on fourth placed Fiorentina. Siena will have to get to grips with their in-form opponents without the help of injured duo Gianluca Falsini and Massimo Marazzina.
Livorno (probable): Amelia; Grandoni, Vargas, Galante; Pfertzel, Morrone, Passoni, De Ascentis, Coco; Palladino, Lucarelli
Siena (probable): Mirante; Foglio, Portanova, Tudor, Gastaldello; Alberto, D’Aversa, Vergassola; Locatelli; Chiesa, Bogdani
Messina - Palermo
Messina will play host to Palermo at the Stadio San Filippo in the first leg of this season’s much-anticipated Sicilian derby. This heated encounter is always a joy to behold for the passion shown both on and off the pitch. Last season this fixture resulted in a 0-0 stalemate with the Rosanero coming out on top overall thanks to a narrow 2-1 victory in their home tie. But with both sides currently struggling to live-up to their expectations, anything could happen in Sicily this time around.
Despite their worrying League position, Messina find themselves with the odds on their side going into this match. Star man Alessandro Parisi has finally returned from injury and impressed during the team’s 3-1 win over Empoli on Sunday. That win will surely have given the squad a much needed confidence boost, especially in light of the three goals scored by the improving strike partnership of Arturo Di Napoli and Zlatan Muslimovic. They may only be two points above the relegation zone but seem to be finally recreating some of their form from last term, highlighted by their recent 2-0 win over high flying Chievo.
Currently on a run of three straight defeats, Palermo find themselves adrift in the bottom half of the table. To make matters worse their small squad means that they are now without a single striker in their first team. With only three centre-forwards at the best of times, Andrea Caracciolo’s suspension has come at the worst possible time. The Rosanero were already without Stephen Makinwa for around a month after he joined up with his Nigerian international teammates in Egypt for the African Cup of Nations. But now Simone Pepe is injured as well, effectively wiping out Coach Luigi Del Neri’s attacking options.
Messina (probable): Storari; Cristante, Zanchi, Aronica; Parisi, Giampa, Donati, D’Agostino, Sculli; Di Napoli, Muslimovic
Palermo (probable): Lupatelli; Zaccardo, Terlizzi, Barzagli, Grosso; Gonzalez, Barone, Corini, Bonanni; Santana, Brienza
Parma - Lazio
Lazio will travel to Parma confident of securing a result in this battle of Serie A’s fallen giants. Not so long ago both of these sides would have been competing for the Scudetto, but financial problems have put an end to such optimistic ambitions. While Lazio are still outside contenders for a UEFA Cup place, their opponents find themselves deep within the unfolding relegation battle.
The Gialloblu will take heart from the return of the influential Daniele Bonera in defence who should help to solve some of their problems at the back, especially after last week’s seven goal thriller with Milan saw them become officially the leakiest defence in Serie A. This has been a major factor in their poor season so far, which currently sees them just inside the relegation zone. They will also be encouraged by the recent form of Marco Marchionni, despite the rumours of his impending departure. Lazio’s 4-1 demolition of Ascoli showed they are improving too and will have given the Tardini outfit something to think about.
Two players who will be hoping to put an end to Lazio’s European ambitions for this year are Bernardo Corradi and Fernando Couto. The Portuguese defender spent seven seasons with the Biancocelesti before he was released in the summer against his wishes. Corradi will also have a score to settle with the Rome club having played at the Olimpico for two years before being sold to Valencia where he struggled.
Parma (probable): Guardalben; Bonera, Cardone, Couto, Contini; Grella, Dessena, Simplicio, Bresciano; Marchionni, Corradi
Lazio (probable): Peruzzi; Oddo, Siviglia, Cribari, Zauri; Manfredini, Mudingayi, Liverani, Pandev; Di Canio; Rocchi
Roma - Milan
Roma will play host to Milan in the Sunday night pick of this week’s games. The Rossoneri will especially be hoping to entertain the television audience after some great performances recently to move them back into second place in Serie A. After their victory over Parma in last week’s 4-3 thriller, they have now scored 11 goals in their last three matches. Eight of these have come from the on-form partnership of Alberto Gilardino and Andriy Shevchenko who will be looking for plenty more goals in Rome.
But they will have to contend with Roma’s own in-form partnership, this time in defence. Cristian Chivu and Philippe Mexes have both been on great form since returning from their respective injuries and will be looking to continue this to take full advantage of Samuel Kuffour’s absence to cement their place in the team. Their form has also played a major role in the Giallorossi’s recent rejuvenation. After their poor start they are now just three points away from their goal of European qualification.
This match will also see Milan’s inconsistent away form go head to head with Roma’s equally unpredictable home form. The Giallorossi’s last two results at the Olimpico are a perfect example of why they have struggled this term. While their last match showed just what they are capable as they brushed aside high flying Chievo 4-0, a lacklustre performance just two weeks previously saw them succumb 2-1 to a below par Palermo.
The Rossoneri have been having similar problems with their away game with only 13 of their 40 points this season having come from outside the San Siro. All of this should make for an exciting and closely fought encounter.
Roma (probable): Doni; Panucci, Mexes, Chivu, Cufre; De Rossi, Aquilani; Taddei, Perrotta, Mancini; Totti
Milan (probable): Dida; Stam, Nesta, Kaladze, Serginho; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kaka; Gilardino, Shevchenko
Udinese - Treviso
When Treviso travel to the Stadio Friuli to face Udinese both sides will be hoping to get their season back on track. The Biancocelesti still find themselves at the foot of the table and have only won once in their last nine fixtures. They will find it especially hard in this match due to their dreadful away record. They have won just once on their travels during the current campaign and have only scored five times away from the Stadio Omobono Tenni.
While many expected the newly promoted side to struggle this term, few predicted that the home side would have such problems. The Bianconeri are in freefall at the moment after losing four of their last five games. This abysmal run has seen them start to lose sight of the leaders in the race for European qualification and another defeat to a team from the lower reaches of the table could see them drop out altogether. They already ensured Cagliari would move out of the relegation zone when they gifted the Sardinians a win last week and on current form could well do the same again.
The manner of that island defeat also means that Coach Serse Cosmi has problems going into this encounter. The midfield duo of Christian Obodo and Giampiero Pinzi are both suspended after their moments of madness against the Rossoblu saw them awarded red cards.
Add to this the absence through injury of Cesare Natali, Sulley Muntari, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Morgan De Sanctis, and Cosmi has quite a selection headache. His opposite number Alberto Cavasin has a simpler task as he is only without the injured Marco Mallus and the suspended Andrea Dossena.
Udinese (probable): Paoletti; Bertotto, Sensini, Zapata; Zenoni, Tissone, Aguilar, Mauri, Candela; Di Michele, Di Natale
Treviso (probable): Zancope; Valdez, Gustavo, Cottafava, Dellafiore; A Filippini, Parravicini, E Filippini, Pinga; Reginaldo, Borriello