FRANKFURT, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich hopes of spending the six-week winter break as Bundesliga leaders hinge on their match against title rivals VfB Stuttgart on Saturday (kickoff 1430 GMT).
Bayern have shown signs of fatigue recently, conceding a late equaliser to FC Nuremberg in the league and stumbling to a 2-2 draw with Ajax Amsterdam in the Champions League.
The dropped points against Nuremberg allowed Schalke 04 to join them at the top of the table with one round of matches to go before the festive break.
Bayern's superior goal difference will keep them top if they beat third-placed Stuttgart, but anything less would almost certainly mean a drop down the standings, as Schalke have an easy-looking game at home to bottom club SC Freiburg.
Bayern coach Felix Magath has spent the past week playing down the importance of the honorary title of winter champions but that view is not shared by everyone at the club.
"If you're top at Christmas it's very good for your self-confidence," commercial manager Uli Hoeness said. "It's important psychologically."
Bayern lost Hasan Salihamidzic (groin), Willy Sagnol (ankle) and Mehmet Scholl (cheekbone) to injury last week and Magath has another worry over Brazilian defender Lucio.
Stuttgart also had bad luck in the build-up to the game, with captain Zvonimir Soldo limping out of training with a thigh injury.
Other Bundesliga matches being played this weekend (league positions in parentheses):
Saturday (kickoffs 1430 GMT):
VFL BOCHUM (16) v HAMBURG SV (10)
Bochum stayed in the relegation zone after a brave fightback against Stuttgart last weekend went unrewarded, as three goals in the last 15 minutes consigned them to a 5-2 defeat. The same attitude could bring more reward this time, however, as inconsistent Hamburg visit with Bjoern Schlicke and Raphael Wicky suspended and another four players injured. - - - -
HANOVER 96 (4) v HERTHA BERLIN (7)
Hanover have lost just one of their last 10 league games and stayed on the fringes of the title race with a 2-0 win at Hamburg SV last weekend. Hertha are likely to provide trickier opposition if they continue the form they showed in the 6-0 drubbing of Borussia Moenchengladbach last time out. - - - -
HANSA ROSTOCK (17) v BORUSSIA DORTMUND (14)
Rostock have lost every home league game this season yet the way they performed in a 1-1 draw at Arminia Bielefeld last weekend should give them great heart. Dortmund are also in trouble after last weekend's 1-0 derby defeat at home to Schalke 04. - - - -
FSV MAINZ (11) v FC NUREMBERG (13)
Nuremberg did well to halt Bayern Munich's winning run last week but their hopes of another good result will be hit by an injury to Marek Mintal, the league's leading scorer with 13 goals. They also have Andy Wolf suspended after he was sent off against Bayern. - - - -
SCHALKE 04 (2) v SC FREIBURG (18)
Schalke have won nine of their last 10 Bundesliga games and will be strong favourites to extend that run against basement side Freiburg, who have lost their last seven league matches. The incentive for Schalke will be the chance to take over at the top should Bayern slip up against Stuttgart. - - - -
WERDER BREMEN (5) v KAISERSLAUTERN (12)
Bremen pulled off an excellent 2-0 win at Valencia to secure Champions League qualification this week but they will be without influential pair Frank Baumann and Daniel Jensen, both injured, for this tricky game. Kaiserslautern have pulled away from the drop zone with an excellent run over the past month. - - - -
Sunday (kickoffs 1630 GMT):
BORUSSIA MOENCHENGLADBACH (15) v BAYER LEVERKUSEN (8)
Leverkusen are on the way back up after two successive domestic wins and a brilliant 3-0 victory over Dynamo Kiev that took them through to the knock-out round of the Champions League. Their return to form is bad news for fragile Moenchengladbach, who have lost their last three under new coach Dick Advocaat and are slipping down the table fast. - - - -
VFL WOLFSBURG (6) v ARMINIA BIELEFELD (9)
Wolfsburg, the former leaders, have lost their last three league games and another defeat here would be a huge psychological blow to their hopes of getting back into the title hunt.
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ROME, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Champions AC Milan will try to maintain the pressure on Serie A leaders Juventus on Sunday, when they host Fiorentina at the San Siro stadium (kickoff 1400 GMT).
Milan lie second in the standings on 31 points from 14 matches, four behind Juventus, who play Bologna.
Though yet to recreate the effortless passing game of the side that cruised to the Serie A title last season, Milan showed resilience when they struck twice in the final 10 minutes to beat Parma 2-1 last weekend.
They will need to draw on their reserves again against Fiorentina.
In addition to long-term injury victims Jaap Stam and Filippo Inzaghi, Milan have lost striker Jon Dahl Tomasson, who was struck in the back during the Parma game, allowing Hernan Crespo to start up front alongside Andriy Shevchenko.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, have clawed their way into the top half of the table after a poor start but will be without influential midfielder Martin Jorgensen, who has a groin strain.
Fiorentina's hopes of beating Milan are slim, according to their striker Fabrizio Miccoli.
"We have one hope: if we play to our full potential and they make a few mistakes," the Italy international was quoted as saying in La Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday.
"We also have to make sure we take advantage of free kicks and every time we come forward on the break."
Other Serie A matches (kickoffs 1400 GMT unless stated):
Playing on Saturday, December 11:
ATALANTA (20) v UDINESE (3) (1800)
Winless Atalanta are four points adrift at the bottom of the division and sacked coach Andrea Mandorlini after last weekend's 1-0 defeat by Palermo.
Mandorlini's successor, Delio Rossi, will try to kickstart their bid to avoid relegation against high-flying Udinese who have won six of their last seven matches.
- - - -
LAZIO (14) v LECCE (7) (1930)
Lazio have lost their last two Serie A matches and start without defender Fernando Couto, who is suspended.
Lecce defender Marco Cassetti has recovered from flu and looks set to play at the Olympic Stadium.
- - - -
Playing on Sunday, December 12:
BRESCIA (13) v AS ROMA (11)
Roma's chances of shaking off the inconsistency that has marred their campaign will not be helped by the absence of captain Francesco Totti, who is suspended.
Brescia captain and former Roma player Luigi Di Biagio may miss the match due to an injury picked up during last week's 3-1 win over Reggina.
- - - -
CHIEVO VERONA (12) v PALERMO (5)
Chievo's Lorenzo D'Anna returns from suspension to shore up a defence that shipped four goals against Cagliari last time out.
Palermo, meanwhile, aim to continue their upward momentum with a fourth consecutive win.
- - - -
LIVORNO (15) v PARMA (18)
Parma have made their worst-ever start to a Serie A season, racking up just 12 points in 14 matches.
Livorno are also slipping down the standings. The Tuscan side have lost their last two matches and are expected to start without injured striker Igor Protti.
- - - -
REGGINA (16) v CAGLIARI (4)
Reggina run of impressive home results, which included wins over Juventus and Roma, fell to pieces when they lost to Brescia last weekend.
They will have to be at their best to halt a rampant Cagliari side who have scored 13 goals in their last three matches.
- - - -
SAMPDORIA (9) v MESSINA (10)
Sampdoria welcome back playmaker Cristiano Doni from suspension against the Sicilians.
Messina, meanwhile, are in search for a morale-boosting result after last week's 5-0 hammering by Inter Milan.
- - - -
SIENA (19) v INTER MILAN (6)
Siena's chances of avoiding their fourth consecutive defeat appear slim against a confident Inter Milan side reinforced by the return of midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron from injury.
Inter keeper Francesco Toldo is suspended and should be replaced by Fabian Carini.
- - - -
BOLOGNA (17) v JUVENTUS (1) (1930)
With Milan breathing down their necks, the Juve players will not want a scare like the one they suffered last week, when they had to come from behind to beat Lazio 2-1.
Bologna's attack has scored just 13 goals this season but will be lifted by the return of Giacomo Cipriani from suspension.
MADRID, Dec 10 (Reuters) - After finally securing their qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League, Real Madrid are now turning their attention to domestic matters as they look to make up ground on runaway leaders Barcelona.
Trailing nine points behind the Catalans in the table, Real host a revived Real Sociedad at the Bernabeu on Sunday (kickoff 1800 GMT) knowing that nothing less than a victory will suffice.
Real have slipped to four defeats in their 14 league games so far this season, including a crushing 3-0 loss at the Nou Camp, and another one would allow their rivals to go into the winter break with an unexpectedly large advantage.
But coach Mariano Garcia Remon is convinced that an injury-blighted Barcelona will struggle to maintain their impressive form until the end of the season.
"I think it will be impossible for them to keep up this pace as they are heading for a record total of points and I can't see that happening," he said. "We have to keep on working and just wait for them to slip up."
Real were fortunate to come away with a point after their 0-0 draw at Villarreal last week, but they did manage to wrap up qualification with a 3-0 win over already eliminated Roma at the Olympic Stadium.
Real Sociedad have recovered their confidence after a poor start to the season and ended Betis's 10-match unbeaten run with a 1-0 victory last week.
They thrashed Real 4-1 at the Bernabeu at the end of last season and Turkish striker Nihat Kahveci says: "We have to battle away as usual and make the most of our chances and I'm sure we will get something from this match."
Other matches being played this weekend (league positions in brackets, kickoff times 1600 GMT unless stated):
ALBACETE (17) v BARCELONA (1) 1900
More injury worries for Barca coach Frank Rijkaard after Brazilian fullback Juliano Belletti picked up a minor ankle injury in Tuesday's 2-0 defeat by Shakhtar Donetsk.
French winger Ludovic Giuly is still struggling with a thigh problem and keeper Victor Valdes is doubtful because of flu. Despite the absences, the Catalans should still prove too strong for Albacete. -TEAM NEWS
Albacete. Coach Jose Gonzalez has tried everything in attack and we could see any pairing from Mikel, Pacheco, Castro or Francisco. Strangely, many of the clubs new signings have not figured much this season and the boss’s selection policy has been somewhat predictable. Either way, a team set up to frustrate is most likely.
Barcelona. Valdez, Belletti, Gio and Xavi will probably be the only players to keep their places from the Shaktar match, with wholesale changes a certainty. Iniesta would relish an opportunity to play against his old club but should start from the bench, while Rijkaard will welcome the return of Giuly after yet another niggling injury.
- - -
ATHLETIC BILBAO (15) v ATLETICO MADRID (6) 2100
Athletic have taken only one point from seven away games, but their home form has been very good and they should be able to count on the presence of leading midfielder Fran Yeste, who appears to have shaken off a throat infection.
Atletico will be missing midfielder Marcelo Sosa through suspension, but playmaker Ariel Ibagaza should return after two weeks out injured. - - - -
DEPORTIVO CORUNA (8) v SEVILLA (5)
Depor made a humiliating exit from the Champions League with a 5-0 defeat at home to Monaco, becoming the only team in the history of the competition to fail to score a goal in the first group phase.
They will be without suspended centre-back Cesar as they look to stop a Sevilla attack spearheaded by the in-form Brazilian striker Julio Baptista. - - - -
ESPANYOL (3) v REAL MALLORCA (18) 2000
Espanyol continued their dream start to the season with an impressive 1-0 victory away to Zaragoza last weekend, skipper Raul Tamudo marking his return from injury by scoring the winner.
Mallorca remain in the relegation zone despite a heroic 3-2 comeback win over Numancia, and they have only lost once since Hector Cuper took over as coach at the start of last month. - - - -
GETAFE (16) v VILLARREAL (14)
Villarreal have taken just one point from their last four games and will need to be on their guard against a Getafe side that have earned all but two of their points at home. - - - -
MALAGA (19) v LEVANTE (10)
Malaga coach Gregorio Manzano is in serious trouble after his team slumped to a sixth defeat in seven matches when they went down 4-0 to Barcelona at the Nou Camp last week.
Failure to win this one at home to an out-of-form Levante, who have not won in four, could see his tenure with the Andalucians brought to an abrupt conclusion. - - - -
OSASUNA (9) v REAL ZARAGOZA (11)
An inconsistent start to the season for both teams, but form favours Osasuna. The Navarrans have lost just one home game this season, while Zaragoza have yet to win away. Uruguayan midfielder Pablo Garcia is suspended for Osasuna. - - - -
REAL BETIS (7) v RACING SANTANDER (13)
Betis's 10-match unbeaten run was brought to an end with their 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad last week and they will expect to be pushed hard by Racing, who were unfortunate to be deprived of a victory over Depor last time out. - - - -
VALENCIA (4) v NUMANCIA (20)
Like Depor, Valencia will also be looking to recover from an embarrassing departure from the Champions League.
A number of players as well as coach Claudio Ranieri lost their heads towards the end of their 2-0 defeat against Werder Bremen, but they will have a great chance to put things right against basement club Numancia.
Defender Roberto Ayala is likely to return to the squad after missing the first part of the season with a knee injury.
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Everton and Liverpool contest the 198th Merseyside derby on Saturday afternoon, live on Prem Plus.
Liverpool are aiming for their fifth Premiership victory at Goodison Park as they look to close the gap on Everton in the table.
Everton can climb into second spot for 24 hours at least with victory and they are aiming to end a run of nine games without a win in Merseyside derbies.
The Toffees are sweating over the fitness of Scottish striker Duncan Ferguson before finalising their squad.
Ferguson is struggling with a knee injury he picked up in last weekend's win over Bolton and if he misses out Leon Osman could come back into the side.
Everton boss David Moyes has no other injury worries to contend with as he looks to continue their brilliant start to the season.
Liverpool welcome Dietmar Hamann back into the fold after he missed the dramatic UEFA Champions League comeback win against Olympiakos.
The German is likely to return to the starting line-up, with Steven Gerrard playing a more attacking role behind Milan Baros after the Czech striker made a successful return to action against Olympiakos.
The Reds are still without injured trio Djibril Cisse, Luis Garcia and Vladimir Smicer.
Neil Mellor and Florent Sinama-Pongolle are both pushing for starting places after their goalscoring appearances as substitutes against Olympiakos.
Everton (from): Martyn, Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs, Pistone, Carsley, Gravesen, Cahill, Kilbane, Osman, Bent, Ferguson, McFadden, Wright, Watson, Yobo, Naysmith, Chadwick, Campbell.
Liverpool (from): Kirkland, Finnan, Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Riise, Kewell, Gerrard, Hamann, Alonso, Nunez, Baros, Pongolle, Mellor, Dudek, Diao.
Aston Villa are boosted by the return of midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who has recovered from a thigh strain.
Gavin McCann is having treatment on a knee problem, while Lee Hendrie serves the second game of a three-match ban.
Birmingham have recalled Darren Carter from his loan spell at Sunderland, but full-back Mario Melchiot is a major doubt with persistent thigh strain.
Stan Lazaridis is fit to return, but Muzzy Izzet is out after breaking down in training with a knee injury.
Aston Villa (from): Sorensen, De La Cruz, Mellberg, Delaney, Samuel, Whittingham, Solano, McCann, Barry, Angel, Cole, Davis, Berson, Hitzlsperger, Ridgewell, L Moore, S Moore, Postma.
Birmingham (from): Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Clapham, Martin Taylor, Gray, Gronkjaer, Dunn, Savage, Carter, Izzet, Yorke, Heskey, Morrison, Tebily, Clemence, Lazaridis, Anderton, Morrison, Vaesen.
Crystal Palace centre-back Gonzalo Sorondo returns to the squad after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Midfielder Aki Riihilahti has fully recovered from an Achilles injury, but Nicola Ventola is out for up to eight weeks after fracturing an ankle bone.
Blackburn midfielder Tugay will be out for at least a month after damaging knee ligaments in training.
David Thompson should replace him, but Matt Jansen, Lorenzo Amoruso, and Youri Djorkaeff are all missing.
Crystal Palace (from): Kiraly, Speroni, Boyce, Butterfield, Borrowdale, Popovic, Leigertwood, Sorondo, Hall, Hudson, Granville, Riihilahti, Kolkka, Watson, Hughes, Soares, Danze, Lakis, Routledge, Andrews, Torghelle, Freedman, Shipperley, Johnson.
Blackburn (from): Friedel, Enckelman, Dickov, Short, Douglas, Emerton, Ferguson, Flitcroft, Thompson, De Pedro, Gray, Johansson, Matteo, Neill, Stead, Pedersen, Gallagher, Reid, Todd, Bothroyd.
Norwich are facing up to an injury crisis with a groin injury forcing Phil Mulryne to join Gary Holt (chest) on the sidelines.
Striker Leon McKenzie (back) is rated as only 50-50, while Damien Francis and winger Ian Henderson are both out.
Bolton midfielder Kevin Nolan is pushing for a recall to the side after scoring twice for the reserves.
But the are without El-Hadji Diouf who is suspended, while Ricardo Gardner and Khalilou Fadiga are both missing.
Norwich (from): Green, Edworthy, Doherty, Fleming, Drury, Jonson, Safri, Helveg, Bentley, Svensson, Huckerby, McKenzie, Charlton, McVeigh, Brennan, Shackell, Jarvis, Ward.
Bolton (from): Jaaskelainen, Hunt, N'Gotty, Jaidi, Barness, Giannakopoulos, Campo, Speed, Okocha, Nolan, Pedersen, Davies, Poole, Hierro, Ben Haim, Ferdinand, Cesar, Vaz Te.
West Brom's Romanian midfielder Cosmin Contra is fit again after missing out last week with a groin strain.
Manager Bryan Robson now has a fully fit squad to choose from as the Baggies aim to move off the bottom.
Charlton boss Alan Curbishley faces a striker shortage as both Jonatan Johansson and Kevin Lisbie are out with hamstring injuries.
Defender Mark Fish could return to the squad after three months out but Chris Perry (groin) remains unavailable.
West Brom (from): Hoult, Scimeca, Moore, Purse, Clement, Contra, Johnson, Greening, Gera, Earnshaw, Kanu, Hulse, Horsfield, Koumas, Gaardsoe, Albrechtsen, Robinson, Dyer, Sakiri, Kuszczak.
Charlton (from): Kiely, Andersen, Hreidarsson, Young, Fortune, El Karkouri, Murphy, Holland, Kishishev, Thomas, Bartlett, Euell, Konchesky, Rommedahl, Jeffers, Stuart, Fish.
Fulham team news will appear here.
Man Utd will make a late check on the fitness of top scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy before deciding whether the striker will face Fulham.
Wes Brown is definitely out after picking up an Achilles injury in the Champions League defeat at Fenerbahce.
Man Utd (from): Carroll, Howard, G Neville, P Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea, Heinze, Fortune, Ronaldo, Bellion, Keane, Scholes, Djemba-Djemba, Fletcher, Giggs, van Nistelrooy, Rooney, Smith.
Man City team news will appear here.
Tottenham head coach Martin Jol faces an anxious wait to discover whether Robbie Keane and Thimothee Atouba will be available.
Atouba is contesting a FA charge of violent conduct following a clash with Blackburn's Paul Dickov, while Keane is doubtful after suffering a knee injury.
Tottenham (from): Robinson, Pamarot, King, Davenport, Kelly, Naybet, Gardner, Jackson, Atouba, Ricketts, Pedro Mendes, Carrick, Redknapp, Brown, Keane, Kanoute, Defoe, Fulop.
Southampton's new manager Harry Redknapp is set to recall goalkeeper Antti Niemi after knee surgery forced him to miss six games.
Captain Jason Dodd could also return, while in the absence of James Beattie, Peter Crouch could be handed his first Premiership start for the club.
Boro arrive at Southampton on the back of a 3-2 win over Manchester City and knowing they have not lost against The Saints since 2001.
The Teessiders are still without the suspended Franck Queudrue, but George Boateng is back after serving a ban.
Michael Reiziger will continue at left back after an impressive display against City, while Szilard Nemeth will make way for Boateng - which will mean Ray Parlour switching back to the right.
Chris Riggott is unlikely to be fit, meaning that unless Ugo Ehiogu returns - Colin Cooper will start alongside captain Gareth Southgate in the heart of Boro's defence.
Southampton (from): Niemi, Dodd, Nilsson, Lundekvam, Jakobsson, Le Saux, Van Damme, Higginbotham, Fernandes, Delap, Telfer, A Svensson, Phillips, Crouch, Blackstock, Kenton, Griffit, Prutton, Ormerod, Poke.
Newcastle captain Alan Shearer is unlikely to be risked against Portsmouth after failing to shake off a thigh problem.
Patrick Kluivert is also a doubt with a hamstring injury, but Olivier Bernard has recovered from a similar problem.
Portsmouth's executive director Velimir Zajec must decide whether to select former Newcastle pair Shaka Hislop and Lomana LuaLua against their old club.
Gary O'Neil should return, but David Unsworth is out with hamstring trouble.
Newcastle (from): Given, Harper, Taylor, Bernard, Elliott, Hughes, Bramble, Johnsen, Jenas, Dyer, Bowyer, Robert, Milner, Ambrose, Shearer, Bellamy, Kluivert, Ameobi.
Portsmouth (from): Ashdown; Griffin, Primus, de Zeeuw, Stefanovic; Stone, Faye, Quashie, O'Neil, Berger, Taylor, Fuller, Berkovic, Lua Lua, Cisse, Hughes, Curtis, Hislop.
Chelsea v Arsenal preview
It is testament to just how far Jose Mourinho has brought his Chelsea side that they will be travelling to Highbury believing that they can beat an Arsenal team who have scored eight goals in their last two games.
The hotly anticipated top of the table clash will be live on Sky Sports 1 from 15:00 on Sunday.
A 3-0 victory over Birmingham, swiftly followed by an impressive 5-1 demolition of Rosenborg in the UEFA Champions League should remind The Gunners that until six weeks ago they looked well capable of romping to another title.
But a now infamous defeat to Manchester United and a well-publicised wobble in form saw Arsenal lose points at exactly the same time as Chelsea turned on the style - and it is The Blues that now top The Premiership.
Chelsea have amazingly conceded just three goals this season away from home in the league, but John Terry et al will need to be at their brilliant best to contain an Arsenal side that look to have worked out where the goal is again.
Mourinho lost out to former club Porto in Europe this week, but with passage through to the knockout stage already sealed the game was of little consequence, and Sunday will bring the return of the usual starting XI.
Arsenal will hand a late test to Freddie Ljungberg, with manager Arsene Wenger suffering from something of a midfield crisis.
Captain Patrick Vieira is suspended, and with Edu and Gilberto Silva both long term injury victims, Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini could well feature.
Ashley Cole limped out of the Rosenborg win but has been given a clean bill of health, but Pascal Cygan is still ruled out.
It remains to be seen if Jens Lehmann will be recalled in place of Manuel Almunia.
Chelsea will be without Robert Huth, who has an ankle problem, but had the luxury of resting the likes of Claude Makelele, Arjen Robben and Eidur Gudjohnsen in midweek.
Millwall v Brighton
Millwall are hoping to have Paul Ifill back after he missed the win over Wolves with a thigh strain, but Dennis Wise is out with a calf injury.
Kevin Muscat is still suspended but Jo Tessem could return after injury.
Adam Virgo is poised to return to the Brighton team after missing the last three matches through suspension and he could partner veteran Steve Claridge.
Claridge plays the final game of his month-long contract but boss Mark McGhee wants to extend his deal.
Burnley v Preston
Burnley boss Steve Cotterill hopes one of his injured players will return - but he will not reveal which one.
Keeper Danny Coyne (hamstring), Richard Chaplow (knee), Micah Hyde (hamstring) and Jean-Louis Valois (hamstring) are missing, while John McGreal is banned.
Defender Youl Mawene has a hamstring injury and could miss his first match of the season for Preston.
Midfielder Paul McKenna returns after suspension but keeper Andy Lonergan and defender Tyrone Mears are still out
Cardiff v Sunderland
Cardiff boss Lennie Lawrence must decide whether to recall skipper Graham Kavanagh after his three-game ban.
If Kavanagh does start, teenager Joe Ledley will revert to left-midfield position at the expense of Paul Parry.
Sunderland are boosted by the return of Julio Arca and Carl Robinson but Jeff Whitley has a hamstring injury.
Striker Michael Bridges may not have recovered from an Achilles problem, while loan player Darren Carter has returned to Birmingham.
Stoke v Coventry
Stoke midfielder Dave Brammer will miss his first game of the season through suspension after gaining five bookings.
Defender John Williams is still sidelined with an ankle injury and John Eustace is not quite ready to return.
Coventry are set to be without right-back Andy Whing for the next month as he requires surgery on a hernia injury.
Tim Sherwood (leg) and Stuart Giddings (ankle) are still out but striker Stern John could make his comeback after recovering from an ankle problem.
Crewe v Plymouth
Crewe defender Chris McCready is ruled out of the game with a hamstring injury and midfielder Michael Higdon misses out due to a back problem.
Crewe also have doubts over Anthony Tonkin (foot), Billy Jones (thigh), Jon Otsemobor (hamstring), and Mark Rivers.
Plymouth defenders Mathias Doumbe (cut above the eye) and Hasney Aljofree (shoulder) are in contention after shaking off their respective injuries.
Striker Steven Milne is still ruled out thanks to his on-going knee problem.
Derby v Nottm Forest
Derby manager George Burley will make a late decision on the fitness of Michael Johnson, who is wearing a mouthguard to protect three teeth he lost.
Jamie Vincent is out with a calf injury and Paul Boertien is working his way back to fitness after a knee problem.
Forest are set to welcome back Michael Dawson after a knee injury, but Adam Nowland (hamstring) and Eoin Jess (thigh) will both miss the derby match.
Andy Impey returns from a ban but Jon Olav Hjelde (calf) is struggling.
Wigan v Gillingham
Paul Jewell is unlikely to make any changes to the Wigan side that destroyed Preston 5-0.
Emerson Thome could be back in the squad after he completed another full 90 minutes for the reserves after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Gillingham midfielder Danny Spiller will be out for two months with a fracture of the fibula in his left leg.
With Jason Brown and Steve Banks still out injured, Bertrand Bossu is likely to continue in goal for the Gills.
QPR v Ipswich
QPR could welcome back winger Martin Rowlands for the first time since October after he recovered from a broken bone in his foot.
Midfielder Marcus Bean should shake off a hamstring injury and striker Jamie Cureton could get back into the side.
Ipswich have no new injury concerns ahead of the trip to Loftus Road.
However, manager Joe Royle has added 16-year-old midfielder Owen Garvan to the squad after he scored for the reserves in midweek.
West Ham v Leeds (Fri)
Teddy Sheringham could make his first start for West Ham since August after finally shaking off a thigh strain.
Malky Mackay is fit and Hayden Mullins and Nigel Reo-Coker return from bans - but Gavin Williams is suspended.
Brian Deane, Matthew Kilgallon and Gary Kelly have all passed fitness tests for Leeds but David Healy (groin) and Clark Carlisle (ankle) remain doubtful.
If Carlisle is not fit, Kilgallon will move to centre-back, while midfielder Danny Pugh returns after being rested
Leicester v Reading
Leicester pair Danny Tiatto and Martin Keown have both recovered from hamstring injuries and could start.
Striker David Connolly is doubtful with a thigh injury while on-loan keeper Stuart Taylor continues to deputise for Ian Walker (knee).
Reading's leading scorer Dave Kitson is in contention after recovering from a hamstring strain.
Skipper Graeme Murty is out for three weeks with a knee injury, meaning Steve Sidwell will take over the armband
Rotherham v Sheff Utd
Rotherham boss Ronnie Moore has no new injury or suspension worries for the Yorkshire derby with Sheffield United.
John Mullin (back), Darren Garner (calf) and Andy Monkhouse (knee) all remain sidelined.
Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock will hand a debut to on-loan goalkeeper Ian Bennett with regular number one Paddy Kenny banned for three matches.
Warnock has no new injury worries for the game as the Blades seek to push into the play-off places.
Watford v Wolves
Watford skipper Neil Cox looks set to return after a one-game suspension in place of Jay DeMerit.
Neal Ardley should also be recalled after the midfielder was rested for the 1-0 defeat against Stoke.
New Wolves boss Glenn Hoddle could be without midfielder Paul Ince following surgery to remove an ingrowing toenail.
Hoddle also has concerns over Colin Cameron (virus) while Rob Edwards is certain to miss out as he continues to recover from ankle ligament surgery.
(BBC, Channel, Sky-Sport, Reuters, NewsNow, Physioroom)