Arsenal v Norwich
Arsenal's Gilberto is set for a starting role after six months out in place of the injured Patrick Vieira.
Sol Campbell (ankle) and Dennis Bergkamp are out, Edu has a hamstring problem but Robert Pires (flu) and Thierry Henry (calf) should play.
Norwich's David Bentley has recovered from a knee injury, but under the terms of his loan from Arsenal he is not available for the game.
Mathias Svensson and Jim Brennan are back in contention after injury.
Arsenal (from): Lehmann, Almunia, Cole, Lauren, Eboue, Ljungberg, Reyes, Gilberto, Van Persie, Fabregas, Flamini, Pires, Cygan, Clichy, Toure, Vieira, Henry, Campbell.
Norwich (from): Green, Edworthy, Fleming, Shackell, Drury, Stuart, Holt, Francis, Huckerby, Ashton, McKenzie, Jonson, Helveg, Charlton, Safri, Henderson, Doherty, McVeigh, Ward
Newcastle v Aston Villa
Newcastle striker Patrick Kluivert could return after recovering from his knee problem.
Shay Given (hip) should be back but Celestine Babayaro (knee), Shola Ameobi (hip) and Titus Bramble are doubtful.
Aston Villa's Mark Delaney (knee) is set to return and replace Ulises de la Cruz who, along with Nolberto Solano, have been on international duty.
Villa boss David O'Leary said Solano could be on the bench and Juan Pablo Angel (ankle) is in contention again.
Newcastle (from): Given, Harper, Carr, Hughes, Babayaro, Boumsong, O'Brien, Taylor, Dyer, Robert, Faye, Bowyer, Butt, Jenas, Milner, Ambrose, N'Zogbia, Shearer, Kluivert.
Aston Villa (from): Sorensen, de la Cruz, Laursen, Mellberg, Samuel, Solano, Davis, Hendrie, Berson, Barry, L Moore, Vassell, Cole, Hitzlsperger, Postma, Ridgewell, Delaney, Angel
Man Utd v Blackburn
Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand has been passed fit after limping out of England's game against Azerbaijan.
Gabriel Heinze has not returned from international duty in time, while Louis Saha and Darren Fletcher (both knee) are not quite ready to return.
Blackburn skipper Andy Todd has recovered from flu but Rovers are again without influential midfielder Robbie Savage (groin).
Striker Paul Dickov is doubtful with a groin problem.
Man Utd (from): Howard, Carroll, Ricardo, G Neville, Brown, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze, O'Shea, Fortune, Ronaldo, Scholes, Keane, Kleberson, Miller, Giggs, Van Nistelrooy, Rooney, Smith.
Blackburn (from): Friedel, Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Matteo, Mokoena, Johansson, Emerton, Thompson, Reid, Flitcroft, Tugay, Pedersen, Dickov, Stead, Gallagher, Johnson, Enckelman.
Liverpool v Bolton
Liverpool hope Luis Garcia, Djimi Traore and Stephen Warnock will shake off knocks from the game with Everton.
Fernando Morientes has an outside chance of recovering from a thigh injury but Dietmar Hamann is out and Milan Baros starts a three-game ban.
Bolton defender Nicky Hunt is suffering from a slight knee injury but he is expected to be available.
Wanderers' only significant absentee is El-Hadji Diouf, on loan from the Reds, who is serving a three-match ban.
Liverpool (from): Dudek, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Warnock, Nunez, Luis Garcia, Gerrard, Biscan, Riise, Smicer, Morientes, Carson, Le Tallec, Potter, Welsh.
Bolton (from): Jaaskelainen, Hunt, Ben Haim, N'Gotty, Gardner, Hierro, Giannakopoulos, Speed, Nolan, Okocha, Pedersen, Davies, Vaz Te, Campo, Poole, Jaidi, Candela, Fadiga.
Charlton v Man City
Charlton's Radostin Kishishev will again be missing after suffering a recurrence of his hamstring injury.
Talal El Karkouri starts a three-match ban. Jonathan Fortune and Chris Perry will be hoping for a recall in his place to play alongside Mark Fish.
Manchester City are expected to name an unchanged side, with Nedum Onouha to retain his place in defence ahead of Danny Mills.
Steve McManaman (calf) and Ben Thatcher (hamstring) are both still missing.
Charlton (from): Kiely, Young, Hreidarsson, Perry, Fortune, Fish, Holland, Konchesky, Murphy, Rommedahl, Thomas, Bartlett, Kishishev, Andersen, Euell, Johansson, Jeffers, Hughes, Lisbie.
Man City (from): James, Weaver, Mills, Onouha, Dunne, Distin, Sommeil, Jordan, Croft, Reyna, Flood, Barton, Sibierski, Musampa, Fowler, Macken, B Wright-Phillips.
C Palace v Middlesbrough
Crystal Palace have problems in defence with Emmerson Boyce (broken foot) and Danny Butterfield (groin) out and Gonzalo Sorondo (knee) a doubt.
Nicola Ventola and Tommy Black are also out but Vassilis Lakis is back from suspension and Andy Johnson has recovered from a foot injury.
Middlesbrough welcome back Mark Viduka, George Boateng and Ray Parlour from long injury lay-offs.
Michael Reiziger and Joseph-Desire Job are both ruled out through injuries.
Crystal Palace (from): Kiraly, Hall, Sorondo, Granville, Routledge, Borrowdale, Leigertwood, Hughes, Soares, Johnson, Speroni, Freedman, Torghelle, Kolkka, Andrews, Powell, Riihilahti, Popovic, Hudson.
Middlesbrough (from): Schwarzer, Parnaby, Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue, Parlour, Boateng, Zenden, Downing, Viduka, Hasselbaink, Nemeth, Jones, Cooper, Doriva, Graham
Fulham v Portsmouth
Fulham's Papa Bouba Diop has been ruled out with the hamstring injury he suffered against Manchester United.
Fulham boss Chris Coleman has recalled USA striker Brian McBride to his squad for Pompey's visit to Craven Cottage.
Portsmouth's Gary O'Neil will be fit despite needing 27 stitches in a head wound playing for England Under-21s.
Andy Griffin is still out with a calf strain so Linvoy Primus will fill in at right-back and Jamie Ashdown will keep his place in goal.
Fulham (from): Van der Sar, Bocanegra, Goma, Knight, Rosenior, Malbranque, Jensen, Clark, Cole, Boa Morte, Volz, Legwinski, John, Radzinski, McBride, Crossley.
Portsmouth (from): Ashdown, Primus, de Zeeuw, Stefanovic, Taylor, Stone, Cisse, Skopelitis, Berger, LuaLua, Yakubu, Chalkias, Hughes, O'Neil, Kamara, Fuller, Mezague, Rodic, Hislop.
Southampton v Chelsea
Southampton's Henri Camara is expected to replace Kevin Phillips in attack alongside Peter Crouch.
Centre-back Claus Lundekvam is set to play after returning to training following Norway's goalless midweek World Cup qualifier in Moldova.
Chelsea will be without Paulo Ferreira (foot) and Arjen Robben (ankle).
Didier Drogba will lead the attack with Joe Cole and Damien Duff out wide. John Terry will partner Ricardo Carvalho, with William Gallas at left-back.
Southampton (from): Niemi; Telfer, Lundekvam, Jakobsson, Bernard, Delap, Quashie, Redknapp, Le Saux, Camara, Crouch, Phillips, Davenport, Higginbotham, A Svensson, McCann, Nilsson, Smith.
Chelsea (from): Cech, Cudicini, Johnson, Carvalho, Terry, Gallas, Huth, Parker, Makelele, Lampard, Tiago, Smertin, Jarosik, Duff, Gudjohnsen, Drogba, Cole.
Coventry v Brighton
Coventry manager Micky Adams will be without defender Stuart Giddings, who needs an operation on his ankle and will miss the rest of the season.
Richard Duffy, Stern John and Robert Page will play if they have returned from international duty unscathed.
Brighton could hand debuts to loan signings Joe Dolan in defence and goalkeeper Alan Blayney.
Manager Mark McGhee is still without midfielder Richard Carpenter, who completes a three-match ban
Burnley v Watford
Burnley's John McGreal returns from suspension but Frank Sinclair is a doubt with an Achilles injury
Midfielder Tony Grant was struggling with a thigh problem, but the two-week break from action has allowed him sufficient time to recover.
New Watford manager Adrian Boothroyd is likely to give a debut to on-loan centre-back Danny Cullip.
Defender Sean Dyche (groin) and midfielder Paul Devlin (toe) are still out of action.
Plymouth v Cardiff
Plymouth are boosted by the return of Tony Capaldi, Bjarni Gudjonsson, Dexter Blackstock and Peter Gilbert.
All four players came through their respective international games unscathed, but Midfielder Lee Hodges (back) remains on the sidelines.
Cardiff will give debuts to Neal Ardley and Michael Boulding.
Midfielder Ardley replaces Junichi Inamoto, who has returned to West Brom, while striker Boulding could partner Peter Thorne, if he is passed fit.
Crewe v Nottm Forest
Crewe defenders Billy Jones and Adie Moses are both fit again as is keeper Clayton Ince after a broken finger.
Colin Murdoch and Steve Jones should start if fit after international duty, but Neil Sorvel is a doubt and Stephen Foster (knee) is out for the season.
Nottingham Forest have not given up on Andy Melville shaking off an ankle injury and midfielder David Friio could return following a calf injury.
John Curtis, Darryl Powell, Neil Harris and Kris Commons are all fit again.
Ipswich v Derby
Ipswich skipper Jim Magilton returns to the starting line-up after being rested in recent weeks.
Virus victims Jason De Vos, Richard Naylor and Ian Westlake have all recovered, so Ipswich have a full-strength squad to choose from.
Derby manager George Burley will add 17-year-old winger Lee Holmes to his squad after he returned from a loan spell with Swindon.
Marco Reich's ankle injury means Holmes could be on the substitutes bench.
Leeds v Wolverhampton
Leeds are without Frazer Richardson (hamstring), Simon Walton (thigh) and Matthew Kilgallon (ankle ligaments).
Sean Gregan and Michael Gray are banned, Gary Kelly is ill and doubtful but Ian Moore is set to make his debut and Seth Johnson could start.
Wolves manager Glenn Hoddle will hold a late roll call before naming his squad for the away game against Leeds.
There is a doubt over South Korea striker Ki-Hyeon Seol and either Rohan Ricketts or Leon Clarke could stand in.
Leicester v Millwall
Leicester defenders Nikos Dabizas and Darren Kenton are both out through illness and suspension respectively.
Jordan Stewart could be recalled after injury but Jason Wilcox and Nathan Blake are not quite ready to return.
Millwall look certain to be without top scorer Barry Hayles, who is suffering with an ankle injury.
Player-manager Dennis Wise could be on the substitutes' bench - despite not having recovered fully from a torn thigh muscle.
Reading v Sheff Utd
Reading's Glen Little is a major doubt because of a groin injury.
But striker Les Ferdinand has benefited from the international break with a full recovery from a hamstring injury and defender Martin Keown is also fit.
Sheffield United could give Danny Webber his debut as Andy Liddle is a major doubt with a calf injury,
Defender Chris Morgan should play after recovering from a knee injury, while midfielder Alan Quinn is also expected to be fit after an ankle problem.
Stoke v Rotherham
Stoke's Carl Asaba will play after the collapse of his proposed move to Coventry but fellow striker Chris Greenacre has a virus.
John Eustace is out after knee surgery and John Halls (back), Kevin Harper, Clive Clark (both ankle) and Gerry Taggart (toe) also remain sidelined.
Rotherham's Chris Swailes is fit after a hip injury and will replace Phil Gilchrist, who is out for the season.
Scott Minto is also fit again, but Andy Monkhouse is a long-term absentee.
QPR v Sunderland
QPR's new signing Dominic Shimmin is still not fit to make his debut but right-back Marcus Bignot should recover from tendinitis.
Winger Gareth Ainsworth's knee injury will likely finish his season, so Georges Santos could move into central midfield alongside Marc Bircham.
Sunderland are set to hand Brian Deane his debut and fit-again Julio Arca may replace injured George McCartney.
Michael Bridges (thigh) and Gary Breen (knee) should be also be fit.
Wigan v West Ham
Wigan expect Leighton Baines and Alan Mahon to be in contention.
Left-back Baines has shaken off a slight knee injury and midfielder Mahon came through a reserve-team game after a month out, also with a knee problem.
West Ham defender Tomas Repka is available after a three-match ban following his red card against Preston.
Winger Matthew Etherington should also be fit to return after recovering from the knee injury he sustained in the home draw with Crewe a fortnight ago.
Hull v Barnsley
Hull will be boosted by the return of leading scorer Stuart Elliot who missed the Easter games, when City took one point from six, on international duty.
Midfielder Ian Ashbee is likely to be fit despite going over on his ankle in training, but Stuart Green is out.
Andy Ritchie, fresh from being named manager of the month, is likely to name an unchanged Barnsley squad.
Ritchie has no new injury worries with Neil Austin, Barry Conlon (both ankle) and Tony Vaughan still ruled out
Luton v Blackpool
Striker Warren Feeney is in line to make his Luton debut with Rowan Vine the most likely to drop to the bench.
Feeney has been unable to play since his move from Stockport as he was playing for Northern Ireland.
Blackpool will also boast a boost in attack with John Murphy back in the line-up after recovering from flu.
Richie Wellens and Mark McGregor are both suspended with Leam Richardson and Rob Clare in contention to deputise for McGregor at right-back.
Wrexham v Bournemouth
Wrexham will be without suspended midfielder Darren Ferguson.
Steve Roberts (groin) is rated as 50-50, striker Chris Armstrong and midfielder Mark Jones are expected to be fit but Simon Spender misses out.
Bournemouth welcome back defender Matthew Mills, who missed Monday's 1-0 defeat by Milton Keynes Dons as he was on England under-19 duty.
Karl Broadhurst played for the reserves in midweek but is not ready to return yet, while James O'Connor is still out.
Chesterfield v Bradford
Chesterfield manager Roy McFarland will select from a full-strength squad.
On-loan Spurs goalkeeper Marton Fulop returns from international duty with Hungary under-21s, and is likely to start the match.
Bradford are likely to be without defender Lee Crooks and striker Michael Symes, who are both struggling with groin injuries.
Midfielder Tom Kearney is sidelined following a double hernia operation but is hoping to return to action soon.
Doncaster v Colchester
Doncaster defender Tim Ryan will not play as he serves the first match of a two-game suspension.
He is likely to be replaced by Nic Priet, with Mickey Walker unlikely to make any other changes.
Colchester's loan signing, Ryan Jarvis, may start on the bench but Pat Baldwin should be fit after an ankle injury.
Gavin Johnson (back) is doubtful but Richard Garcia is free of his hip problem and Jamie Cade (ankle) could travel after playing for the reserves.
Hartlepool v Swindon
Hartlepool are sweating on the fitness of Eifion Williams who aggravated a leg injury with the reserves in midweek.
Mark Tinkler is still struggling with a calf problem, full-back Jack Ross has an ankle injury and John Brackstone and Darrell Clarke remain sidelined.
In stark contrast, Swindon boss Andy King has few worries ahead of the game.
Stefani Miglioranzi has recovered from a bruised ankle and should start while fellow midfielder Brian Howard could comeback from an Achilles injury.
Peterborough v Huddersfield
Peterborough have a host of injuries to contend with Craig Ireland, Jamie Day and Peter Kennedy definitely ruled out.
Richard Logan, Chris Plummer, Adam Newton, Sagi Burton, David Farrell and Mark Coulson are battling to prove their fitness.
Huddersfield boss Peter Jackson must decide whether to stick or twist with a winning team.
Nathan Clarke is free after suspension but his brother Tom and David Mirfin combined well in defence last time out
MK Dons v Oldham
Cameroon defender Michel Pensee-Bilong should return to the MK Dons defence after recovering from a foot injury.
Manager Danny Wilson will drop either Steve Palmer or Ben Chorley.
While the hosts strengthen their backline, Oldham have been hit by news defender Will Haining will miss the season's close with a torn hamstring.
Mark Hughes will deputise and new signing striker Delroy Facey may have to settle for a place on the substitutes' bench.
Sheff Wed v Tranmere
Defenders Graeme Lee and Alex Bruce have joined the growing list of absentees at Sheffield Wednesday.
Lee (groin) is ruled out after suffering a reaction following his return to training and Bruce starts a three-match suspension.
Tranmere boss Brian Little will be without striker Eugene Dadi who starts a three-match suspension.
Gary Jones (toe) and David Beresford (hamstring) are definitely ruled out, but Gareth Roberts returns.
BERLIN, April 1 (Reuters) - Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich could rest Brazilian defender Lucio and Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro for the match against VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday in preparation for next week's Champions League clash against Chelsea.
Bayern travel to London for the first leg of their quarter-final against the English Premier League leaders on Wednesday and will not want to risk any injuries.
Lucio and Pizarro, both normally first choices, were involved in South American World Cup qualifiers.
Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and striker Roy Makaay missed Thursday's training due to slight strains after international action, although both are expected to be fit for the trip to Wolfsburg.
"It's a purely precautionary measure," coach Felix Magath said.
Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz is still recovering from a knee injury but influential midfielder Mehmet Scholl returns after a torn thigh muscle kept him sidelined for almost five weeks.
German captain Michael Ballack is fit and is set to play his 250th Bundesliga match.
Bayern have won five of their last seven trips to Wolfsburg, who are eighth in the league.
Wolfsburg are missing defenders Patrick Weiser and Facundo Quironga through injury.
SC FREIBURG (18) v HAMBURG SV (7)
Freiburg have lost their last five matches and remain 12 points away from safety. The midweek internationals have proved costly for both teams with Freiburg's Georgian central defender Otar Khizaneishvili picked up a knee injury, while Hamburg's Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz strained his thigh warming up in Armenia.
- - - -
KAISERSLAUTERN (9) v HANOVER 96 (10)
Hanover broke a six-match winless streak two weeks ago with a 2-1 victory over Moenchengladbach. Defensive bulwark Per Mertesacker has a broken nose and may not play. Midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta (knee) and defender Michael Tarnat (stomach virus) are definitely out.
Kaiserslautern's recent form has been more promising and they have no injury concerns.
- - - -
HANSA ROSTOCK (17) v FSV MAINZ (13)
Rostock's bid for their second home win this season has been hit by a series of injuries to defender Denis Lapaczinski, midfielder Marcus Lantz and striker Marco Vorbeck. Midfielder Joakim Persson is also suspended.
Mainz, shock 2-1 winners over Schalke in the league two weeks ago, could ease lingering relegation fears with a victory.
- - - -
ARMINIA BIELEFELD (12) v BAYER LEVERKUSEN (6)
Bielefeld, who have lost their last three matches, are drifting towards the relegation zone. They will be without Polish defence duo Tomasz Wisio and Daniel Bogusz. German right back Patrick Owomoyela is suffering from an ankle injury and striker Delron Buckley has a swollen knee.
Leverkusen, still in the hunt for a Champions League spot, welcome defender Juan back from injury.
- - - -
SCHALKE 04 (2) v FC NUREMBERG (14)
Striker Gerald Asamoah returns for Schalke, who lost the chance of going top last time out with a 2-1 loss at Mainz.
Nuremberg, who have scored at least once in every away game, travel without injured strikers Markus Schroth and Robert Vittek and midfielder Pekka Lagerblom. Playmaker Ivica Banovic is suspended.
- - - -
WERDER BREMEN (4) v VFB STUTTGART (3)
This is a key match for the third Champions League qualifying berth, with only a point between the sides.
Bundesliga champions Werder will be without defenders Petri Pasanen, who has the flu, and Umit Davala, due to hearing loss.
Stuttgart, on a three-match winning streak, will have to do without suspended right back Andreas Hinkel and central defender Fernando Meira.
- - - -
Sunday, April 3 (kickoffs 1530 GMT)
BORUSSIA MOENCHENGLADBACH (15) v VFL BOCHUM (16
Moenchengladbach return home after two away losses and seek to extend their six-point cushion over Bochum, a place below them in the third relegation spot.
They will be without injured strikers Wesley Sonck and Giovane Elber.
Bochum have been in marginally better form in recent weeks and have few injury concerns.
- - - -
BORUSSIA DORTMUND (11) v HERTHA BERLIN (5)
Hertha, unbeaten in their last four matches, have the tightest defence in the Bundesliga and will hope to make up ground on Werder and Stuttgart in the battle for the third Champions League berth.
Defender Dick van Burik is suspended and midfielder Yildiray Basturk has a shoulder injury.
Dortmund are slowly turning the corner after a wretched start to the season, with returns to form and fitness of Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky and striker Ewerthon.
MADRID, April 1 (Reuters) - A depleted Barcelona face the first of two major tests as they look to tighten their grip on the league title when they host high-flying Real Betis at the Nou Camp on Sunday (kickoff 1500 GMT).
Barca enjoy a comfortable 11-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the table with nine games left to play, but slip-ups against the Andalucians and in the subsequent visit to the Bernabeu could throw open the title race once more.
The Catalans will have to make do without inspirational centre-back Carles Puyol and defensive midfielder Rafa Marquez as they attempt to put the brakes on a powerful Betis attack spearheaded by Brazilian duo Ricardo Oliveira and Edu and Spain winger Joaquin.
Puyol strained ankle ligaments in Spain's World Cup qualifier against Serbia & Montenegro on Wednesday and could be out of action for up to three weeks, while the influential Mexican international Marquez is suspended.
"Betis are having a great run at the moment," says Barca midfielder Xavi. "They have got some very quick, skilful players and it won't be easy."
Betis, who are coached by former Barca boss Llorenc Serra Ferrer, moved up to third spot in the table after a 2-1 win over Albacete last time out and are hoping to cement their hold on a lucrative Champions League place.
"If we manage to come away with at least a point we will improve our chances of making the Champions League and will also breathe new life into the race for the title," said winger Joaquin.
"It is very good news that Puyol and Marquez are out because they are two extremely important players."
Other matches being played this weekend (kickoff times 1500 GMT unless stated; league positions in brackets):
REAL SOCIEDAD (12) v OSASUNA (17) 1600
Osasuna have now gone 11 games without a win and are the only side in the league not to have recorded a victory in 2005. Although they have a game in hand, a defeat against an improving Sociedad would drag Javier Aguirre's side into the messy relegation battle.
- - - -
REAL ZARAGOZA (11) v VALENCIA (5) 1800
Valencia have lost just one match since Antonio Lopez replaced Claudio Ranieri as coach and they are now just a point off the Champions League places, but they have a host of injury worries for the trip to Zaragoza.
Carlos Marchena has recovered from a groin strain and should be available, but fellow centre-back David Navarro and midfielder Ruben Baraja are both out, while playmaker Pablo Aimar is doubtful because of a thigh strain. - - - -
VILLARREAL (4) v ATHLETIC BILBAO (10) 2000
In-form Villarreal have only lost one match at home all season and will be favourites to win this one against Bilbao, who have only notched up two victories on their travels this term.
Striker Diego Forlan, who is only one goal shy of Barca's Samuel Eto'o at the top of the scoring charts, continued his fine form with a goal in Uruguay's 1-1 draw against Brazil in midweek and will be looking to notch up his 18th of the season. - - - -
ALBACETE (19) v REAL MADRID (2) 1900
Real will be without the injured David Beckham and the suspended Zinedine Zidane, but keeper Iker Casillas should be available against the relegation strugglers despite a minor ankle injury.
Santiago Solari and Guti will deputise in midfield while Ronaldo and Raul are likely to start up front despite their recent poor form in front of goal. - - - -
ATLETICO MADRID (8) v REAL MALLORCA (18) 1700
With just one league defeat at home all season, Atletico will be hopeful of a victory against Hector Cuper's strugglers who have lost five out of their last six games.
Former Atletico midfielder Gonzalo de los Santos is suspended and opposite number Antonio Lopez is serving a ban for the home side while Japan's Yoshito Okubo is likely to feature up front for the islanders. - - - -
LEVANTE (14) v DEPORTIVO CORUNA (9)
Deportivo suffered their first defeat in five when they lost 1-0 to Barcelona at the Riazor last time out and will need to get back on track with a win over Bernd Schuster's side if they are to renew their bid for a place in Europe. - - - -
MALAGA (16) GETAFE (13)
A tense contest in prospect as a win for either side would go a long way to easing their relegation worries. Malaga have lost three in a row, while Getafe's escape plans suffered a setback with a 3-1 defeat at Valencia. - - - -
RACING SANTANDER (15) v ESPANYOL (6)
Espanyol dropped out of the Champions League berths after a 2-2 draw at home to Sociedad and will need to be on top form if they are to beat a revived Racing who have lost just one of their last six games and are playing some attractive attack-minded football. - - - -
SEVILLA (7) v NUMANCIA (20)
An off-colour Sevilla claimed their first win in six when they sneaked a 1-0 win over Mallorca last time out, but will have to make do without leading striker Julio Baptista for the visit of basement side Numancia who look destined for the drop. - -
Atalanta - Chievo
Atalanta can seriously improve their chances of avoiding the drop to Serie B with a win over Chievo. Lying five points from safety at the bottom of the table, the Nerazzurri could realistically finish the round just one win away from leaving the drop zone if results go their way.
Coming into the game on the back of two wins, and with form striker Stephen Makinwa taking five goals in his last six games, Delio Rossi will be confident that his side can record another win against a Chievo side who sit just two points above the relegation zone.
The Flying Donkeys ended their run of five straight defeats with a 3-1 win against Brescia in Week 29 and
scored their first goals since early February. They will be determined to avoid a quick return to the losing habit. Their meeting at the Stadio Bentegodi in November saw Chievo win 1-0 to end a three-match run of losses, with Simone Tribocchi claiming the winner.
For Atalanta, defender Cesare Natali is suspended, Greek striker Lampros Choutos is out with a knee injury and defender Mariano Stendardo is also unavailable. Chievo will be without the scorer from the first meeting as Tribocchi is out with a back injury.
Atalanta (probable): Calderoni; Rivalta, Sala, Capelli; Motta, Montolivo, Bernardini, Marcolini, Bellini; Lazzari, Makinwa
Chievo (probable): Marchegiani; Potenza, Mandelli, D'Anna, Lanna; Luciano, Brighi, Baronio, Semioli; Cossato, Pellissier
Bologna - Inter
Inter need to win their clash with Bologna to keep ahead in the race for Champions’ League qualification. The Nerazzurri lead Udinese by two points but with Sampdoria and Palermo breathing down their necks, Roberto Mancini’s side cannot afford any slips.
Bologna themselves have a UEFA Cup spot on their mind and, with a six point gap opening up between them and sixth-placed Palermo, it will also be vital for the Rossoblu to take something from this game. However, with just one win in their last seven games, and a defeat to bottom club Atalanta and five draws in that run, they will be long shots to overturn Inter.
The San Siro side are unbeaten on their travels this season but have drawn 10 of those matches. Without the attacking options of Adriano and Alvaro Recoba, along with midfielder Dejan Stankovic who are all out injured, it will be left to Obafemi Martins - who hasn’t scored since early February - and Julio Cruz to lead the frontline. Bologna are missing Leonardo Colluci and Federico Giunti from their midfield as both players are suspended.
A repeat of the draw in November would seem like a good bet for this encounter. On that occasion Inter twice threw away the lead with Fabio Petruzzi and Claudio Bellucci responding to strikes from Sinisa Mihajlovic and Adriano.
Bologna (probable): Pagliuca; Juarez, Torrisi, Gamberini; Capuano, Loviso, Amoroso, Bellucci; Locatelli, Meghni; Cipriani
Inter (probable): Toldo; J. Zanetti, Cordoba, Mihajlovic, Favalli; Van der Meyde, Cambiasso, Veron, Kily Gonzalez; Cruz, Martins
Cagliari - Sampdoria
Sampdoria continue their hunt for a Champions’ League spot, but after two straight defeats they need to return to winning ways if they are to keep the pressure on Inter and Udinese. The loss to Milan in the San Siro was perhaps understandable but the Week 29 slip at bottom club Atalanta will have caused Coach Walter Novellino more concern.
Cagliari still have an outside chance of stealing a UEFA Cup spot and are in fine goalscoring form with 11 strikes in their last four games. Unbeaten in their last ten home games, the Rossoblu will be confident of further denting the Blucerchiati’s European Cup ambitions.
The meeting between the two sides in November ended in a goalless draw, although Cagliari were aggrieved when the referee refused a penalty for Simone Pavon’s tackle on David Suazo. This match is another case where a draw will do neither side any good and both sides will be determined to be more clinical in front of goal in the meeting at the Sant’Elia.
Cagliari midfielder Nelson Abeijon is suspended, although talismanic attacker Gianfranco Zola and Mauro Esposito look likely to return to the starting line-up. Sampdoria have a full squad to select from with no injuries or suspensions, Fausto Rossini is in line to replace Vitali Kutuzov upfront alongside Francesco Flachi.
Cagliari (probable): Iezzo; Lopez, Maltagliati, Bega, Agostini; Budel, Brambilla, Gobbi; Esposito, Zola, Langella
Sampdoria (probable): Antonioli; Zenoni, Castellini, Falcone, Pisano; Diana, Palombo, Volpi, Tonetto; Flachi, Rossini
Fiorentina - Juventus
Juventus’ next step in the neck and neck race for the Scudetto comes at the home of one of their bitter rivals. Recent history suggests it will be a win for the Bianconeri as they have not been beaten at the home of the Viola since 1998. Having watched their eight point lead over Milan evaporate, Juve will be desperate not to allow their hated foes the opportunity to cause them to slip behind in the race for Serie A.
Fiorentina stand just two points clear of the relegation zone and Dino Zoff, a Juventus legend, will be equally keen to see his side take the points to ease fears of a quick return to Serie B. They will have to manage without striker Valeri Bojinov, who is still sidelined with a thigh strain, and former Juve striker Fabrizio Miccoli who has an Achilles injury. Nigerian midfielder Christian Obodo and defender William Viali are both suspended.
Juventus are still without Uruguayan midfielder Ruben Olivera who is suspended after his red card in the win over Chievo and striker Oliver Kapo is doubtful with a muscular injury. Olivera scored the goal that sealed Juve’s 1-0 win at the Delle Alpi in November.
Juventus have won five of their last six matches since the defeat to Palermo, while Fiorentina have scored twice in their last four outings. Juve’s defence has been their strength in the last month as they have conceded just once in their last five games.
This match will also have an extra twist given that Enzo Maresca and Giorgio Chiellini will want to prove their worth against the Turin giants – given that they were allowed to join the Tuscan club on loan in the summer along with Miccoli.
Fiorentina (probable): Cejas; Maggio, Ujfalusi, Dainelli, Chiellini; Ariatti, Donadel, Maresca, Jorgensen; Riganò, Pazzini
Juventus (probable): Buffon; Zebina, Thuram, Cannavaro, Zambrotta; Camoranesi, Emerson, Tacchinardi; Zalayeta, Ibrahimovic, Del Piero
Lazio - Livorno
There will be little more than pride to play for when Lazio meet Livorno. Both sides are realistically safe from relegation, barring a major collapse, and European ambitions are now a distant dream. Lazio, however, will be keen to gain retribution for their 1-0 defeat at the Stadio Picchi.
In the November meeting, Cristiano Lucarelli’s goal just after the interval settled the match and piled on the pressure for then Coach Mimmo Caso. There was more misery for the Biancocelesti in that game as defender Fernando Couto was dismissed.
Livorno are without their scorer from the Week 11 meeting, as Lucarelli and defender Fabio Galante are both suspended, along with goalkeeper Marco Amelia who was handed a three-match ban for attempting to slap a linesman in the Week 29 game against Cagliari.
Lucarelli has weighed in with 13 goals for the Granata this season and it will be a hard task for Corrado Colombo, who has managed just two so far this term, to replace him.
Livorno have been in fine goal scoring form in recent weeks, hitting eight in their last four although three of those matches have finished in draws. Lazio, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last four appearances at the Stadio Olimpico but overall have failed to pick up a win in their last three games.
Lazio (probable): Peruzzi; Oddo, Siviglia, Couto, Zauri; A. Filippini, Giannichedda, Liverani, E. Filippini; Bazzani, Rocchi
Livorno (probable): Marregini; Melara, Grandoni, A. Lucarelli; Balleri, Grauso, Passoni, Vidigal, Doga; Protti, Colombo
Lecce - Siena
Siena’s hopes of retaining their Serie A status will receive a major boost if they can win at the Stadio Via Del Mare – but their away form this season leaves a lot to be desired. The Tuscans have won just twice on their travels this season and have drawn four of their last five away games. At this stage of the campaign, they must start turning one point into three.
Coach Luigi De Canio will be hoping that he can call on Tore Andre Flo once more, but the Norwegian striker is still struggling with injury and is unlikely to replace Massimo Maccarone in the starting line-up. Gianluca Falsini is also expected to retain his place in the side ahead of Giovanni Pasquale.
Lecce will fancy their chances ahead of the game after going six home games without defeat but they must do it without key striker Mirko Vucinic and Souleymane Diamoutene, who are both suspended. Sasa Bjelanovic is expected to replace the Serbia and Montenegro man, while Massimo Paci will come in for Diamoutene.
Last season’s encounters between the sides will give hope to Siena, who took four points from the Southern outfit. In Tuscany earlier this season, the game finished 1-1.
Lecce (probable): Sicignano; Cassetti, Paci, Stovini, Rullo; Giacomazzi, Ledesma, Dalla Bona; Valdes, Bjelanovic, Pinardi
Siena (probable): Manninger; Mignani, Tudor, Portanova; Alberto, D’Aversa, Cozza, Vergassola, Falsini; Chiesa, Maccarone
Milan - Brescia
Milan’s bid to win back-to-back Scudetti continues at home to Brescia on Saturday. The Rossoneri are the form team in Serie A having won their last eight games, while their opponents have won just twice in their last 12. But the Rondinelli can take heart from their 0-0 stalemate against Milan earlier in the season – although the Milan side they faced back in November were struggling for consistency.
Alessandro Costacurta will, as ever, be on hand to step into the Milan defence in place of the suspended Jaap Stam but Alessandro Nesta is missing with a gashed foot. Brazilian starlet Kaka is also suspended, although it is not certain that he would have played anyway having been away on international duty. Hernan Crespo and Jon Dahl Tomasson will again play in attack, even if Andriy Shevchenko could feature at some stage,
Daniele Berretta and Giuseppe Sculli return for Alberto Cavasin’s side, who are again without January signing Marco Delvecchio. The influential Luigi Di Biagio will return to a defence who haven’t kept a clean sheet since the middle of February.
Milan (probable): Dida; Cafu, Maldini, Costacurta, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rui Costa; Crespo, Tomasson
Brescia (probable): Castellazzi; Martinez, Di Biagio, Zoboli; Wome, Stankevicius, Milanetto, Berretta, Sculli; Caracciolo, Mannini
Palermo - Messina
The Stadio Renzo Barbera is the venue where these two promoted sides will do battle in the Sicilian derby. Thanks to extravagant owner Maurizio Zamparini, Palermo have been able to punch above their weight this season and Champions’ League qualification remains a distinct possibility. Messina, on the other hand, may only be six points above the relegation zone but they will be more than happy with that. Serie A survival remains the target and a strong finish to the season would see them sit comfortably in mid-table.
Francesco Guidolin is forced into making two changes to his Palermo side, both due to suspension. Christian Terlizzi replaces Andrea Barazagli in a defence which has conceded 10 goals in the last three games, while Stefano Morrone steps in for Simone Barone.
Meanwhile, Messina Coach Bortolo Mutti has no new injury or suspension concerns. His major decision is whether to recall Ivica Iliev to play just off Ricardo Zampagna. The previous encounter between the sides this season ended goalless and, with Messina having kept three consecutive clean sheets, it is likely to be a tight game.
Palermo (probable): Guardalben; Zaccardo, Biava, Terlizzi; Mutarelli, Corini, Morrone, Grosso; Brienza, Zauli; Toni
Messina (probable): Storari; Cristante, Rezaei, Aronica, Parisi; Giampà, Zanchi, Coppola; D'Agostino, Iliev; Zampagna
Reggina - Parma
As the relegation scrap heats up, Parma travel to Reggina for a six-pointer. The Amaranto hold a five-point lead over fourth from bottom Parma, but their form going into the game is terrible. With five defeats from their last six outings, Walter Mazzarri will be hoping that his side’s previously impressive home form can carry them through.
However, the Gialloblu don’t travel well and they sport the worst away record in the Division. Pietro Carmignani knows that relegation can be avoided if they can improve upon the five points they have picked up on their travels this season. But he will be without suspended duo Paolo Cannavaro and Matteo Contini, although he can call upon Cesare Bovo and Ibrahima Camara to step in.
Reggina are without the suspended Marco Zamboni and look set to field an adventurous 3-4-2-1 formation in his absence. Emiliano Bonazzoli is likely to return in attack, with Shunsuke Nakamura and Giuseppe Colucci playing just off him.
Reggina (probable): Pavarini; Cannarsa, Franceschini, De Rosa; Mesto, Tedesco, Mozart, Balestri; Nakamura, Colucci; Bonazzoli
Parma (probable): Frey; Bonera, Cardone, Bovo, Camara; Pisanu, Bolano, Simplicio, Bresciano; Morfeo; Gilardino
Udinese - Roma
With the battle for the Champions’ League berths hotting up, this meeting at the Stadio Friuli could go a long way to deciding how Roma’s season pans out. Victory would leave them seven points adrift of Udinese and in with a shout of nicking fourth place. And a possible defeat? Unthinkable for a club who are already onto their fourth Coach this season.
The Giallorossi’s form couldn’t be much worse going into the game, with just one win in their last eight matches. In contrast, their opponents have won two on the bounce and four of their last eight. And Bruno Conti has a major selection headache, with five first-team regulars out. Philippe Mexes, Daniele De Rossi, Simone Perrotta, Francesco Totti, Christian Panucci are all suspended.
The Bianconeri have no new injury concerns, with the only change likely to be Stefano Mauri replacing Sulley Ali Muntari in midfield. If they can replicate the 3-0 victory they achieved at the Stadio Olimpico earlier in the season then they will pass the 50 point mark and edge ever closer to the Champions’ League place that they desire.
Udinese (probable): De Sanctis; Bertotto, Kroldrup, Felipe; Zenoni, Pinzi, Pizarro, Mauri, Jankulovski; Iaquinta, Di Michele
Roma (probable): Curci; Scurto, Dellas, Ferrari, Chivu; Cufre, Aquilani, Dacourt, Mancini; Montella, Cassano
Ajaccio - Monaco
Monaco Coach Didier Deschamps launched an unusually harsh attack on his under-performing strikers last week and will be hoping to see an improvement at Ajaccio on Saturday.
Emmanuel Adebayor was on target in Monaco’s 2-1 Week 30 win over Marseille and should keep his place in attack alongside Ernesto Chevanton.
Monaco are back in the Champions’ League qualifying places, but with Deschamps already strengthening for next season – Olivier Sorlin and Wilson Oruma have reportedly agreed deals – the players know they are playing for their places.
Ajaccio secured a good 0-0 draw at Nantes last time out, but desperately need to start registering wins if they are to get out of the relegation zone.
Auxerre - Nantes
Auxerre are likely to have one eye of their forthcoming UEFA Cup quarter-final as they search for a first League win in seven games against Nantes on Saturday.
Guy Roux’s team have tailed off in Ligue 1, taking just two points from a possible 18 since the 4-1 demolition of Bastia at the Stade de l’Abbé Deschamps at the end of January. They remain fifth in the table but are now a massive 19 points behind Lyon, and seven points behind third spot and Champions’ League qualification.
Auxerre have undoubtedly been distracted by the cup competitions, but having qualified for the last eight of the UEFA Cup and the Coupe de France, 2004-05 could yet turn out to be a great season for the Burgundy team.
They face CSKA Moscow in Russia on Thursday, but Roux is unlikely to rest any of his first-teamers ahead of the long-haul trip. Defensive linchpin René Bolf is a doubt, however, after pulling out of the Czech Republic’s match against Andorra on Wednesday with a back injury.
Nantes remain inconsistent but have at least managed to pull away from relegation trouble under Coach Serge Le Dizet. They have taken four points from their last two League matches, but in between those games they suffered an embarrassing 3-2 defeat at the hands of amateur side Boulogne-sur-Mer in the Coupe de France.
Mamadou Bagayoko will be pleased to be back in France after he, along with Frédéric Kanouté, was the subject of some aggressive chants from the supporters during Mali’s defeat to Togo in a World Cup qualifier last weekend. The striker is likely to be on the Nantes bench on Saturday, however, as Le Dizet keeps faith in Romanian teenager Claudiu Keseru and another Malian, Mamadou Diallo, in attack.
Meanwhile, Nantes’ French forward Grégory Pujol has been ruled out for the season after choosing to undergo surgery on his troublesome ankle.
Bordeaux - Strasbourg
Bordeaux look set to finish the season in mid-table after a 2-0 defeat to Lens in Week 30 but will nonetheless be confident of beating Strasbourg on Saturday.
The Alsace club are notoriously poor travellers, but can ill-afford another defeat as they slip dangerously close to the relegation zone. Strasbourg have won eight of their 43 Ligue 1 matches at Bordeaux and if they make that nine they will move to within four points of Michel Pavon’s underachieving side.
Lille - Istres
Eight matches without a win now for Claude Puel’s Lille. It makes for sorry reading, but seven of those games have been drawn and it has to be said that Lille remain a hard team to beat.
They will be confident of taking three points against the Ligue 1’s bottom side Istres. Istres have improved since the appointment of Xavier Gravelaine as Coach, and their 1-1 draw at Nice in Week 30 should be regarded as a decent result.
But the southern team remain seven points adrift of a position of safety and need to start registering wins. So do Lille, who have dropped out of the top three for the first time since the early weeks of the season
Lyon - Lens
In-form Lens travel to Ligue 1 leaders Lyon on Saturday having taken an impressive 16 points from a possible 24 since caretaker Coach Francis Gillot took over in February.
When Joël Muller was sacked after 22 games this season, President Gervais Martel didn’t hesitate in offering the job to then-assistant Coach Gillot. The former Lens player, without any senior coaching experience, was given a simple brief: he had four months to avoid relegation.
Gillot needed just eight of the 16 games at his disposal to see off the threat of relegation. Victories over Paris Saint-Germain, Auxerre and Bordeaux have not only seen his players rediscover the taste for success, but, perhaps more importantly, win over the Stade Félix Bollaert faithful with their attacking brand of football.
Having closed to within two points off fifth-placed Auxerre, Lens, ninth, are now eying an unlikely Intertoto berth and a backdoor into European competition next season, while Gillot hopes his efforts will be recognised by the club and his move made permanent.
At the other end of the coaching spectrum, Lyon boss Paul Le Guen, like Gillot, will be out of contract this summer, however, unlike Gillot, Le Guen is holding all the aces. Gunning for his third, and the club’s fourth consecutive League crown, Le Guen has guided Lyon to an 11-point Ligue 1 lead over Marseille and a Champions’ League quarter-final with PSV Eindhoven next Tuesday.
But while Le Guen’s future is keeping everyone guessing, Lyon’s march to a fourth successive League title seems almost a foregone conclusion.
After a slipping up against Caen (0-1) three weeks ago, the chasing trio thought – for just a minute – that the title race was back on, but since then single-goal victories over struggling sides Istres and Strasbourg, coupled with an astonishing 10-2 aggregate demolition of Werder Bremen in the Champions’ League, dealt a harsh reality check to the title pretenders.
The first game between these two sides ended in a 1-0 win for the champions, courtesy of an own goal from Lens ‘keeper Charles Itandje who diverted the ball into his own net on 35 minutes.
Marseille - PSG
The Ligue 1 calendar could hardly resume in more emphatic fashion after the international break than with 'Le Classique': Marseille v Paris Saint-Germain.
"It's the match of the year, not just here and in Paris but throughout the whole country," reckons OM Coach Philippe Troussier, about to contest his first ever confrontation with the sworn enemy from the capital. "It's a national derby in the same spirit as Barcelona-Real Madrid."
The comparison might seem flattering to PSG at the moment. Twelfth in Ligue 1 and enduring a miserable season, Laurent Fournier's men look to be there for the taking by the team in second. Especially considering that they have lost every game away from the Parc des Princes since Fournier took over.
But like in cup ties, strange things can happen when these two arch-rivals take the field, and there has been nothing logical about their recent encounters. Despite their stuttering form this term, PSG have managed to extend their run of consecutive victories to eight, a growing figure that the Mediterranean club are desperate to put a stop to.
The last two of those wins came just days apart from each other in November, and included PSG's staggering comeback from 2-0 down at the Stade Vélodrome to run out 3-2 winners in a Coupe de la Ligue tie. For Troussier's predecessor José Anigo, it was a shattering blow and he resigned soon afterwards.
The former Japan boss' job may not be on the line in the same way, but he will not countenance a setback as Marseille (51 points) compete to keep Monaco (50) and Lille (49) a safe distance away in the final sprint for Champions' League places.
Captain and ex-PSG favourite Frédéric Déhu is a major doubt, however, after he hobbled off with a groin injury in the club's last outing – the 2-1 loss to Monaco that effectively ended their title hopes. Striker Habib Bamogo misses out again too, although Steve Marlet returns from both a suspension and a morale-boosting call-up to Les Bleus.
In the PSG camp, Bernard Mendy, Mario Helder and Reinaldo are all suspended, and Modeste M'Bami will not to be fit, despite having resumed training after breaking his leg last December. Otherwise, Coach Fournier has been trying to keep his players calm and focused.
"When I took this job, my mission was to avoid relegation," he said. "We've done that, so now we will be going to Marseille without any pressure." Whether he actually believes that or not is another matter
Nice - St Etienne
Nice President Maurice Cohen and Coach Gernot Rohr continue to exchange words via the newspapers but it seems certain that Rohr’s position is anything but secure.
Cohen was hoping Nice would finish in the top half of the table this season and maybe even secure a European place.
Instead they are struggling at the other end, and Week 30’s 1-1 home draw with Istres will have done little to inspire confidence.
Saint-Etienne, meanwhile, have impressed since winning promotion last season and will be hoping for more fireworks from their two loan stars, Frédéric Piquionne and Pascal Feindouno, who have scored 18 of the clubs 37 goals.
Rennes - Bastia
Bastia travel to Rennes buoyed by their late win at home to Metz in Week 30 which has kept their survival hopes alive.
Anthier Yahia struck four minutes into stoppage time at the Furiani to take 19th-placed Bastia to within a point of the safety zone.
The Coriscans will not be relishing to the trip to Brittany to face the most prolific home side in Ligue 1, however.
Rennes striker Alexander Frei has scored five in his last five League matches, and was also on target for Switzerland in midweek.
Sochaux - Caen
Caen continue to flirt with relegation and will be hoping to pick up something at the Stade Bonal against a Sochaux side struggling for consistency.
Sochaux looked like potential Champions’ League candidates in the first half of the season but have fallen away badly. Coach Guy Lacombe, who must watch from the stands after receiving a touchline ban, has steadied the ship again and they are now just one point off fifth-placed Auxerre.
Caen secured a creditable 2-2 draw at home to in-form Rennes in Week 30 but are just a point above 18th-placed Ajaccio. The Normandy side have never won at Sochaux in seven attempts, taking a point just once.
-------------------- (BBC, Channel 4, Reuters, )
PS Mahtaako tuoda selkeyttä tuo kikkailu otteluparin värillä?