Premier League – Team news: Zhirkov out for Chelsea
All matches played at 3pm on Saturday unless otherwise specified.
Chelsea v Hull (Saturday, 12:45)
Chelsea are without Russian winger Zhirkov (knee) and recuperating long-term knee-injury victims Joe Cole and Paulo Ferreira. Alex (groin) and Juliano Belletti (Achilles) are also out. Striker Daniel Sturridge is set to make his debut from the bench after signing from Manchester City, as could back-up keeper Ross Turnbull – who joined from Middlesbrough – should anything happen to Petr Cech.
Matt Duke is expected to get the nod over Tony Warner in goal for the Tigers with regular keeper Boaz Myhill struggling with a thumb injury. Richard Garcia, Jimmy Bullard and Ian Ashbee have knee injuries while Craig Fagan has a groin strain. Stephen Hunt, Jozy Altidore, Seyi Olofinjana and Kamel Ghilas are all set to be handed debuts.
Aston Villa v Wigan
Wilfred Bouma is struggling with ankle problems following his nasty break a year ago meaning Nicky Shorey will play left-back, while right-back Luke Young has a thigh injury and is mourning the tragic death of his younger brother. New signing Stewart Downing is sidelined for at least three months with a broken foot, while Stiliyan Petrov is 50-50 with a shoulder problem. Habib Beye should start instead of Young after signing from Newcastle, while promising midfielder Fabian Delph could make his debut from the bench after signing from Leeds for £6 million.
Chris Kirkland is fit for Wigan, who have no injury doubts apart from the out-of-favour Frenchman Olivier Kapo. New signings Jason Scotland, Hugo Rodallega, Hendry Thomas and Scott Sinclair could all start, with ex-Swansea midfielder Jordi Gomez likely to be on the bench.
Blackburn v Manchester City
Blackburn’s David Dunn said he wants his team to “kick lumps” out of City, although he probably will not – the midfielder has a hamstring injury and should be replaced by new South African signing Elrio van Heerden or Ireland midfielder Steven Reid. New Zealand defender Ryan Nelsen will be out for some time with a knee injury, while Chris Samba, Gael Givet and Paul Gallagher are 50-50 with hamstring and ankle problems. Vinnie Grella and Brett Emerton remain sidelined with thigh and knee injuries respectively. New signing Lars Jacobsen is set to start at right-back after Andre Ooijer and Danny Simpson left the club, while Nikola Kalinic, Franco Di Santo and Steve N’Zonzi could all feature for the first time.
Ivorian duo Emmanuel Adebayor (groin) and Kolo Toure (hip) are 50-50 after their big-money moves from Arsenal, as is defender Nedum Onuoha. Roque Santa Cruz is definitely out with his ongoing knee injury, while Vincent Kompany is sidelined with an ankle problem. Carlos Tevez should start, however, after recovering from a heel injury. Garth Barry is also set for a debut competitive match for City.
Bolton v Sunderland
Only two first-team regulars are out for Bolton – Gavin McCann (hamstring) and Andy O’Brien (groin) – but both have new and ready-made replacements in former Fulham players Sean Davis (signed from Portsmouth) and Zat Knight (Aston Villa). Bolton now have strength in depth and Gary Megson has to decide whether to start J’Lloyd Samuel or loanee Paul Robinson at left-back, Ricardo Gardner or Mustapha Riga on the wing, Mark Davies or Fabrice Muamba in midfield, or Knight or Danny Shittu at centre-half. Defenders Sam Ricketts and Nicky Hunt, midfielders Tamir Cohen, Lee Chung-Yong and Joey O’Brien, and forward Ricardo Vaz Te are also available for selection.
Scotland keeper Craig Gordon is a major doubt for Sunderland, meaning Hungarian Marton Fulop could start. Paul McShane (knee) and Nyron Nosworthy (hand) are also unlikely to play. A host of recent signings are set to feature, with Paulo da Silva granted a visa and Lee Cattermole and new skipper Lorik Cana forming a new-look midfield. Darren Bent will start alongside Kenwyne Jones after his club-record £10m move from Tottenham. Fraizer Campbell – who was on loan at Spurs last season – could make his debut from the bench.
Portsmouth v Fulham
David James should return to the starting line-up after missing much of pre-season following a shoulder operation. This means new singing Antti Niemi – coaxed out of retirement by Paul Hart – will not debut against his former club unless James is injured, sent off or has a shocker against the Whites. Portsmouth’s main problem is not injuries – Richard Hughes and Steve Finnan are the only major absentees – but that they have lost some of their best players in Peter Crouch, Sol Campbell, Jermain Defoe and Sean Davis. Belgium defender Antony Vanden Borre is a promising signing though and could start at right-back, while new striker Frederic Piquionne is set to lead the line, despite a mediocre goal-scoring record in Ligue 1 with 68 goals in 235 games over eight years.
Fulham have barely changed their team from last season’s seventh-placed finish, with only squad players Stephen Kelly and Bjorn Helge Riise added to the roster. Neither is expected to start with the only deviation from the first-choice XI being Zoltan Gera covering for the still-injured Simon Davies (ankle).
Stoke v Burnley
Only Amdy Faye (back) and long-term knee-injury victim Mamady Sidibe are absent for the Potters, who have ex-Sunderland skipper Dean Whitehead on show as a new addition. They did a lot of their buying in January, though, with the likes of James Beattie and Matthew Etherington key components in what was in the end a comfortable survival bid.
New boys Burnley have been busy and new acquisitions Steven Fletcher, Tyrone Mears and Fernando Guerrero are all set to feature. David Edgar, pinched on a free from Newcastle, could step in if Steven Caldwell fails a late fitness test on a groin injury picked up on international duty for Scotland. Full-back Mike Duff and striker Martin Paterson are both doubts with ankle and hamstring injuries respectively.
Wolves v West Ham
Wolves boss Mick McCarthy could hand debuts to goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, French defender Ronald Zubar and utility man Greg Halford with keeper Wayne Hennessey (ankle), defender Chris Berra (hamstring) and winger Michael Kightly (foot) all expected to miss out. A groin injury picked up by Kevin Doyle on Ireland duty means Andy Keogh is set to start up front alongside last season’s top-scorer Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. Impressive in pre-season and with 22 league goals last season, Serbian midfielder Nenad Milijas, who signed from Red Star Belgrade this summer, is almost certain to start alongside either captain Karl Henry or former Manchester United trainee David Jones.
The departure of West Ham skipper Lucas Neill means more playing time for USA defender Jonathan Spector, while James Tomkins is set to start at centre-half. West Ham have a small, young but well-drilled squad so the injuries to Dean Ashton (ankle), Luis Boa Morte (knee) and Valon Behrami (knee) mean that new singing Luis Jimenez and German youngster Savio are set to start.
Everton v Arsenal (17:30)
Everton will really start to purr when Mikel Arteta, Aitegbeni Yakubu and Phil Jagielka all return from long-term injuries, while strikers Jo and Victor Anichebe are out for a few weeks. Marouane Fellaini is a doubt due to fitness concerns after he lost weight while sick with a virus. Unsettled defender Joleon Lescott is expected to start at centre-half with Leighton Baines playing left-back.
Arsenal will be without Theo Walcott (back), Johan Djourou (knee), Thomas Vermaelen (hamstring), Tomas Rosicky (hamstring), Lukas Fabianski (knee) and Samir Nasri (broken leg). But they have a big – if inexperienced – squad: either Philippe Senderos, back from a loan at Milan and almost sold to Everton, or Mikael Silvestre will partner William Gallas at centre-half, while two of Emmanuel Eboue, Denilson, Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby or Jack Wilshere can fill in across the midfield.
Manchester United v Birmingham (Sunday, 13:30)
United have a genuine injury-crisis in defence with keeper Edwin van der Sar, Nemanja Vidic, Wes Brown, Rafael da Silva and Gary Neville all injured and Jonny Evans a doubt with a sore ankle. Owen Hargreaves is still out with his career-threatening knee problem, while Nani popped his shoulder during the Community Shield and new signing Gabriel Obertan has a leg injury. Ben Foster is expected to start in goal despite missing England‘s 2-2 draw with the Netherlands while Luis Antonio Valencia gets an early chance to fill Cristiano Ronaldo‘s boots on the right after his big move from Wigan. Michael Owen will probably start on the bench with Dimitar Berbatov partnering Wayne Rooney.
Birmingham have been desperately trying to add quality to their team after promotion, although half of it – Cristian Benitez and Giovanni Espinoza – is out injured. Defenders Liam Ridgewell, Martin Taylor and David Murphy are also out, but new signings Roger Johnson and Scott Dann should make up for it despite having no Premier League experience. Barry Ferguson is expected to marshal the midfield after his move from Rangers, while Lee Bowyer is suspended as he completes a three-match ban for a sending off last season.
Tottenham v Liverpool (Sunday, 16:00)
Spurs skipper Ledley King is a major doubt while fellow defenders Jonathan Woodgate (groin) and Michael Dawson (Achilles) are definitely out. That means Sebastien Bassong could make his debut after moving from Newcastle, partnered by Vedran Corluka, who scored for Croatia in midweek. Milan target Gareth Bale is out with a knee injury so Benoit Assou-Ekotto will continue at left-back, while Jermaine Jenas is a doubt with a calf problem – Tom Huddlestone is on standby. Peter Crouch is set to make his debut after moving from Portsmouth and will start up front alongside either England goal-hero Jermain Defoe or Robbie Keane.
Liverpool have a few injury problems ahead of their season opener, not least in defence where they will be forced to rush back one or both of Jamie Carragher (ankle) and Martin Skrtel (hamstring) to avoid being forced to play teenagers at centre-half. Dan Agger (back) is out, Philip Deggen is not fit and Sami Hyypia was sold to Leverkusen. Captain Steven Gerrard is a big doubt with a groin strain and is unlikely to be risked, with Lucas ready to slot into central midfield. Left-back Fabio Aurelio has a knee injury but Federico Insua has proved himself a more than able deputy. Glen Johnson is set for his competitive debut, although £20m signing Alberto Aquilani is out for at least two more months after an ankle op. Albert Riera has a foot injury so Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun could both start.
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