Chelsea omens not good for Sunderland

LONDON - Brief news ahead of this weekend's Premier League fixtures.

Chelsea aim to make it 12 wins in a row against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. The league leaders last dropped points to the Black Cats in 2001.

Midfielder Frank Lampard, out since August, is sidelined for another two to three weeks after picking up a groin injury in training, while defender Alex is ruled out with a knee injury.

Forward Nicolas Anelka should return after missing Wednesday's win over Fulham, while Michael Essien is suspended.

Striker Asamoah Gyan should lead Sunderland's attack with England front-man Darren Bent sidelined by a hamstring injury.

The stats do not get any better for the visitors. Chelsea have won 28 and lost just one of their last 31 league matches at home and beat Sunderland 7-2 in last season's fixture.

Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier will try to mastermind a first home victory over Manchester United in 15 years on Saturday but he will have to do so without a host of injured first team players.

Villa youngster Nathan Delfouneso could keep his place up front after scoring against Blackpool in midweek, although Gabriel Agbonlahor is nearing full fitness.

United will be without the suspended Paul Scholes, while Patrice Evra hopes to recover in time from an ankle injury.

Arsenal could have defender Kieran Gibbs available for Sunday's match with Everton at Goodison Park after the left-back began training this week following a knee injury.

Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini is banned while manager David Moyes is also without injured duo Victor Anichebe and Leon Osman.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini said he would settle for fourth place this season despite the millions the club's owners have spent trying to turn the club into title challengers.

"If the Premier League finished tomorrow, I am happy," Mancini told reporters on Friday as he prepared his side for Saturday's clash with Birmingham City.

"Our target is to get to the Champions League. But the season is very long. It is important for us to stay near the top and we can change our target."

City are without Italian striker Mario Balotelli who is still suspended after being sent off last weekend against West Bromwich Albion.

Tottenham Hotspur are showing the strain of competing in the Champions League and keeping in touch with the top four in the Premier League ahead of Saturday's home match against Blackburn Rovers with injuries piling up.

They have only picked up a solitary point from their last three league games and 11 players are either doubtful or ruled out for the visit of Rovers. David Bentley (calf), Roman Pavlyuchenko (back) and Tom Huddlestone (ankle) were all injured in the 1-1 draw with Sunderland on Tuesday.

Aaron Lennon and Robbie Keane are also sidelined while Jermain Defoe and Michael Dawson are long-term absentees.

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina says he is fully committed to the club despite newspaper reports on Friday suggesting that the Spaniard had asked to leave.

"I have seen a newspaper has made this suggestion. It is completely untrue," Reina told Liverpool's website.

"I have not told the manager that I wish to leave in January, or at any other time. It is important our fans know this. I have a long-term contract at Liverpool and I am fully committed to the club."

Liverpool, who play away at Stoke City on Saturday, are unbeaten in six matches in all competitions after a terrible start to the season.