Man City target eight-point lead at top

Brief news ahead of this weekend's Premier League matches:

Leaders Manchester City could go eight points clear of city rivals and champions Manchester United, for a few hours at least, when they host promoted Norwich City on Saturday.

After winning Tuesday's League Cup quarter-final at Arsenal, 1-0, unbeaten City welcome back Italian striker Mario Balotelli and England midfielder Gareth Barry after suspension.

A win would tighten their grip at the top before United, who feature in Saturday's late kickoff, have a chance to reply.

Tenth-placed Norwich have American Zak Whitbread and Spaniard Daniel Ayala ready to return after injury but fellow defender Ritchie de Laet is doubtful.

Newcastle United will be without suspended Argentine midfielder Jonas Gutierrez as they seek to pay tribute to former captain Gary Speed by beating Chelsea at St James' Park.

Long-term injury victims defender Mike Williamson and French midfielder Sylvain Marveau will also be absent along with Ivory Coast defensive midfielder Cheick Tiote.

Chelsea could suffer a fifth league defeat - and sixth in their last 10 games - after being dumped out of the League Cup by Liverpool in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

The clash between the fourth and fifth-placed teams kicks off a day that will be marked by widespread tributes to Speed, who was found dead last Sunday aged 42.

Newcastle will hold a minute's applause in his memory before the game having postponed an earlier plan for pre-match singing of the hymn 'Bread of Heaven' with fans raising cards carrying his shirt number, 11, at the request of Speed's wife Louise.

She said she had been touched by the plans and wished to be present so the club have rescheduled their tribute for December 17, when she will attend the home game with Swansea City.

Manager Alan Pardew said: "Our players will be desperate to win to pay tribute in that way - we can' guarantee that, of course, but we're going to try."

Manchester United will be without Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov, due to an ankle injury, and Brazilian twins defenders Rafael and Fabio da Silva at Aston Villa.

England striker Danny Welbeck is also doubtful for United who will seek to bounce back after their shock midweek home defeat by Championship Crystal Palace in the League Cup quarter-finals.

For Villa, striker Emile Heskey could make a 500th Premier League appearance, the sixth player to achieve the feat. Captain Stilian Petrov returns in midfield as Villa seek only a second win over United in 30 meetings.

Tottenham Hotspur could jump to provisional second place if they extend a run of nine wins and a draw in 10 league games by beating 18th placed Bolton Wanderers, three days after an unexpected home defeat by PAOK Salonika in the Europa League.

Dutch forward Rafael van der Vaart is set to return after a hamstring strain for Spurs while Bolton may be without midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker (hamstring). Defender David Wheater is suspended.

Arsenal are hoping to return to winning ways after two frustrating home games - a league draw with Fulham and a League Cup defeat by Manchester City - at second-bottom Wigan Athletic, who won at Sunderland last weekend.

"We have had a disappointing last week," said manager Arsene Wenger. "Now, we have to come back and show our character."

Arsenal had won six of eight league games before being held by Fulham, but have won away only three times since February.

They will be without midfielders Frenchman Abou Diaby (hamstring) and Czech Tomas Rosicky (thigh) while Wigan are set to welcome back defenders Emmerson Boyce, from injury, and Paraguayan Antolin Alcaraz, after a ban for spitting.