Premier League Previews: Villa eye joint top spot

Manchester United, who can briefly extend their Premier League lead to five points when they take on an Everton side unbeaten in seven league games on Saturday, face a mountain of injury worries.

Despite picking up 26 points from a possible 30 and keeping a top-flight record 11 successive clean sheets, the champions are without Wayne Rooney (hamstring), Nani (groin), Patrice Evra (foot), Anderson (ankle), Jonny Evans (ankle) and long-term casualty Owen Hargreaves (knee).

Everton makeshift striker Tim Cahill is a major doubt for the trip to United after hobbling off at the end of Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Arsenal. X-rays on Friday revealed the Australian did not suffer a break to his foot, just severe bruising.

Liverpool, who surrendered second place to Chelsea after a third successive league draw on Wednesday, host Luiz Felipe Scolari's men on Sunday still seeking a first win this year in their chase for the title.

Rafael Benitez has no first-team injuries but must decide whether to start luckless striker Robbie Keane. The Irishman has not completed 90 minutes for the Reds since December.

Chelsea lost their 86-match unbeaten home record to Liverpool in October and remain deprived of the injured trio of Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole and Michael Essien while John Terry and Jose Boswinga are one booking away from suspension.

Aston Villa could share the lead at the top of the table for two hours at least on Saturday if they can secure victory over Wigan Athletic in manager Martin O'Neill's 100th Premier League match in charge.

Wigan could welcome back goalkeeper Chris Kirkland after he was forced to miss the midweek draw with Liverpool with a back problem. Winger Antonio Valencia remains sidelined with a hamstring injury.

New signing Savio Nsereko is available for West Ham United for their trip to the Emirates Stadium to play Arsenal on Saturday but he is likely to start on the bench with strikers David Di Michele and Carlton Cole both scoring in the 2-0 win over Hull on Wednesday.

Arsenal have no fresh injury worries with long term absentees Cesc Fabregas, Eduardo da Silva, Tomas Rosicky, Theo Walcott and Mikael Silvestre all still sidelined.

Manchester City, who again failed with a bid for Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz on Friday, expect Pablo Zabaleta and Shaun Wright-Phillips to be available for Saturday's trip to Stoke City after both were substituted in the midweek win over Newcastle United.

Struggling Stoke welcome striker Ricardo Fuller back after suspension and midfielder Liam Lawrence following an ankle injury.

Freefalling Newcastle United's problems continued after midfielder Charles N'Zogbia vowed never to play for them again, saying he was insulted by boss Joe Kinnear mispronunciation of his name after Wednesday's loss at Manchester City.

Michael Owen (foot) and Joey Barton (ankle) joined the strugglers' growing long-term injury list this week but Kinnear will hope to give new signing Kevin Nolan his debut in Sunday's local derby at home to Sunderland.


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