Team news: Saints skipper to return
All the team news ahead of the Championship weekend with captain Dean Hammond set to return for Southampton.
Burnley v Leeds United
Burnley defender Michael Duff could return against Leeds after recovering from a knee injury which has kept him out for two months. A late decision will be made on whether Duff is fit enough to take his place in the squad, with the player only returning to full training this week. Full-back Brian Easton played a full 90 minutes in the 3-1 loss at Bristol City despite a hip injury and will feature again while Martin Paterson is close to a comeback following a thigh injury. Manager Eddie Howe is still without goalkeeper Brian Jensen (groin) and striker Danny Ings (knee) but could bring in some loan deals to manage his small squad.
Leeds defenders Tom Lees and Darren O'Dea are expected to return to the squad. Lees missed the win at Leicester last time out due to suspension while fellow centre-half O'Dea was sidelined through concussion. Patrick Kisnorbo and Andy O'Brien started alongside each other at the Walkers Stadium and manager Simon Grayson must decide whether to make further changes to his defence. O'Dea was an unused substitute alongside striker Andy Keogh as the Republic of Ireland qualified for the Euro 2012 finals in midweek.
Birmingham City v Peterborough United
Birmingham welcome back Jean Beausejour. The Chile international winger served an automatic one-match ban against Reading, the club's last game prior to the international break, having collected his fifth booking of the season. Midfielder Morgaro Gomis remains sidelined with his calf problem and is targeting a return against Blackpool next Saturday.
Lee Tomlin and Lee Frecklington return from suspension. Injury forced Craig Alcock to miss out against Derby but he is now fit. As is fellow defender Ryan Bennett, who was forced to withdraw from the England Under-21 squad last week because of a thigh problem. Tomlin, Frecklington and Alcock are strong contenders to go straight back into the starting XI. Striker Dave Hibbert continues his rehabilitation after more than a year out with a knee injury.
Nottingham Forest v Ipswich Town
Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cotterill is likely to resist the temptation to include any of his players returning from injury. Striker Dexter Blackstock (knee), winger Garath McCleary (knee) and midfielders Paul Anderson (hamstring) and George Boateng all made their comebacks in behind-closed-doors friendlies this week. Forest have no new injury problems after Chris Gunter and on-loan full-back Greg Cunningham returned unscathed from international duty. Striker Ishmael Miller underwent a hernia operation prior to the international break and is still recovering, while the versatile Chris Cohen (knee) remains a long-term absentee.
Ibrahima Sonko has been ruled out. Centre-back Sonko, who has been dogged by injury since his summer arrival at Portman Road, was forced off in the 4-1 defeat to Millwall at the end of last month nursing a hamstring strain. However, midfielder Lee Bowyer, also forced off against the Lions with a back problem, has trained all week and returns into contention. Nathan Ellington (calf) has also rejoined his team-mates this week and is available while fellow striker Daryl Murphy (hamstring) trained for the first time on Thursday and will be part of manager Paul Jewell`s thoughts should he not suffer any ill-effects.
Watford v Portsmouth
Watford captain John Eustace comes back into contention. However, influential defender Lloyd Doyley has not progressed as quickly with his recovery from a thigh problem and remains a doubt against Pompey. Michael Kightly missed the 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough last time out with a recurrence of his hamstring injury but has trained and is in contention, while fit-again loan striker Craig Beattie replaced the winger on the bench at the Riverside. Centre-back Martin Taylor remains in the treatment room as he continues his rehabilitation from collarbone surgery, while midfielder Stephen McGinn is also battling back from his long-term knee injury.
Liam Lawrence remains an injury doubt. The midfielder missed Pompey's win over Nottingham Forest a fortnight ago with an ankle injury which also forced him out of the Republic of Ireland squad. Striker Benjani returned from a hamstring injury as a late substitute and should be involved again, while youngsters Lewis Tallack and Lewis Stockford are back from loan spells in non-league. Defender Hermann Hriedarsson is having treatment on an Achilles problem and loanee Bjorn Helge Riise, who was on the bench against Forest, has gone back to Fulham.
Middlesbrough v Blackpool
Middlesbrough have been boosted by Rhys Williams' return to training. Midfielder Nicky Bailey was also able to take part after nursing a calf muscle injury, and both have a chance of being involved in Saturday's game at the Riverside Stadium, as does defender Seb Hines following an ankle problem. However, the news on Justin Hoyte and Kevin Thomson is not so positive. Full-back Hoyte tweaked a hamstring during the 3-1 victory at Doncaster on November 1 and limped off after just 21 minutes, while midfielder Thomson has been out of action since the 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest on October 18, also with a hamstring problem, and neither are expected to be fit.
Kevin Phillips has given Blackpool manager Ian Holloway a selection headache. Phillips came off the bench to score a stunning winner in the 1-0 success over Millwall, but fellow strikers Lomana LuaLua and Jonjo Shelvey were the instigators of the 5-0 demolition of Leeds the week before. Elliot Grandin is another attacking option for Holloway, but the Frenchman is not yet match-fit following his recovery from a foot injury. Goalkeeper Mark Halstead has joined Stockport on a three-month loan, while Gary Taylor-Fletcher remains sidelined with a pelvis problem.
Barnsley v Doncaster Rovers
Andy Gray and Danny Drinkwater will both miss out through suspension. Striker Gray and midfielder Drinkwater, on loan from Manchester United, have both reached five bookings for the season and will sit out respective one-game bans. But Danny Haynes, Reuben Noble-Lazarus, Bobby Hassell and Goran Lovre could all return to the squad. Defender Hassell has recovered from a groin strain while midfielder Lovre is edging closer to his first appearance this season following a long-term knee injury.
Doncaster look set to hand a debut to Carl Ikeme. The Wolves keeper joined Rovers on a two-month loan last week and will be thrown into the starting line-up at Oakwell ahead of Neil Sullivan. Midfielder Brian Stock should be ok for action despite not training due to a groin problem, though Chris Brown is struggling to make it after he withdrew from a behind-closed-doors game in midweek with a troublesome knee injury. Martin Woods (groin) John Oster (neck) head the lengthy list of long-term injuries and boss Dean Saunders has bemoaned the injury plight at the club.
Derby County v Hull City
Nigel Clough will make a late decision about whether to include John Brayford. Captain Shaun Barker is also close to a return after making his long-awaited comeback from knee surgery with a run-out for the reserves this week. The centre-half played his first 45 minutes since April on Wednesday afternoon along with fellow defender Chris Riggott (Achilles and calf) and midfielder Paul Green (knee). Forwards Steven Davies (fractured skull), Nathan Tyson (groin), Theo Robinson (hamstring) and defender Russell Anderson (hamstring) were Derby`s other injury absentees prior to the international break. Davies and Anderson will definitely remain on the sidelines and Tyson is unlikely to feature, but Robinson could be fit.
Hull caretaker-manager Nick Barmby could receive a welcome boost for his first game in charge with Cameron Stewart and Andy Dawson poised to return. Goalkeeper Adriano Basso (tendonitis) missed the home game against West Ham last time out but is fit again and vying with Peter Gulacsi for a place in the starting line-up. Striker Martyn Waghorn (hamstring), on loan from Leicester, and midfielder Martin Pusic (hip) are still out, as are winger Richard Garcia and midfielder Seyi Olofinjana, who have edged closer to first-team action by returning to training after long-term knee injuries.
Southampton v Brighton and Hove Albion
Leaders Southampton have no new injury concerns. Defenders Radhi Jaidi and Dan Seaborne are boss Nigel Adkins' only absentees. Tunisian veteran Jaidi remains sidelined following a recent knee operation and fellow centre-half Seaborne is continuing his recovery from head injuries sustained in an assault in September. Skipper Dean Hammond is expected to return in midfield after he was rested for the 4-2 win at Coventry last time out while striker Lee Barnard is pushing for a place in the squad having recovered from a long-term ankle injury.
Brighton can welcome back a host of injured players. Full-back Marcos Painter (leg), midfielders Vicente (thigh) and Gonzalo Jara Reyes (knee) and forward Will Hoskins (thigh) all missed the win over Barnsley a fortnight ago but are now available to boss Gus Poyet. And defender Adam El-Abd, last season's player of the year, is also back in training for the first time this season after a long-term foot injury, although he is unlikely to be rushed into action. Goalkeeper Steve Harper plays the final game of his month-long spell on loan from Newcastle, although Brighton hope to extend his stay. Centre-half Tommy Elphick (Achilles) and midfielder Gary Dicker (broken leg) remain long-term absentees.
Reading v Cardiff City
Reading will have a fully-fit squad to choose from. Several Royals players, including Adam Federici, Mikele Leigertwood and Hal Robson-Kanu returned from international duty unscathed. Simon Church missed Wales' 4-1 win over Norway with a knock while Jem Karacan (ankle) withdrew from the Turkey Under-23 squad. But the duo have returned to training and will be available to manager Brian McDermott. Meanwhile winger Jimmy Kebe, who announced he excepts to leave the club in January or over the summer, will hope to keep Robson-Kanu out of the starting line-up again.
Goalkeeper David Marshall is set to return to Cardiff's starting XI. The Bluebirds stopper came off at half-time in the 3-0 victory over Derby due to illness and the 26-year-old did not feature against Crystal Palace. But he looks set to return in place of Tom Heaton as Malky Mackay's side aim to extend their unbeaten run to six matches. Midfielder Stephen McPhail could also return to the squad after missing out against the Eagles for personal reasons. The only absentee for Mackay will be striker Rudy Gestede, who has a hamstring strain.
Coventry City v West Ham United
Defenders James McPake, Richard Wood, Chris Hussey and Martin Cranie all stand a strong chance of being in contention while young midfielder Gael Bigirimana is available once again having completed his three-match suspension. Full-back Hussey (foot) has missed the last two games while Cranie (ribs) hopes to return after seven weeks out, although a place in manager Andy Thorn`s starting XI so soon could be unlikely for the former Portsmouth man.
Joey O'Brien and Guy Demel will boost West Ham's injury-hit squad. Midfielder Matt Taylor is also close to returning from a calf injury and will be checked over. But the Hammers are still without defender Winston Reid (shoulder), winger Gary O'Neil (ankle) and on-loan midfield duo Henri Lansbury and David Bentley (both knee).
Millwall v Bristol City
Millwall are set to add Josh Wright to their squad. The former Scunthorpe midfielder this week signed a short-term contract with the Lions after impressing on trial. Boss Kenny Jackett moved for Wright as utility man Tamika Mkandawire is facing a spell in the treatment room after a knee operation. Jackett will check on goalkeeper David Forde, who was forced to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland squad last week due to a thigh injury. Steve Mildenhall is on standby to make his fifth appearance of the season if Forde is ruled out. Jackett is still without strikers Josh McQuoid, who has a thigh problem, and John Marquis following a recent hernia operation.
Bristol City will be without fringe players Ryan Taylor and Nicky Hunt. Striker Taylor (broken metatarsal) and full-back Hunt (knee) face up to two months on the sidelines after sustaining injuries in the Robins' Gloucestershire Senior Challenge Cup victory over Mangotsfield United on Tuesday night. Manager Derek McInnes will also assess defensive pair Louis Carey (knee) and Jamie McAllister (ankle). The pair missed the 3-1 victory over Burnley which was McInnes' first home win as Robins boss.
Leicester City v Crystal Palace
Sol Bamba and Darius Vassell are the only absentees for manager Nigel Pearson. Aleksandar Tunchev returned from a loan spell at Palace during the break. The Bulgarian defender has been nursing a groin injury but he trained this week and is in contention to face his most recent club. Pearson, back at Leicester after 17 months away as manager of Hull, insists the chance to win a place in his first starting XI on Sunday is open to every member of the squad.
Chris Martin is in line to make his Crystal Palace debut. The striker this week moved to Selhurst Park on loan from Norwich until January to boost a Palace side who have not scored in their last three matches. However, the Eagles were dealt a huge injury blow on Tuesday night when midfielder Jonathan Williams suffered a broken leg playing for Wales' Under-21s. Since Palace's last outing a fortnight ago, defender Aleksandar Tunchev has returned to Leicester at the end of his loan spell and midfielder Andy Dorman has joined Bristol Rovers on loan. Alex Marrow is still on the sidelines with an ankle problem and Lee Hills is recovering from a long-term knee injury.