Team news: Saints at full strength
All the team news ahead of the weekend's Championship fixtures.
SATURDAY (all kick-offs 3pm)
Ipswich Town v Peterborough United
Grant Leadbitter will be fit. The midfielder scored twice to rescue a 2-2 draw away to Hull last weekend before being forced off with a groin strain. However, Leadbitter received treatment all week and has returned to training, meaning he is set to keep his place against Posh. Midfielder Jimmy Bullard will be Town's only absentee. The 33-year-old completes his two-week club suspension on Friday but is lacking match fitness and will not be in the frame. Ipswich will be desperate for revenge against Peterborough having been brushed aside 7-1 in the reverse fixture at London Road in August. Having played five of their last seven away from Portman Road, the encounter starts a run of four home games in Town's next five matches.
Peterborough have no new problems. There could be a new arrival in the offing though with manager Darren Ferguson still trying to sign a centre-half on loan, despite Shaun Brisley's impressive debut last weekend. Ferguson had been reluctant to throw Brisley into a team struggling for form but the 21-year-old, signed from Macclesfield at the end of January, started the 3-1 home win over Blackpool. Brisley contributed to only a second win in 13 matches for Posh and his performance pleased Ferguson, but the manager is still eyeing reinforcements ahead of the loan window closing. Defender Mark Little, midfielders Daniel Kearns and Joe Newell and strikers David Ball and Emile Sinclair are among the options for Ferguson should he wish to make changes.
Barnsley v Reading
Barnsley's latest signing Lee Collins will go straight into the squad. The 23-year-old defender, who joined on loan from Port Vale on Thursday with a view to a permanent deal, can play anywhere across the back four and manager Keith Hill has confirmed he will "definitely be involved on Saturday". Goalkeeper David Preece is the club's latest injury victim having been ruled out for the rest of the season with a fractured wrist, so academy product Lukas Lidakevicius is expected to take his place on the bench. Left-back Bobby Hassell, midfield pair Jacob Butterfield and David Perkins (all knee), centre-half Rob Edwards (hamstring) and winger Jim O'Brien (groin) remain sidelined. Striker Frank Nouble, on loan from West Ham, made the first appearance of his second spell at the club last weekend at Southampton and is hoping to retain his place alongside Craig Davies.
Hayden Mullins is in line to make his Reading debut. The 32-year-old joined his hometown club on Thursday in a season-long loan deal from Portsmouth and could go straight into Brian McDermott's midfield against the Tykes. The Royals could also call on Jimmy Kebe's services. The winger has been troubled by a knee injury in recent weeks but is back in training and McDermott is hopeful he can play some part in their second trip to South Yorkshire of the week following Tuesday's 1-1 draw at Doncaster. Reading currently occupy an automatic promotion spot but their defensive resources continue to be stretched. Andy Griffin is back in training from a hamstring injury but this game comes too soon for him and fellow full-back Matthew Connolly is also out due to an ankle problem.
Portsmouth v Bristol City
Crisis club Portsmouth have lost two more players. Midfielder Hayden Mullins, last season's player of the year, has joined Reading and goalkeeper Stephen Henderson is moving to West Ham as Pompey's administrators continue to slash the wage bill to keep the club afloat. Boss Michael Appleton could hand a full debut to striker Chris Maguire, who was drafted in on loan from Derby last Friday and got a late run-out in the 2-0 defeat at Brighton 24 hours later. Veteran forwards Kanu and Benjani look set to miss out again. Kanu is still struggling for fitness due to a persistent back problem and Benjani has a calf injury.
Lewin Nyatanga's persistent ankle problem could once again keep him sidelined. The defender has missed the Robins' last two games with the injury and is rated as doubtful again. Midfielder Sean Davis, on loan from Bolton, is also struggling with a thigh strain. Fellow loanee Jordan Spence, borrowed from West Ham, has returned to training following a minor calf strain and should be available for manager Derek McInnes. Defenders Jamie McAllister and Louis Carey will be available after shaking off minor ailments. Marvin Elliott (Achilles), fellow striker David Clarkson (ankle) and defenders Cole Skuse (broken toe) and James Wilson (ankle) are all out.
Millwall v Southampton
Millwall midfielder Liam Trotter is an injury doubt. Trotter only returned to the side at Nottingham Forest last weekend after missing the previous three matches, but had to be substituted at half-time with a recurrence of his thigh problem. With Therry Racon set to miss the rest of the season due to an ankle injury and Tamika Mkandawire still out after a knee operation, Josh Wright is likely to step into midfield in place of Trotter. Defender Shane Lowry could miss out again with an ankle problem. Veteran goalkeeper Maik Taylor will be in the squad after joining on loan from Leeds as cover for David Forde after back-up Steve Mildenhall suffered an ankle injury.
Leaders Southampton have a fully-fit squad. Radhi Jaidi has declared himself fit for the promotion run-in after missing most of the season with a knee problem. Jaidi and fellow defender Dan Seaborne played for the club's under-21s in midweek - the latter's first action since suffering serious head injuries in an assault in September. Manager Nigel Adkins therefore has plenty of options with midfielder Richard Chaplow and winger Jason Puncheon pushing for recalls to the squad having missed out against Barnsley last week. Adkins will stick with the majority of the side which beat the Tykes 2-0 but midfielder Jack Cork and striker Billy Sharp could make the starting line-up after coming off the bench.
Blackpool v Brighton and Hove Albion
Ian Holloway has a full squad at his disposal. A run of one win in five Championship games has undermined the Seasiders' promotion charge and they currently lie a point outside the top six following back-to-back defeats, with fifth-placed Brighton one of the sides to benefit. Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Matt Phillips returned to Holloway's starting line-up to face Peterborough last weekend following time on the sidelines with knee and hamstring problems respectively. They failed to have the desired impact as the loss at Derby 10 days ago was followed by a 3-1 reverse. Roman Bednar and Kevin Phillips both featured from the bench at London Road and could return to the starting line-up, while fellow forward Brett Ormerod will hope to return to the matchday XI. Angel Martinez would appear to be next in line for a midfield start, having been named among the substitutes against Posh ahead of Keith Southern, John Fleck and Chris Basham.
Marcos Painter could return to the Brighton squad. The full-back has been sidelined for seven weeks with a hamstring injury but proved his fitness with a run-out for the reserves in midweek. Midfielder Gary Dicker also featured in the second-string friendly against Tottenham, his first action since suffering a broken leg against West Ham in October, but he will not be rushed back into the first team. Defender Tommy Elphick is therefore the only injury absentee, having been ruled out for the rest of the season with an Achilles problem. Spanish midfielder Vicente Rodriguez could start after his two goals as a substitute sank Portsmouth last week, while winger Gai Assulin plays the last match of his current loan spell from Manchester City.
Crystal Palace v Hull City
Wilfried Zaha is suspended. The teenage winger starts a three-game ban after he was sent off during the 1-1 draw at Burnley last weekend. Midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi could miss out again with a hamstring injury but winger Sean Scannell should be fit after a tight calf. Jonathan Williams and David Wright stepped up their comebacks from injury with a run-out for the reserves in midweek. Williams is building up his fitness after suffering a broken leg in November and fellow midfielder Wright has been out since January with a calf injury. Striker Jermaine Easter will be hoping to return to the starting line-up after he was left on the bench at Turf Moor.
Hull winger Robbie Brady hopes to shake off a recurring thigh problem. Brady missed the midweek win at Cardiff that propelled the Tigers back into the top six, but could return to contention. If the Manchester United loanee is passed fit, manager Nick Barmby must decide who should make way. Josh King stepped up from the bench in Cardiff, while Aaron Mclean replaced him at half-time in the previous game against Ipswich. Barmby has no other new injury or suspension worries and is unlikely to consider any other changes after seeing his side turn in one of their best displays of the season in the Welsh capital. The Tigers, in sixth place with a game in hand on most of their rivals, are unbeaten in their last 10 league matches.
Doncaster Rovers v Derby County
Doncaster manager Dean Saunders will have defender Shelton Martis available. Martis missed Tuesday's impressive 1-1 draw with Reading after sustaining a groin injury in last weekend's draw at West Ham and with Rovers playing two games a week for the rest of the month, Saunders was keen not to worsen the injury. Left-back Tommy Spurr has broken a bone in his hand but is fit to play, while Habib Bamogo (hamstring) and George Friend (knee) have returned to training but are unlikely to be involved. Midfield duo Martin Woods (knee) and Brian Stock (groin) remain on the sidelines.
Derby captain Shaun Barker will miss out. Barker has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after suffering a dislocated kneecap during the 1-0 victory over East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest. Jake Buxton, who headed the injury-time winner at Pride Park on Tuesday night shortly after replacing Barker, will start alongside Jason Shackell at the heart of the defence in South Yorkshire. With fellow defenders Mark O'Brien (knee) and John Brayford (thigh) also unlikely to feature again this season, rookie Tom Naylor is likely to be drafted into the squad for only the second time since his November switch from Mansfield. Forward Jamie Ward is still nursing the thigh injury he sustained while on international duty with Northern Ireland last month.
Birmingham City v Middlesbrough
David Murphy hopes to ease Birmingham's full-back crisis. The left-back has missed City's last four games with a hip injury but returned to training on Thursday and will be assessed. Boss Chris Hughton will be keen to see Murphy return having lost Jonathan Spector to a thigh injury in midweek, joining fellow right-back Stephen Carr (knee) on the sidelines for the next couple of weeks. Nathan Redmond also trained on Thursday having missed the last two games with a slight knee problem and the winger should be fine. Midfielder Jordon Mutch serves the second game of a three-match suspension while striker Caleb Folan, signed on a short-term deal until the end of the season, managed 45 minutes for the reserves this week and is pushing for a possible place on the bench.
Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray will be without influential midfielder Barry Robson. The Scotland international starts a three-match ban after being sent off during Sunday's 2-0 home defeat by Leeds. Compatriot Kevin Thomson will be assessed ahead of the game after being knocked out during the clash with the Yorkshiremen following his introduction as a substitute. Faris Haroun missed out altogether last weekend because of a hamstring problem, and he too will be assessed before Mowbray names his team. Goalkeeper Danny Coyne is back in light training after a calf injury, while striker Scott McDonald is making rapid progress as he continues his comeback from medial ligament damage, although he remains several weeks away from a return.
Watford v Coventry City
Dale Bennett remains out of contention. The defender suffered concussion in the Hornets' 1-1 draw at West Ham last Wednesday and missed the subsequent 2-1 victory at Derby. Martin Taylor, who has been on the bench for the last two games, got 90 minutes under his belt for the club's second string in midweek to step up his recovery from a broken toe. The reserve-team clash also saw long-term absentee Stephen McGinn (knee) make his second appearance after his comeback although the midfielder remains some way off first-team action. Midfielder Ross Jenkins (groin) and forward Gavin Massey (tooth infection) have returned to training, while in-form striker Britt Assombalonga, 19, has been recalled from his loan spell at non-league Braintree and may be handed a surprise inclusion on the bench.
Gary McSheffrey, Cody McDonald and David Bell are all struggling to be fit while Carl Baker is likely to miss the rest of the season. Winger McSheffrey and striker McDonald both face a race against time to shrug off respective thigh and groin injuries ahead of the Vicarage Road encounter. Bell has missed the last two games with a groin problem of his own and is approaching a return to full fitness, although whether that comes in time for Saturday remains to be seen. Manager Andy Thorn will hope to have Bell available having lost fellow midfielder Baker for the foreseeable future with a hamstring injury sustained in last weekend's 1-1 draw against Birmingham. Hermann Hreidarsson (shoulder) has already been ruled out for the campaign while Richard Wood (knee) is also not expected back anytime soon.
Leeds United v West Ham United
Leeds manager Neil Warnock is expected to pick his starting line-up from an unchanged squad. Warnock has no new injury or suspension problems while defenders Alex Bruce (hamstring) and Leigh Bromby (knock), who have both returned to light training, remain sidelined. Paul Robinson, on loan from Bolton, made his debut in the win at Middlesbrough and is likely to resume at left-back, with Aidy White pushed forward into the left-wing position, but Danny Pugh, who started on the bench on Sunday, provides an alternative option down the left side. Winger Lloyd Sam has joined Notts County on loan until the end of the season, so skipper Robert Snodgrass will continue on the right wing, with Michael Brown and Adam Clayton expected to continue in central midfield.
Ravel Morrison is in line to make his West Ham debut. The January signing from Manchester United has so far been held back by manager Sam Allardyce, but was an unused substitute against Doncaster last weekend and then scored twice in an eye-catching display for the club's reserves in midweek. Morrison could go straight into the starting line-up in place of winger Ricardo Vaz Te, who suffered a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with Rovers. Right-back Joey O'Brien should be fit but centre-half Winston Reid and winger Julien Faubert, who were also sidelined last weekend with knocks, are out along with defender Guy Demel (thigh) and midfielder Papa Bouba Diop (hamstring). The Hammers have been in talks to sign Portsmouth goalkeeper Stephen Henderson as cover for Rob Green.
Cardiff City v Burnley
Striker Rudy Gestede will continue to miss out for Cardiff. The Bluebirds have won just once in their last five outings and the French forward has missed three of those with a hamstring injury. A surprising 3-0 home defeat to Hull on Tuesday night has left manager Malky Mackay considering his attacking options, particularly with Gestede expected to remain sidelined for another week, and Rob Earnshaw will hope to profit. The fans' favourite came off the bench against the Tigers to feature in his first competitive game since October and Mackay could welcome him back into the starting line-up. Midfielder Stephen McPhail, who has been sidelined with Sjogren's Syndrome, is back training again and is targeting a return before the end of the season, although this clash may come too soon.
Junior Stanislas will chase his first start for two months when Burnley travel to Cardiff. Stanislas suffered a hamstring injury during January's victory at Middlesbrough, but returned to make a brief cameo from the bench in the closing minutes of Saturday's 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace at Turf Moor. Elsewhere, Burnley are monitoring the fitness of top scorer Jay Rodriguez, who was withdrawn at half-time after opening the scoring against Palace due to groin and gluteal pain, but the striker is expected to be passed fit.