Team news: Sharp set for Saints debut
All the team news ahead of the weekend's Championship fixtures.
SATURDAY (all kick-offs 3pm unless stated)
Cardiff City v Blackpool
Cardiff manager Malky Mackay may be able to call on Mark Hudson. Mackay has been sweating on the fitness of defender Hudson, who missed the Carling Cup semi-final victory over Crystal Palace and the 1-1 draw with Southampton with a calf strain, but the Bluebirds captain could make his return to the matchday squad this weekend. However, Hudson will have to displace one of Ben Turner and Anthony Gerrard, both of whom have been excellent in his continued absence. Full-back Kevin McNaughton is likely to keep his place in defence after starting ahead of Darcy Blake against the Saints in midweek, while strikers Joe Mason and Rudy Gestede are both aiming for recalls.
Quicksilver trio Matt Phillips, Tom Ince and Lomana LuaLua have all impressed in recent weeks although Ian Holloway turned to the substitutes' bench as his free-flowing forward line struggled to make headway against Coventry in midweek. Roman Bednar - making his debut after joining the Seasiders on loan from West Brom - laid on the equaliser for fellow sub Kevin Phillips before the more robust talents of Gary Taylor-Fletcher secured a 2-1 win, presenting the manager with a selection headache. Liverpool loanee Danny Wilson and Neal Eardley could both feature in defence as centre-back Ian Evatt serves the first game of a two-match suspension for collecting 10 bookings. Midfielder Keith Southern remains a doubt with a gashed ankle.
Watford v Barnsley
Sean Dyche has no new injury or suspension problems from Tuesday's impressive 2-0 victory at Millwall and will likely name an unchanged side. Troy Deeney and Joe Garner started up front following the departure of Marvin Sordell to Bolton on transfer deadline day and duly grabbed a goal apiece at The Den. Alex Kacaniklic also made his debut in midfield following his loan arrival from Fulham and had a hand in both goals. Defender Martin Taylor (broken toe) and midfielder Stephen McGinn (knee) continue their recoveries from lengthy absences. The Hornets go into the game knowing victory would move them to within three points of 14th-placed Barnsley.
Barnsley manager Keith Hill will add new signing Scott Golbourne to his squad. But Hill must wait a little longer for the services of another new signing, midfielder Stephen Dawson. The former Leyton Orient skipper completed his permanent switch on deadline day but is sidelined due to an ankle injury. Winger Jim O'Brien has returned to full training, but remains at least another week away from a return to action following a groin injury. Hill, who has no new injury or suspension problems, must decide whether to recall recent signing Chris Dagnall or retain Andy Gray and Craig Davies up front.
Coventry City v Ipswich Town
Oliver Norwood comes into the reckoning for his Coventry debut. The talented midfielder arrived on loan from Manchester United on transfer deadline day and will be hoping to get the chance to impress as the rock bottom Sky Blues go in search of a fourth consecutive home league win. Full-back Hermann Hreidarsson dislocated his shoulder prior to his unfortunate role in Blackpool's equaliser in midweek and, despite carrying on for the closing stages, faces a late assessment. Midfielder Conor Thomas, who bagged City's opener in the heartbreaking last-gasp 2-1 defeat, was forced off in the closing stages with an adductor problem and is unlikely to feature. Defender Chris Hussey (ankle) is set to return to training next week while Cody McDonald (knee) continues to miss out.
Manager Paul Jewell will be hard pushed to make any changes. Jewell watched his charges blow away league leaders West Ham 5-1 in midweek and those who started at Portman Road are expected to get the chance to provide another boost to Town's survival hopes. The Suffolk club have no new injury or suspension concerns to contend with, leaving midfielder Lee Bowyer (groin) as the only absentee although the 34-year-old is not far away. Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy is available after a one-match suspension but Arran Lee-Barrett is set to keep his place between the sticks. Midfielder Ryan Stevenson is still looking for his first involvement in a Town shirt having arrived from Hearts for an undisclosed fee at the start of the week.
Burnley v Peterborough United
Burnley winger Keith Treacy faces a late fitness test. Treacy was replaced by Ross Wallace 28 minutes into the 2-0 midweek win over Nottingham Forest suffering from a back injury. Wallace was making a return from a similar problems and suffered no adverse reaction so is fit to start for Eddie Howe's side. Martin Paterson is stepping up his recovery but is expected to sit out along with fellow hamstring victim Junior Stanislas. Paterson's fellow forward Danny Ings has returned to reserve-team action in recent weeks following a lengthy knee injury and will not be risked as he looks to build match fitness.
Ryan Bennett will remain part of the Peterborough starting XI at Burnley despite signing for Norwich this week. Bennett joined the Premier League club for an undisclosed fee that Posh are reporting as a club-record sale. The England Under-21 international defender has put pen to paper on a three-and-a-half-year deal but the Canaries have agreed for him to remain at London Road on an emergency loan until the end of this month. Long-term absentee David Hibbert aside, manager Darren Ferguson has a full squad to choose from after captain Grant McCann, fellow midfielder Lee Frecklington and forward George Boyd returned from injury to start against Portsmouth last weekend. Midfielder Danny Kearns could come back into the reckoning after being rested for the last two games. Striker Nicky Ajose has joined Chesterfield on loan for the remainder of the season.
Bristol City v Leeds United
Bristol City will be be without the suspended Louis Carey. Veteran centre-back Carey was dismissed during the Robins' 1-0 defeat at Reading last time out for "denying a goalscoring opportunity" and, after City decided not to appeal the decision, will serve a one-match ban. However, manager Derek McInnes has been buoyed by the return to training of Marvin Elliott and Liam Fontaine. Midfielder Elliott had been struggling with the hamstring injury he picked up during the 1-0 victory over Millwall at Ashton Gate on January 3, while defender Fontaine has recovered from a knee injury, and both could feature on Saturday. Striker David Clarkson will not be involved, however, after picking up an ankle fracture which will keep him out for the rest of the season.
Leeds could hand debuts to Adam Smith and Robbie Rogers as caretaker-manager Neil Redfearn takes charge of his first game. Redfearn, installed as temporary boss after Simon Grayson was sacked on Wednesday, has no new injury or suspension worries, but may want to add some experience to his back four following the heavy midweek home defeat to Birmingham. Left-sided defender/midfielder Danny Pugh and centre-half Alex Bruce, both unused substitutes on Tuesday night, could be recalled to the starting line-up.
Middlesbrough v Crystal Palace
Middlesbrough will be without striker Scott McDonald. The Australian scored Boro's first goal in their 2-2 midweek draw at Leicester but later suffered a medial knee ligament injury and is likely to be out for at least six weeks. Top scorer Marvin Emnes suffered a slight hamstring strain in the game at the King Power Stadium and was withdrawn as a precaution but boss Tony Mowbray is hopeful the Dutchman will be fit. Goalkeeper Jason Steele (wrist) played through the pain barrier against the Foxes and will keep his place with rookie Connor Ripley on the bench as back-up in the absence of Danny Coyne (calf). Midfielders Nick Bailey (medial ligament) and Merouane Zemmama (groin) continue to be sidelined for the Teesiders along with striker Bart Ogbeche (hamstring) and Julio Arca, who serves the final game of a three-match ban.
Crystal Palace welcome back captain Paddy McCarthy. The Irish defender missed Tuesday night's 1-1 draw against derby rivals Brighton through suspension after he was sent off in the Carling Cup semi-final defeat in Cardiff. Paul McShane has extended his loan deal from Hull until the end of the season but he could be the one to make way if McCarthy returns to the starting line-up alongside Anthony Gardner at centre-half. Norwich striker Chris Martin, a goalscorer against the Seagulls, has also extended his loan spell. Left-back Dean Moxey is fit after a spell out with a knee injury but midfielder Jonathan Williams is still recovering from the broken leg he suffered in November.
Brighton and Hove Albion v Leicester City
Kazenga LuaLua and Mauricio Taricco are fit. Winger LuaLua and veteran full-back Taricco have been missing since the turn of the year with hamstring injuries but have trained this week. Craig Noone, who was the subject of a deadline day bid from Cardiff, also has hamstring trouble and he will face a late fitness test. Defenders Joe Mattock and Gonzalo Jara Reyes should be involved after joining the Seagulls on loan, and striker Sam Vokes could make his full debut following a substitute appearance at Crystal Palace in midweek. Full-back Marcos Painter is still out with a hamstring injury and centre-half Tommy Elphick (Achilles) and midfielder Gary Dicker (broken leg) are long-term absentees.
Ben Marshall will be available to Leicester manager Nigel Pearson. Marshall moved to the King Power Stadium in a deadline-day deal but the winger's registration did not come through in time for him to be considered against Middlesbrough on Wednesday night. Fellow new signing Wes Morgan was an unused substitute in midweek. The former Nottingham Forest centre-half is one of a handful of other options available to Pearson should he wish to change things around against the Seagulls. Midfielder Danny Drinkwater made his home debut as a second-half substitute against Boro and will hope for his first start, as will on-loan Aston Villa striker Nathan Delfouneso. Veteran Steve Howard is also an alternative up front.
Birmingham City v Southampton (5.20pm)
Nikola Zigic injured his knee in the process of bagging the fourth goal of his stunning match-winning performance at Leeds in midweek but Chris Hughton is hopeful of having the towering Serbian available. Fellow striker Marlon King has recovered from a groin strain which has forced him to miss the last two games and is back in contention for the 5.20pm kick-off at St Andrew's. Midfielder Guirane N'Daw also returned to training on Thursday following Senegal's exit from the African Nations Cup, although he is unlikely to start following his hectic schedule of late. Captain Stephen Carr made his long-awaited comeback as an unused substitute in Tuesday's emphatic 4-1 victory at Elland Road.
Billy Sharp is set to make his Southampton debut. The striker joined Saints on Monday from Championship rivals Doncaster but was not involved in Tuesday night's 1-1 draw against Cardiff. David Connolly will drop to the bench if Sharp is drafted straight into the starting line-up alongside top scorer Rickie Lambert. Boss Nigel Adkins has a few injury concerns with defender Jos Hooiveld, winger Steve de Ridder (both hamstring) and midfielders Guly do Prado (thigh) and Richard Chaplow (knee) all carrying knocks. Skipper Dean Hammond could return in midfield after dropping to the bench against Cardiff, while Japan forward Tadanari Lee is pushing for a full debut after two lively cameos from the bench.
Derby County v Nottingham Forest (12.15pm)
Nathan Tyson could start against his former club. Tyson has been plagued by a troublesome groin injury since his summer switch from Forest to Pride Park. He made his latest comeback as a late substitute in the FA Cup defeat to Stoke and then got a little longer from the bench against Barnsley in midweek. Leading scorer Theo Robinson remains a doubt after missing the last two matches
Nottingham Forest are boosted by the return of captain Luke Chambers. Chambers has completed a three-match suspension and will go straight back into the heart of the Forest defence on Sunday. He could be partnered there by either Danny Higginbotham or Scott Wootton, both of whom have moved to the City Ground on season-long loan deals from Stoke and Manchester United respectively. Should Higginbotham get the nod, Wootton could be deployed in a midfield role. The 20-year-old was often used in that position during his loan spell at Championship rivals Peterborough in the first half of the season.