Team news: Reading wait on Roberts
All the team news ahead of the weekend's Championship games, with Reading leaving it late to assess the fitness of Jason Roberts.
FRIDAY (all games kick-off at 15:00 unless stated)
Doncaster Rovers v Birmingham (19:45)
Doncaster are set to be without defensive duo Shelton Martis and Pascal Chimbonda. Martis has battled with a number of fitness issues in recent weeks and withdrew during the warm-up for Tuesday night's 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace with a groin problem. Chimbonda is facing up to a fortnight on the sidelines after pulling his hamstring during the first-half at Selhurst Park, although boss Dean Saunders will have been boosted by the fact that George Friend played the rest of the match in the Frenchman's place on his return from a knee injury. Skipper Brian Stock (groin) and midfield counterpart Martin Woods (knee) are expected to miss out once more, while full-back Tommy Spurr (broken hand) is out for the season.
Birmingham welcome back David Murphy. The left-back's return from a one-match suspension is a welcome one for manager Chris Hughton, who was forced to juggle his backline for last Sunday's 1-1 draw against Cardiff having already been without Stephen Carr (knee) and Jonathan Spector (thigh). Murphy will now take his usual position, with Peter Ramage on the opposite side of defence and Curtis Davies and Steven Caldwell at the heart. Carr has now been forced to undergo a small operation on his troublesome knee and looks set to miss the remainder of the season. Midfielder Keith Fahey missed out last weekend due to a knock sustained in the disappointing 4-1 defeat at Portsmouth and he is again rated as very doubtful.
Cardiff City v Millwall (12:30)
Cardiff manager Malky Mackay has no new injury or suspension worries. Mackay, whose side have drawn each of their last three matches, could hand Kenny Miller a return to his starting XI. The Scottish striker came off the bench in the 1-1 stalemate with Birmingham at St Andrew's after shrugging off a minor ankle injury and will challenge Joe Mason for a place up front. Miller has not scored in any of his last 13 outings for the Bluebirds, but the 32-year-old is likely to lead the line against the Lions. Midfielder Stephen McPhail has featured in Cardiff's last three matches following his return from illness and is set to start once more this weekend.
Millwall will be without Nick Montgomery. The veteran midfielder, on loan from Sheffield United, might be forced to return to Bramall Lane after suffering a calf injury during the defeat to Leeds last Saturday which could rule him out for the rest of the season. Shane Lowry returned to the bench for the visit of Leeds after missing four matches with an ankle knock and will be pushing for a return to the starting line-up against the promotion-chasing Bluebirds. Striker Shaun Batt is available for selection after returning from a loan spell at Crawley and could feature for the first time since January. Liam Trotter (thigh) and Tamika Mkandawire (knee) remain on the sidelines.
Portsmouth v Burnley
Portsmouth could be unchanged. Pompey picked up no new injuries as they beat Hull 2-0 on Tuesday night to record back-to-back home victories. Luca Scapuzzi is pushing for a full debut, after starting on the bench for the club's last two games since his arrival from Man City. Fellow City youngster Karim Rekik is likely to keep his place at left-back after impressing on Tuesday night. Aaron Mokoena is still struggling with an ankle injury, while veteran striker Kanu has yet to get over his back problems. Out-of-form striker Dave Kitson is set to miss out on the matchday squad for the fifth consecutive game.
Burnley's top scorer Jay Rodriguez remains a major doubt. The 21-goal striker missed last weekend's 2-2 draw with West Ham after aggravating a hip problem on his return in the defeat at Ipswich last midweek. With the exception of Rodriguez, boss Eddie Howe has a clean bill of health as his side look to turn around a run of seven Championship games without a victory.
Leeds United v Watford
Leeds will be without suspended defender Darren O'Dea, while winger Aidy White hopes to shake off injury. Centre-half O'Dea starts a two-game ban after receiving his 10th booking of the season in last week's win at Millwall, while White, who started at left-back earlier in the season, is nursing an ankle problem. Manager Neil Warnock could be tempted to switch Tom Lees back to central defence alongside Alex Bruce and recall Paul Connolly at right-back. Danny Pugh could return to contention after missing out altogether last week if White fails to make it. Neither Leigh Bromby nor Andy O'Brien are ready for a return to first-team action despite completing 45 minutes for the reserves in midweek.
Watford are monitoring Adrian Mariappa. The centre-half has missed the last two games with an ankle injury and will be assessed ahead of the Elland Road clash, with Martin Taylor and Nyron Nosworthy ready to continue their solid partnership should he not make it. Manager Sean Dyche will be forced into at least one change after winger Alex Kacaniklic was this week recalled by parent club Fulham. Powerful striker Chris Iwelumo is also firmly in the reckoning for a starting berth having come off the bench to change the game around in last weekend's 2-1 triumph over Ipswich. Stephen McGinn (knee) continue to make progress with his long-term knee injury but is not ready for first-team action.
Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest
Crystal Palace will be without Anthony Gardner, Mile Jedinak, Paul McShane and Sean Scannell. Defender Gardner will miss the rest of the season after being forced out of the midweek draw with Doncaster due to hamstring and ankle problems. Midfielder Jedinak has also had his season cut short after sustaining a groin injury in last Saturday's defeat to Derby. Defender McShane, on loan from Hull, is another player waiting to learn whether his season is over after a second MRI scan this week revealed the severity of his hip problem and striker Scannell will miss out after injuring his ankle against Derby. Manager Dougie Freedman, whose side lie six points adrift of the play-offs in 13th place, has no other new injury or suspension problems.
Garath McCleary is Nottingham Forest's main concern. McCleary was withdrawn as a precaution during the home draw with Brighton last weekend due to a hamstring injury and then missed the goalless stalemate at Leicester on Tuesday night. The in-form winger underwent a scan on Wednesday and Forest are facing an anxious wait over the results amid fears McCleary could be absent for many of the club's remaining six fixtures. Danny Higginbotham was a late substitute in midweek following a short lay-off with a hamstring injury but fellow on-loan defender George Elokobi is still nursing his hamstring problem. Higginbotham, along with midfielder Lewis McGugan and strikers Ishmael Miller and Marcus Tudgay, will be pushing for a recall to the starting XI.
Hull City v Coventry City
Hull will be without Robert Koren and Joe Dudgeon. Midfielder Koren has missed the last two matches and is not expected back in contention until the middle of next month while defender Dudgeon was forced out of the midweek defeat at Portsmouth with a similar problem. Manager Nick Barmby has no other new injury or suspension problems but could make changes after seeing his side's play-off challenge stall in recent weeks. Midfielder Corry Evans and striker Aaron Mclean are pushing for recalls after starting on the bench on Tuesday night and another forward, Jay Simpson, made his first appearance for Hull since early January as a second-half substitute.
Nathan Cameron remains a doubt. The defender missed last weekend's massive 2-0 victory over relegation rivals Portsmouth due to a knock and faces a race against time to be available at the KC Stadium as the Sky Blues aim to climb out of the bottom three. Chris Hussey came in to replace Cameron and put in a solid display despite playing through the pain barrier as he delays surgery on his left ankle. David Bell (knee) hopes to return to full training next week with a view to being available to face Peterborough, but Carl Baker (hamstring), Hermann Hreidarsson (shoulder) and Richard Wood (knee) remain absent. Midfielder Gael Bigirimana replaced Conor Thomas at half-time against Pompey and is firmly in contention for a starting berth after an impressive performance.
Bristol City v Derby County
Bristol City will face Derby without the suspended pair of Liam Fontaine and Ryan McGivern. Captain Fontaine was sent off during the home defeat to Watford in the Robins' last outing at Ashton Gate and serves the second game of his three-match ban, while full-back McGivern was dismissed in the 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough last weekend and will also have to watch from the stands. Cole Skuse is close to a return from a broken toe and will be assessed by City's medical staff ahead of kick-off against the Rams, but manager Derek McInnes will continue to be without several other players. Lewin Nyatanga is missing with an ankle problem and James Wilson is out for the season with an ankle knock of his own. Midfielder Marvin Elliott (Achilles) and striker David Clarkson (ankle) have both been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign.
Derby striker Steven Davies is expected to recover from illness. Davies was forced off little over half-an-hour into the 3-2 home win against Crystal Palace last Saturday after feeling dizzy and sick. With Callum Ball now joining Jamie Ward on the sidelines, Nathan Tyson would most likely be recalled to lead the line at Ashton Gate should Davies not make it. That could see teenager Mason Bennett back in the first-team squad, probably as a substitute. Ball faces a short stint out after injuring an ankle while playing for the reserves this week. Ward has missed the last seven matches with the thigh injury he sustained while on international duty with Northern Ireland. Defenders Shaun Barker, John Brayford and Mark O'Brien and forward Conor Doyle are all sidelined through injury.
Brighton and Hove Albion v Middlesbrough
Craig Mackail-Smith returns for Brighton after recovering from a virus. The striker sat out the Seagulls' 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest due to the illness and will compete with Sam Vokes for a starting spot. Will Buckley also missed the Forest game with the same illness and is back in contention. Adam El-Abd was deemed only fit enough for the bench on Saturday but is pushing for a starting spot in the Brighton defence. Midfielder Matt Sparrow starts his two-match suspension after being sent off at the City Ground last Saturday. Gonzalo Jara Reyes serves the final of his three-game ban, following his dismissal against Blackpool.
Middlesbrough boss Tony Mowbray will be without skipper Matthew Bates. The 25-year-old is awaiting the result of tests on the knee he damaged in Tuesday night's 1-1 draw at Ipswich amid fears he has suffered the fifth cruciate ligament injury of his career. It proved a costly trip to Portman Road as Bates' central defensive partner Seb Hines also failed to finish the game with concussion. Hines could return at the Amex Stadium, but Mowbray has recalled Scotland international Stephen McManus from his loan spell at Bristol City. Striker Marvin Emnes came out of he Ipswich game with what is hoped is a minor knee problem, and his condition is being assessed, as is that of Faris Haroun, who is nearing a return from a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, long-term absentees Scott McDonald (medial ligament) and Rhys Williams (ankle ligaments) are making good progress, but remain on the sidelines.
West Ham United v Reading
Sam Allardyce will leave it as late as possible to assess Abdoulaye Faye's fitness. Faye was withdrawn at half-time during the Hammers' victory over Peterborough on Tuesday due to a head injury, but an X-ray has revealed he has not suffered a fractured skull as first feared. Allardyce will wait until the morning of the game to determine whether the Senegalese defender is fit. Danny Collins replaced Faye on Tuesday night and will deputise should he be deemed unfit. Joey O'Brien was also substituted at half-time during the Peterborough game as a precaution, but is expected to be fit to face Reading. Julien Faubert is on standby should O'Brien miss out. Winston Reid and Guy Demel are back in training following spells on the treatment table, but neither are expected to be involved.
Reading are hopeful that striker Jason Roberts will be available. The former Blackburn forward suffered a hamstring injury during the 3-1 defeat at Peterborough last week and missed the victory over Blackpool. On-loan Arsenal starlet Benik Afobe deputised for Roberts against the Tangerines, but he may drop to the bench if the veteran hitman recovers in time. Full-back Matthew Connolly continues to miss out with an ankle problem, with Shaun Cummings likely to continue on the right of defence in his absence, while Joseph Mills is also sidelined through injury. Reserve goalkeeper Mikkel Andersen will be unavailable to manager Brian McDermott because of a knee problem, and the Royals have recalled Alex McCarthy from his loan spell at Ipswich to provide cover to regular number one Adam Federici.
Peterborough United v Leicester City
Peterborough defender Gabby Zakuani faces a race against time to be fit. A back injury forced Zakuani off little over an hour into the home defeat to West Ham on Tuesday night and the big defender is a doubt for Saturday. The Posh boss is exploring the possibility of shaking up his midfield after naming an unchanged XI for the past five matches, with Daniel Kearns and Joe Newell options for Ferguson who is adamant he will not be splitting up the blossoming strike partnership of Paul Taylor and Tyrone Barnett.
Richie Wellens will return to the Leicester squad. Wellens has missed the last two matches with a calf injury, but the midfielder is poised to come back into the reckoning at London Road. Andy King and Darius Vassell returned to action following injury as Leicester participated in a fundraising match for cash-strapped neighbours Kettering on Wednesday night. Midfielder King, who was an unused substitute the previous evening as the Foxes drew 0-0 with Nottingham Forest, has been out since suffering a foot injury in January. Striker Vassell has been sidelined after undergoing knee surgery in October. Pearson confirmed that King will be included in the squad again but said that Vassell would not feature.
Ipswich Town v Barnsley
Arran Lee-Barrett is likely to regain his place in goal. On-loan stopper Alex McCarthy was recalled by parent club Reading on Wednesday, just hours after his involvement in the club's 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough. Lee-Barrett has made 11 league appearances for Town this term, the most recent of which came in the 3-0 defeat at Brighton towards the end of February, but he looks set to edge out Richard Wright for the gloves against Barnsley. Otherwise, manager Paul Jewell is not expected to have any new injury or suspension problems although he may well change things around.
Barnsley will be without suspended midfielder Nathan Doyle. Doyle was shown a straight red card in last week's home win over Peterborough for a reckless challenge and will start a three-game ban. Korey Smith, on loan from Norwich, is expected to return in his absence. Manager Keith Hill has no other new injury or suspension problems, but will not be boosted by the return of any players currently sidelined either. Both goalkeepers Luke Steele (abdomen) and David Preece (fractured wrist) remain sidelined, so David Button, on loan from Tottenham, will continue. Another recent loan signing, Huddersfield striker Kallum Higginbotham, is hoping to make his first appearance for the Tykes as he was an unused substitute against Peterborough. Right-back Bobby Hassell, midfield pair Jacob Butterfield and David Perkins (all knee), centre-half Rob Edwards (hamstring) and winger Jim O'Brien (groin) all remain sidelined.
Blackpool v Southampton (17:25)
Southampton top scorer Rickie Lambert is expected to be fit. The 28-goal striker was withdrawn due to a pelvic injury during Saints' 2-0 victory over Doncaster on Saturday, but has been passed fit to start at Bloomfield Road. Tadanari Lee is back in contention after sitting out the last three games with an ankle injury. Brazilian forward Guly do Prado is back in training after picking up a knock against Hull, but is expected to miss out on the matchday squad. Danny Seaborne continued his comeback from a serious head injury, suffered in an assault in September, with 90 minutes for the reserves on Tuesday and is nearing a return to the first team squad.
Blackpool will be without Roman Bednar. On-loan West Brom striker Bednar, who could be ruled out for the rest of the season, is waiting to learn the full extent of knee ligament damage. Seasiders boss Ian Holloway has no other injury worries, while wingers Matt Phillips and Tom Ince will be pushing for recalls after being confined to the bench for last weekend's 3-1 defeat at Reading. Stephen Dobbie provides Holloway with another option in attack after rejoining the Seasiders on loan from Swansea. He featured as a second-half substitute alongside Phillips and Ince at the Madjeski Stadium. Top-scorer Kevin Phillips is expected to keep his place to face his former club, but Lomana LuaLua and Gary Taylor-Fletcher could find their places under threat. Blackpool lie outside the play-off places on goal difference and have seen their promotion challenge falter in recent weeks with a run of two wins in eight games.