PREVIEW: WEEKEND ENGLISH ACTION
The English leagues have reached the halfway point of the season, and the players now face two games in three days in a time of the season where hopes are enriched or dreams are shattered.
Liverpool - Wolverhampton Wanderers
Marcus Hahnemann will be excited about visiting one of Europe's most famous stadiums, and will have been lifted by his team's run of three wins in their last four appearances. Liverpool dropped only twenty-eight league points last season, but have already lost out on twenty-seven this season.
Wolves will be without Michael Kightly, Andy Keogh and Davis Edwards due to ankle injuries. Matt Murray will be missing until at least February due to setback with a long-standing knee problem.
Javier Mascherano begins a four match suspension, and Liverpool will recommend that he take the opportunity to have surgery performed on a niggling knee injury. Albert Riera is close to recovery following a hamstring problem, as are Nabil El Zhar and Martin Kelly who have both been struggling with ankle problems.
Fulham - Tottenham Hotspur
Clint Dempsey will face another of the teams with aspirations of finishing in the Champions League places, following a great result against Manchester United last Saturday. Eddie Johnson will hope for a place on the substitutes bench.
Ki Hyeon Seol will miss the game with patella tendon problems, as will Andy Johnson, who is still having challenges with a groin injury. The hosts should be lifted though by the return of Simon Davies from a knee injury and Diomansy Kamara who has had ankle problems.
Tottenham will be without Carlo Cudicini due to wrist injuries, Jonathan Woodgate with a groin strain and David Bentley with a calf strain. Luka Modric has recovered from a sprained ankle, and Ledley King could return after a knee injury.
Sunderland - Everton
Tim Howard will play the 90 minutes in goal, and will be looking for an improvement in the Toffees fortunes in the second half of the season where injury challenges have been a problem of epic proportions.
Phil Neville, Mikel Arteta, Victor Anichebe and Phil Jagielka are still missing with knee injuries, as well as Leon Osman with a foot injury, Jack Rodwell and Joseph Yobo with hamstring problems. They could see the return of Jaoa Alves Jo from knee problems, in addition to Sylvain Distin and Dan Gosling from hamstring injuries.
Michael Turner has a four game suspension, and will not be available for the Wearsiders, but Lorik Cana will return from a one match suspension. In addition Bolo Zenden has a hamstring pull, Steed Malbranque will miss the action with a dead leg, Anton Ferdinand has an ankle injury and Craig Gordon is struggling with his wrist.
Arsenal - Aston Villa
Brad Friedel will hope to continue his run of games without conceding a goal against the on-fire Gunners, while Brad Guzan will be on the bench for this contest that will have big implications at the top of the Premier League.
Emile Heskey will not play due to a groin injury, Curtis Davies has a dislocated shoulder and Wilfred Bouma will be unavailable with an ankle injury. Craig Gardner could return following a back injury.
The Gunners will be missing Nicklas Bendtner with a hernia, Gael Clichy who has a back injury, Kieran Gibbs with a broken foot, Tomas Rosicki with a groin injury, Robin Van Persie with an ankle injury and Johan Djourou with a knee problem.
There is better news, however, with Cesc Fabregas and Armand Traore, who should both play after recovering from hamstring stains.
Hull City - Manchester United
Jozy Altidore was surprisingly left out last weekend at Arsenal, and will be hoping to be restored to the starting line-up against the Red Devils on Sunday. Hull are now within three points of the relegation places, and so will be looking to capitalize against a much-weakened United defense.
The Tigers will again be without Jimmy Bullard and Ian Ashbee who are both struggling with knee injuries. Nicky Barmby came off against Arsenal with a calf-strain, and may not be fit to play.
The visitors will be missing Rio Ferdinand and Johnny Evans with calf injuries, Edwin Van Der Sar and Owen Hargreaves have knee injuries, Federico Macheda and Wes Brown with hamstring problems, Nani has an ankle injury and Gary Neville is missing due to a groin strain.
There is good news though, as Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs and Raphael Da Silva should all return from injury.
Watford - Nottingham Forest
Jay DeMerit will be part of a Hornets line-up that has suffered successive defeats, and will be trying to put an end to a 14-game unbeaten sequence by their visitors.
Craig Cathcart will be missing for four weeks with a knee injury, and will return to parent team Manchester United for treatment. Ross Jenkins is still suffering with a back injury, and Nathan Ellington has moved to Greek team Skoda Xanthi, but Don Cowie should return after a throat infection.
Forest have Guy Moussi unavailable due to an ankle injury. They will have Dexter Blackstock, Nathan Tyson and David McGoldrick returning from injury.
Yeovil Town - Wycombe Wanderers
Jon-Paul Pittman will be in contention for a starting role for the Chairboys when they travel to the West Country. He has been substitute since returning from injury, but, as top-scorer, would expect to play this week.
John Akinde begins a three match suspension, so will miss the whole of the Christmas and New Year program. Lewis Montrose has a knee injury and Leon Johnson with a hip injury will also miss the game.
The hosts will be without Gavin Tomlin who has suffered a recurrence of a groin injury. Yeovil also lose Shaun MacDonald who has returned to Swansea City at the end of his loan period.
Lincoln City - Chesterfield United
Eric Lichaj and his colleagues will face a difficult game against a team that could move up to fourth in the standings if they win. Lincoln have not won a league game since early October, however the visitors have not won an away victory in their last four attempts.
The Imps have better news on their injured players, as Paul Green should make his first appearance of the season after recovering from a hip injury. Anthony Pulis and Sergio Torres should also be in contention for a return after overcoming ankle injuries.
The Spireites should also welcome back players from injury as Drew Talbot should return after a bout of flu, Davide Somma is over a hamstring injury and Aaron Downes could feature for the first time since April following a knee injury.
Jonathan Spector will be on the bench as West Ham host Portsmouth.
Frank Simek will be hoping for playing time as Sheffield Wednesday host Newcastle United.
Mike Grella will be on the bench as Leeds United welcome Hartlepool United to Elland Road.
Ian Joyce will be a substitute as Southend United host Colchester United.
Jemal Johnson will be among the substitutes as Milton Keynes Dons welcome Stockport County to Stadium MK.
Zak Whitbread is injured, and will miss the Millwall visit to Norwich City.
Seb Harris will be a substitute as Northampton Town host Dagenham and Redbridge.