The Premier League is back on the agenda this weekend after the international break as Manchester United travel to bitter rivals Liverpool in the first game of the weekend.
Manchester City will look to try and put the Carlos Tevez affair to one side as they host unbeaten Aston Villa at the Etihad. It’s a Greater Manchester derby as Bolton travel to Wigan in the other Premier League game.
In League One, Rochdale are at home to Colchester United while Oldham and Bury travel to Tranmere Rovers and Leyton Orient, respectively. Blue Square Premier strugglers Stockport County travel to league leaders Wrexham.
Liverpool v Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson has said that Tom Cleverly – who signed a new deal at Old Trafford this week – will more than likely miss the trip to Merseyside as United look to extend their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
The youngster has been missing since breaking a metatarsal against Bolton following a robust tackle by Kevin Davies, while Ferguson will leave it to club skipper Nemanja Vidic to decide if he is fit as the Serbian stopper is suffering from a calf strain.
Ferguson – who side-stepped any questions about Wayne Rooney missing three games at Euro 2012 – will also be without Rafael but could have in-form defender Chris Smalling back for the trip down the M62.
The Red Devils have not won at Anfield since Carlos Tevez’s winner in December 2007 and this run represents their worst run of results against Liverpool under Ferguson while under-fire Rooney – a lifelong Everton fan – has not scored on his last six visits to Liverpool.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish says he expects to choose from a full squad, including a fit-again Daniel Agger, as the Reds try to build on their hugely controversial derby victory against Everton.
Manchester City v Aston Villa
Roberto Mancini will be looking for his expensive charges to keep the pressure on city rivals Manchester United with a win against Aston Villa at the Etihad.
The Carlos Tevez affair has once again shadowed City’s preparations as it did before the trip to Ewood Park but Mancini will be hoping for a similar result as his side thrashed Blackburn 4-0, with Mario Ballotelli – now a saint compared to his former club captain – in sparkling form.
Once again, reporters at the City press conference were told that question about Tevez were off-limits. However, Mancini joined in the resounding booing that followed and with reports of the Italian meeting Tevez at his home for clear-the-air talks, maybe it is a sign of thawing relations.
Mancini picked up no injury worries with his players on international duty in midweek but Tevez, who returned to training yesterday, is not expected to play any part. Ballotelli did cause worry when he had a scan on his back while with Italy and Sergio Aguero could be ready for Saturday but Mancini is expected to hold him back for Villareal in the Champions League.
Villa boss Alex McLeish is likely to have Gabriel Agbonlahor fit after the Villa youth product had been complaining of a back problem while Stephen Ireland is 50/50 to face his former club with a sore ankle.
Wigan Athletic v Bolton Wanderers
It’s a Greater Manchester relegation clash derby as bottom of the table Bolton Wanderers travel the short distance to Wigan, who will start the day in the bottom three.
Roberto Martinez is looking for a response from his men after their 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa before the international break and are looking to arrest an alarming slide of four consecutive defeats.
The Spaniard will welcome back Steve Gohuri from suspension and summer signing Albert Crusat is also available after injury.
Under-pressure Bolton boss Owen Coyle will be hoping his side provides some relief with a win after consecutive home thrashings by Manchester United and Chelsea.
The Trotters have won only once in their last 12 league games and the former Burnley boss is starting to feel the same supporters’ wrath experienced by his predecessors.
Coyle will have veteran keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen back from injury and will also have Gael Kakuta back after he could not face parent club Chelsea, and Ivan Klasnic and David Wheater both return from suspension.
Rochdale v Colchester United
Rochdale boss Steve Eyre will have to do without striker David Ball after the former Manchester City man was recalled by parent club Peterborough United.
Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro is expected to line up through the middle to partner Ashley Grimes in place of Ball, who was recalled back to Posh early.
Full back Joe Widdowson will be struggling to make the game with shin splints while former U’s man Simon Hackney is yet to find fitness.
Colchester are likely to be without defender Pat Baldwin who is struggling to put his boot on after being stamped on in last week’s draw with Yeovil.
Tranmere Rovers v Oldham Athletic
Oldham boss Paul Dickov is confident that he has enough options to cover the injured striker Rueben Reid for their trip to Tranmere tomorrow.
Dickov said: “I am lucky that Matt Smith Filipe Morais, Robbie Simpson or Chris Taylor can play up front.”
Last season the Latics left Prenton Park with a 2-1 victory, so confidence should be high going into the fixture on the back of a win against MK Dons earlier in the week.
Oldham currently sit just one point above Tranmere in 12th place so they will be hoping to put an end to their shaky form and starting climbing up the table.
Leyton Orient v Bury
Bury head to London this weekend looking to make it three wins on the bounce.
Richie Barker’s team have won successive games against Exeter City and Yeovil Town to take the Shakers out of the relegation zone.
However, after the home victory over bottom of the table Exeter last weekend, Barker was still looking for more.
He said: “If I’m honest I think we’ve played better than that this season and lost.”
Captain Steven Schumacher is in line for a first start in two months after coming on a sub last weekend following a calf injury.
Forward Andy Howarth has extended his loan spell at Oxford United after making three appearances in his initial loan period.
Wrexham v Stockport County
Stockport County will look to halt a slump in form that has them looking over their shoulders to the Blue Square Premier relegation places.
Tuesday’s 4-3 defeat to Darlington leaves Didi Hamann’s side with just two victories in 15 games.
Defender Carl Piergianni could return to contention after serving his suspension for a red card against Cambridge United last Thursday.
Wrexham will provide stiff opposition for the Hatters – the Welsh team are top of the table and have won four of their last five games.