ANDREW VORCE - Tuesday, December 15, 2009
A full Premier League slate in England ensures that the Christmas season is in full swing as domestic campaigns kick into overdrive during the holiday season.
Sunderland - Aston Villa
Brad Friedel and company will travel to Sunderland just days after their historic win against Manchester United over the weekend.
It had been over two decades since Aston Villa won at Old Trafford, and Gabriel Agbonlahor gave every Villa fan a taste of victory that most have not had the pleasure of experiencing. A quick turnaround will be a stern test of Villa's "Top Four" ambitions, as Sunderland haven't won since beating Arsenal more than three weeks before.
John Mensah and Boudeqijn Zenden are still a week out for Sunderland, while Anton Ferdinand and Lee Cattermole are out until at least the middle of January. Craig Gordon is the last Black Cat sidelined with a broken wrist.
James Collins could return from a groin strain for the Villans, while Wilfred Bouma is on the verge of return from an ankle injury. Curtis Davies is still a month out after suffering a dislocated shoulder.
Manchester United - Wolverhampton
Marcus Hahnemann will have a stern test in the Wolverhampton net as the American travels to Manchester United during the midweek interval.
United have a handful of injuries, but senior goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar may be ready to slot back into goal. Brothers Fabio and Raphael may return for the midweek match, as Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves both near fitness. Jonny Evans and John O'Shea are both out until January, while Gary Neville is out with a groin strain.
Andy Keogh is out after an ankle injury picked up last week in practice. Ronald Zubar may make his return, but Matt Murray and Michael Kightly are out until the beginning of February.
Bolton - West Ham
Jonathan Spector will hope to regain his starting position as West Ham travels to Bolton.
Both teams have been struggling through the first half of the season, with each languishing in the relegation zone and seeing their respective head coaches come increasingly under fire.
A win could momentarily pull the Hammers clear of the drop zone, however they will need to first find a way onto the scoreboard, a feat they have not accomplished in their previous two outings.
Zavon Hines is out with a knee injury, while Matthew Upson may return after a hamstring injury. Craig Davenport is out with a hip injury, while Luis Boa Morte is out with a knee injury. Valon Behrami is out until Boxing day with a knee injury, while Carlton Cole is out with the same injury until January.
Joey O'Brien has been sidelined with a knee injury, while Sean Davis is out until until with an ACL knee injury.