English Premiership

Depleted Spurs ponder injuries

2011-04-01 19:12
London - Tottenham's focus on its biggest match in years has left Saturday's Premier League game at Wigan looking like an unwelcome distraction for manager Harry Redknapp and his injury-hit squad.

Tottenham's rivals for a top-four spot - Chelsea and Manchester City - are each expected to pick up three points each this weekend against Stoke and Sunderland respectively, so Tottenham is desperate to beat Wigan and maintain its fading attempt to finish in the Champions League places for a second straight season.

But Redknapp must weigh the risk of fielding those players he needs for Tuesday's Champions League quarterfinal match at Real Madrid - the north London club's biggest game since at least the 1984 UEFA Cup final.

While the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea play regularly in the Champions League, Tottenham may never get another chance after this season.

"You can't start thinking about how we are going to beat Real Madrid because we have to play Wigan on Saturday," Redknapp said. "It's farcical. You play Saturday, you recover on Sunday. You're not going to have your 11 ready on Sunday because you are going to have aches and pains and knocks.

"It's going to be very difficult to prepare for Real Madrid because Wigan are in the way."

Winger Gareth Bale is in doubt for both matches because of a hamstring injury, while Michael Dawson and Sebastien Bassong are the only fit central defenders since William Gallas' knee problem, Ledley King is out for the rest of the season because he needs groin surgery, and Jonathan Woodgate and Younes Kaboul are injured.

Wigan is last in the Premier League but is the only side to have beaten Tottenham at White Hart Lane in this season's Premier League.

"We started the year with six central defenders and now we have two," Redknapp said. "It's a nightmare."

Tottenham trails fourth-place Manchester City by four points. Third-place Chelsea is a point further ahead and is away at Stoke on Saturday.

The Blues also have the Champions League quarterfinals to prepare for, but have an extra day and no distance to travel before Wednesday's European meeting with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea's squad is also in better shape than Tottenham's, with midfielder Yossi Benayoun on course to play his first game for the Blues in six months after making his comeback from an Achilles' injury in Israel's 1-0 win over Georgia on Tuesday.

City hosts Sunderland on Sunday, when Blackpool is at Fulham.

Manchester United, who lead second-place Arsenal by five points, resumes its bid for a record 19th English title by returning to West Ham and the scene of its biggest loss this season.

West Ham's 4-0 win in November in the League Cup quarterfinals was one of only four losses for United this season.

Defenders Rafael da Silva, Jonny Evans and John O'Shea are all out, but United manager Alex Ferguson should be able to call upon Nemanja Vidic after the captain recovered from a calf problem.

Rio Ferdinand, who has been out since injuring his calf during the warmup in February's Premier League loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers, has an outside chance of being fit enough to play alongside Vidic.

"Rio has started training," Ferguson said. "He has only been training two days and then just a light session today. I have to decide whether we bring in him tomorrow, or give him a day off and start him on Wednesday again."

Also Saturday, Arsenal hosts Blackburn, Liverpool is at West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa is at Everton, Bolton is at Birmingham and Wolves are at Newcastle.

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