Football: Ravanelli may make swift return

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The Independent Online
Fabrizio Ravanelli may return to action this weekend to help Middlesbrough's fight for Premiership survival.

The Italian was carried off on a stretcher during his side's draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday and it was thought the injury was a torn hamstring which would have ruled him out for the rest of the season - including the FA Cup final against Chelsea.

A hospital scan has revealed the injury was not as serious as expected and Ravanelli, who has scored 31 goals so far this season, will miss the match at Blackburn tonight but could be back in action against Leeds at Elland Road on Sunday.

Bryan Robson, the Middlesbrough manager, said: "I am relieved a scan showed no tear. Ravanelli wrenched his back somehow and got spasms down his leg. He has a chance of playing in our final League game."

Tonight, the instinct for survival will take over from the hype surrounding the delayed visit to Ewood Park. Boro had three points deducted for failing to fulfil the fixture in December when they unilaterally called off the game at 24 hours' notice when the squad was hit by injuries, illness and suspension.

Now, in the final week of the season, the Teessiders find themselves on the brink of relegation, four points adrift of fourth-bottom Sunderland and needing to win at both Blackburn and Leeds to ensure Premiership safety.

Over the same period, Blackburn have climbed off the foot of the table under Tony Parkes, their caretaker manager, but despite just seven defeats in 26 League matches since Ray Harford resigned, Rovers also need three points to make sure that they are not facing the drop themselves when they entertain Leicester on Sunday.

"The game is too important for both clubs to let what happened last December affect their thinking," Robson said. "After the euphoria of our last two games, I have to make sure my players are up for this game. They have to dig deep.

"Our point at Old Trafford, where the atmosphere was electric, has put us within striking distance of safety. Our destiny is in our own hands. If we win our last two games we are safe. I have felt all along nothing would be decided until the last day."

Parkes said: "There's no extra edge to the game over what happened a few months ago. Any edge that might be there will only be so because we both need some points, and it would be the same if we were playing anybody else. There's certainly no bad blood between us, but it's going to be a fearful battle just because of the circumstances."

Both teams have problems up front, with Chris Sutton and Per Pedersen both doubtful for Rovers with hamstring strains. That could mean Graham Fenton, who has yet to score a Premiership goal this season, could partner Kevin Gallacher.

Boro may be without Ravanelli, but Mikkel Beck makes a return after recovering from flu. They will also have Gary Walsh back in the squad following a cartilage operation, the former Manchester United goalkeeper being a welcome recruit with Ben Roberts battling an elbow problem and Mark Schwarzer out injured.

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