Chimbonda handed chance to heal rift with Spurs fans

Tottenham’s Uefa Cup match in Ukraine offers defender hope of atonement
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Pascal Chimbonda is ineligible for the Carling Cup final so the Uefa Cup is the Tottenham defender’s chance to repair his relationship with the club’s fans. The 29-year-old angered supporters when he stormed down the tunnel after being substituted in last season’s Carling Cup final, and fans also remember the player missing the penalty against PSV Eindhoven less than two weeks later to send Spurs crashing out of Europe.

Chimbonda’s summer move hardly generated the outrage that Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane’s departures did but Chimbonda is back after an unhappy six months at Sunderland, where he failed to settle.

And against Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of Spurs’ Uefa Cup last-32 match tonight, the Guadeloupe-born defender is in line to make his first start since rejoining the club. “I just felt that Chimbonda gives us cover all over,” manager Harry Redknapp said. “I was looking for somebody who could play everywhere, that’s going to be important. He has energy, gets forward and is an attacking full-back. He was outstanding at centre-back in his last game for Sunderland so can play across the back four.

“I always liked him and tried to get him when he was at Wigan. I think Chelsea were in for him too when he was in the Premier League team of the year [2005-06].”

Chimbonda gets his chance at RSK Olimpiyskyi against the Ukraine champions tonight as Vedran Corluka is cup-tied, while Alan Hutton is out injured and Ledley King is only just returning from a hamstring complaint. King also struggles to play matches in quick succession as his knee swells up, but Redknapp is hopeful of the centre-back being fit for the Carling Cup final against Manchester United at Wembley next week.

“I’m hopeful he’ll be OK,” Redknapp said. “It’s sort of day-to-day. He’s had a hamstring problem, he’s got that knee problem, but he’s a fantastic player when he’s fit. We’re just hoping that he continues his recovery. We’ll monitor ahead of the weekend and we’ll see how he looks next week.”

Elsewhere, Keane, Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko are also cup-tied so Darren Bent is likely to start in attack. “Darren Bent will be very motivated because Tottenham decided to buy Defoe and Keane,” the Shakhtar coach, Mircea Lucescu, said.

Jamie O’Hara and Luka Modric have picked up knocks and Redknapp will hand Heurelho Gomes a recall in goal after recent signing Carlo Cudicini remained in London. The Italian is also cup-tied for the United clash.

“They are both top-class keepers,” Redknapp said. “It’s competition between the pair of them. Gomes will obviously play in the Carling Cup final. It’s nice to have two top goalkeepers. They are both terrific.

“That’s what it’s about. It’s about competition. No one should have a divine right to be a No 1. It’s about performing and keeping your place and having someone pushing you for your place at all times. That’s why Manchester United are the top team. They have competition in every position.”

Jonathan Woodgate, Aaron Lennon, Wilson Palacios and Modric also failed to travel, with Redknapp taking a raft of youngsters to bolster his squad.

Lucescu has warned Spurs that his Brazilian players are raring to go after the winter break. The Ukrainian champions have not played for two months. The coach has Fernandinho, Jadson, Ilsinho, Willian and Luiz Adriano in his squad to face Redknapp’s side. “We will see Brazilian flair against English physical strength,” Lucescu said.

“It is true that Spurs are playing a lot of competitions but players want to play continually. This game is important for them if they want to stay in all competitions, it will be very difficult for us.

“The players against us will want to stay in the competition and put the others, like Keane and Pavlyuchenko who are not here, under pressure. So that could make it difficult for us.”

Shakhtar Donetsk (probable, 4-4-2): Pyatov; Hübschman, Chizhov, Rat, Chygrynskiy; Fernandinho, Lewandowski, Ilsinho, Srna; Hladky/Adriano, Seleznyov.

Tottenham (probable, 4-4-2): Gomes; Gunter, Chimbonda, Dawson, Bale; Bentley, Jenas, Zokora, Giovani; Bent, Campbell.