The Tottenham Hotspur manager, Harry Redknapp, may rest key players for this week’s trip to Ukraine and will make a late decision on whether Luka Modric will travel.
The Uefa Cup tie against Shakhtar Donetsk tomorrow starts a period of four matches in 11 days, with the Carling Cup final against Manchester United on 1 March being Redknapp’s priority – and Spurs also have a Premier League match at Hull on Monday.
The Croatia midfielder Modric picked up a knock in training and could be held back for the first leg of the last-32 tie at RSK Olimpiyskiy, |but other available players are expected to travel even if they do not |start. Robbie Keane, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Vedran Corluka are cup-tied, with Jermain Defoe ineligible and sidelined, while Ledley King and Jamie O’Hara are returning from injury and will not travel.
“I wouldn’t play Ledley in the Uefa Cup even if he was fit,” Redknapp said. “The Uefa Cup is not the most important of our competitions. The game at Hull is far more important to me.”
Redknapp, who is expected to put youngsters such as Dean Parrett and John Bostock on the bench, at least has options in midfield. Wilson Palacios, Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas and Didier Zokora are the central midfielders at Redknapp’s disposal, with the manager assessing which players to keep fresh for Hull.
Darren Bent is likely to start in attack, less then a week after he admitted he may have to assess his options if he cannot get regular football.
“I’ve got a point to prove in that I want to show the gaffer what I can |do and I want to be starting games,” Bent said.
“At the same time, I don’t think I’ve got anything to prove because I’ve scored goals this season. I’m the top goalscorer at this football club so I feel like I can just go out there and relax. I don’t feel the pressure at all, I just go out there and enjoy it.
“If you’re any player not playing games you’re not going to be happy. But me and Harry get on fine. I’ve got no problem with Harry and he’s got no problem with me, so I’ll just go out there and get on with it.”
Portsmouth’s win at the weekend means Spurs dropped to 16th in the table and playing on Monday means they could be back in the bottom three before kick-off at the KC Stadium. The return leg for the Shakhtar game is on the Thursday, followed by United at Wembley on Sunday.
Bent added: “If we can go as far |as we can in the Uefa Cup, start climbing the league and win the Carling Cup, all of a sudden it will be a great season.”
Redknapp cannot choose Adel Taarabt or Ricardo Rocha for the Uefa Cup as the pair were not registered by Tottenham’s former coach Juande Ramos at the start of the season.
Taarabt, who grew up in France, would have been raring to go after his international debut for Morocco last week.
Taarabt said: “I could have waited to play for France, but I felt the time was right when I was given this opportunity and it was a very proud moment for me with all my family watching.”