Carew an injury doubt for Villa's Cup semi-final date

In-form striker's back pain is untimely return of problem that ruled him out last season
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The Independent Football

Aston Villa striker John Carew is worried about his chances of being fit for his side's FA Cup semi-final showdown with Chelsea.

Carew is suffering with a back injury that saw him leave Stamford Bridge in pain on Saturday following the humiliating 7-1 Premier League loss to the Blues.

That was after the Norwegian had scored an equaliser, which eventually proved to be Villa's consolation, to take his superb scoring streak to nine goals in his last eight appearances.

The problem is a recurrence of an injury that forced Carew on to the sidelines last season, and could leave the 30-year-old fighting to be fit for not only Saturday's trip to Bolton, but the Wembley date with Chelsea on April 10.

"I tried to continue, but after the break it felt like I had two knives in the side of my back," said Carew on the injury that saw him come off after 63 minutes.

Speaking to The Birmingham Mail, he added: "The pains can come and go, and now they seem to be back. I will be examined and treated in Birmingham, and the next 48 hours will determine how long I will be out."

Aston Villa sources have dismissed reports which claimed manager Martin O'Neill had quit the midlands club.

Radio and internet reports suggested O'Neill had decided to end his four-year reign at Villa Park following disagreements with club owner Randy Lerner over his transfer budget for next season.

O'Neill's odds to be the next Barclays Premier League manager to leave his post were slashed from 66-1 to 7-1. Villa are unwilling to comment officially on reports which they are adamant are wide of the mark. But sources close to the club are adamant the claims O'Neill has opted to leave are "pure nonsense".

O'Neill spent heavily last summer in bringing in the likes of James Milner (£12m), Stephen Warnock (£7m), Richard Dunne (£6million), Fabian Delph (£6m) James Collins (£5m) and Habib Beye (£3m).

He recouped £12m of this outlay from the sale of Gareth Barry to Manchester City.

But in January O'Neill admitted he had to adhere to a "sell to buy" policy if he was to bring in new players during that transfer window.

And he did not add to his squad and sold midfielder Craig Gardner to local rivals Birmingham for £3m.

O'Neill has admitted that Villa do not have the strength in depth of the established leading clubs in the top flight.

And his squad is now being stretched to the limit because of injuries to Dunne, John Carew, Emile Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor, James Milner and Stiliyan Petrov with several of them playing when not 100 per cent fit.

There has also been no public response from Lerner as to how much money – if any – O'Neill will have to bolster his playing strength this summer.

But chances of obtaining a Champions League spot – and its financial riches – have foundered.

Villa are now seven points adrift of fourth placed Tottenham after the 7-1 loss at Chelsea on Saturday – their first league defeat of 2010.