The Tottenham centre-back Michael Dawson's recovery from injury has handed manager Harry Redknapp a timely lift to ease the defensive crisis at White Hart Lane.
Redknapp saw Ledley King pick up a hamstring problem against Chelsea at the weekend and Sébastien Bassong suffered head, neck and knee injuries, while Jonathan Woodgate could require further surgery on the groin complaint that has kept him out all season.
Dawson, who has not played since mid-April, has recovered from his damaged Achilles and could play for an hour at Preston tonight in the third round of the Carling Cup.
"Michael is in the squad and I might look to give him an hour – that is as much as we can expect from him as he's been out for a long time," the Tottenham manager said. "We don't want to break him down again. It's good to have him back. He is a fantastic boy and a good player."
It is unclear when Redknapp's other three centre-backs will return, although there are hopes of Bassong coming back for Saturday's home Premier League game against Burnley.
"Ledley's injury is going to keep him out for a while, Jonathan Woodgate has had an injection and we'll give it 10 days to see if that will clear his problem – if not he'll have surgery," Redknapp said.
"He's already had surgery so I don't know how much surgery you can keep having. Sébastien took that bang on the head. That is okay but he also damaged his knee when he went down. Hopefully that will settle down."
Redknapp will field his fringe players at Deepdale, such as Giovani dos Santos and David Bentley, with Heurelho Gomes expected to return in goal after overcoming a thigh problem. Roman Pavlyuchenko, who scored six goals in six games during Spurs' run to the final last season, misses tonight's game with an Achilles problem so it will be England international Peter Crouch leading the attack. "Roman has a very slight tear in his Achilles but he should be okay for the weekend," Redknapp added.
Redknapp is looking to continue Spurs' recent good performances in the Carling Cup - they won the trophy in 2008 and lost last season's final, to Manchester United, on penalties.
"It's important," he said. "We want to do well. Alan Irvine has done a great job there at Preston – I went there two years ago with Portsmouth when we won the FA Cup and they battered us really. David James saved us that day with a penalty save. I know it will be very difficult.
"I took Spurs to the final last year; I was pleased about that but we won't underestimate Preston. They could possibly come out of the division as Burnley did last year."
Meanwhile, Redknapp has offered his opinion on the fall-out following Sunday's heated Manchester derby, during which the City forward Craig Bellamy appeared to confront a United supporter who had come on to the pitch at Old Trafford.
"Why has that lunatic run on the pitch?" Redknapp said. "He could have had a knife, he could have anything. The lunatic should be banned for life."
Tottenham are aiming to reach a third Carling Cup final in a row, last achieved by Liverpool who won four times from 1981-84.