Robben's injury woe a worry for Dutch

He also suggested that the 21-year-old needed "another two or three weeks" of rest to recover from a hamstring injury, which would rule him out of Chelsea's forthcoming matches against Newcastle United, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and away to Anderlecht in the Champions' League.

Robben's latest injury, a strained hamstring, has forced him to withdraw from the friendly against Italy in Amsterdam tomorrow although it remains to be seen if Chelsea agree with the diagnosis that he needs as much rest as Van Basten has suggested.

Also absent for the Dutch will be Ruud van Nistelrooy with the Manchester United striker sent back to Britain from the training camp yesterday because he has failed to recover from a rib injury sustained in the tumultuous win against Chelsea last Sunday.

Van Nistelrooy's injury is not thought to be too serious although he is a doubt for United's next Premiership game, away to Charlton Athletic a week tomorrow. A spokeswoman for the Dutch FA said that the extent of the injury was unknown although of greater worry to United will be the player's availability for the vital Champions' League tie against Villarreal in less than two weeks' time.

Arsenal's Robin van Persie, who was called up from the Under-21s to replace Robben, is also a concern, as he is suffering from a slight hamstring strain. Given the striker's recent form, the Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger will not be keen for him to be risked.

The Dutch seem cursed with injuries, following the training ground collision between Mark van Bommel and Middlesbrough's George Boateng which led to the former being ruled out for two months with ankle ligament damage.

Tellingly, their absence has not led to a recall for Tottenham Hotspur's Edgar Davids, who has fallen out of favour again despite his being included in the squad for the final World Cup qualification tie.

Of greater concern to the Dutch, however, is the well-being of Robben, who they regard as their most dangerous player and one who is vital to their World Cup hopes.

Although there are doubts at Chelsea about his form, and perhaps also ongoing questions over his psychological state, Van Basten has already made clear that no matter what happens with his club, Robben will be a starter for his country in Germany next year.

"It is a pity that he is not here in the team," Van Basten said yesterday. "He's a very important player but we have to accept his situation. He is not happy that he is not here and he hopes he will recover soon. But it will take a lot of hard work and patience."

Van Basten is known to be no great admirer of Jose Mourinho, especially after the Chelsea manager was involved in a recent spat with Johan Cruyff, who is the Dutch coach's hero as well as his mentor.

Indeed Van Basten is believed to have telephoned Robben recently to offer words of encouragement and reassurance after the player appeared unhappy at being substituted during Chelsea's European defeat at Real Betis. Chelsea later denied that there had been a bust-up and insisted that the player had asked to be substituted. Mourinho later admitted that the injury was "strange" and may be linked to a spinal problem.

It is thought that if tomorrow was a qualification tie - rather than a friendly - Robben would have played but he has been withdrawn to try to appease Mourinho, who has become increasingly irritated by the player's condition. That irritation started with his unavailability during last season's crucial Champions' League ties and has led to some speculation over Robben's future at the club. Since his move from PSV Eindhoven to Stamford Bridge for £12m he has suffered a broken ankle, which ruled him out for three months, a broken bone in his foot which led to a six-week absence, as well as hamstring problems and a calf injury. He only made 29 appearances for Chelsea last season.

Van Basten expressed his own concern at Robben's history of injuries. "He has had a lot of physical problems and we don't exactly know why," Van Basten said.

He said that he did not believe it was because of Robben's attacking role or because the winger was still young. "We have a lot of young players and they do not seem to get injured as much as he does," the Dutch coach added.

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