Fixture pile-up takes its toll on Cup hopefuls

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The Independent Football

As if to hammer home the point to the Football Association, players from Manchester City and West Ham United succumbed to injury on Saturday and are now doubtful for tonight's controversial FA Cup quarter-final at Eastlands.

Stuart Pearce, the City manager, and Alan Pardew, his West Ham counterpart, are attempting to deal with a cramped fixture list - the Hammers will be playing their third game in six days and City their third in seven - and City now face going into tonight's game without their Greek striker Georgios Samaras, who hurt his knee in the weekend defeat against Wigan Athletic. Samaras, who has been in rich goalscoring form of late, was left on the bench on Saturday with tonight's game in mind. However, Antoine Sibierski had to be replaced because of a dead leg and Samaras was called upon only to have to be replaced himself.

Pearce will also wait on the fitness of Claudio Reyna, who picked up a shoulder injury, but will bring back Darius Vassell, Richard Dunne and Joey Barton.

For West Ham, Anton Ferdinand and Matthew Etherington face fitness tests today. Ferdinand, the centre-half, suffered a thigh strain during the 4-2 home defeat by Portsmouth, a game Etherington missed because of a back injury. The goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, who was also out of Saturday's match, is doubtful with a hamstring problem.

Although his manager refused to complain at the weekend, the City centre-half Dunne voiced his displeasure. "It is not fair on either ourselves or West Ham," he said. "It's the biggest cup competition in the world. It is an important occasion, not just for the players but the country as a whole and these matches should be on a weekend.

"The preparation is not ideal and it would not have been difficult to move one set of Premiership matches to midweek to accommodate the quarter-finals."

Manchester City (probable, 4-4-2): James; Richards, Dunne, Distin, Jordan; Sinclair, Barton, Ireland, Riera; Vassell, Wright-Phillips.

West Ham United (probable, 4-4-2): Walker; Scaloni, Dailly, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Benayoun, Mullins, Reo-Coker, Katan; Ashton, Harewood.

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