Johnson avoids operation as Stefanovic battles pain for Pompey

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The Independent Football

Glen Johnson is set to return to Portsmouth's defence by Christmas and hopes have been raised that he will not need surgery on a torn thigh muscle. The right-back, on a season-long loan at Fratton Park from Chelsea, is back in training with his parent club after returning to London following his injury at the start of the month.

Stamford Bridge medical staff are in daily contact with Pompey and Johnson is expected to be back on the South Coast in two weeks. The Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, had feared an operation would put Johnson out for much of the campaign.

His injury-hit squad has been further boosted with the striker Kanu expected to face Newcastle at St James's Park on Sunday after recovering from a hamstring problem.

And the condition of both Benjani Mwaruwari (knee) and Gary O'Neil (hamstring) has also improved after they missed last Saturday's 2-1 win over Watford. But Matt Taylor is still troubled by a virus, which could mean that the captain, Dejan Stefanovic, has to play on through the pain of a knee ligament injury.

Redknapp said: "Dejan shouldn't be playing. His knee is not right, but we only have Matty Taylor who can play left-back in his place, and Matty is not well."

The Serbian defender Stefanovic, 32, has come in for criticism - notably from Redknapp's assistant Tony Adams - for goals Pompey conceded against Manchester United, Fulham and Watford. But he has revealed he is playing at only 70 to 80 percent. He said: "Maybe people watching from outside don't know what is going on. The injury is not really bad but it's not good either. I had a scan last month and one on Monday.

"It's still the same, uncomfortable for jumping and sprinting. But I'm still hoping to get through three games in the next 10 days. The injury has definitely affected my performance in the past two games and if Matty Taylor is fit there is a question mark over whether I play."

Stefanovic, who delayed treatment on an ankle injury last season to help Pompey through their relegation battle, added: "Last season I had to play on [until February]. This season should be different - but maybe not at the moment." Redknapp said: "Dejan is a big player for us. If the fans have a problem with him then they shouldn't have."