Emile Heskey is a major doubt for Liverpool's Premiership match against Tottenham Hotspur and their manager, Gérard Houllier, could be forced into giving Milan Baros the chance to partner Michael Owen at Anfield tomorrow.
The pressure is starting to build on Liverpool, who have collected only one point from their first two games. Heskey has taken some of the criticism and the shin injury that forced him off in the disappointing 0-0 draw at Aston Villa on Sunday could allow Houllier the chance to give Baros the opportunity to forge a new pairing up front.
The injury to Heskey angered Houllier, who said: "He took a bad kick on the side of his shin. Unfortunately, it is the same place he got a kick playing for England in midweek."
Heskey is having intensive treatment at Liverpool's Melwood training ground, and a decision on his availability could be delayed until nearer the kick-off. The striker was only passed fit for the Villa game at the last moment.
Houllier recently challenged Heskey to produce more consistency. "He can achieve a lot more," he said. "He needs to come out of his shell and I expect a big season this year. Top-class players score regularly and he has to do that."
Glenn Hoddle's rejuvenated Tottenham ought to pose Liverpool a stern test and the Spurs manager believes he has stolen a march on Arsenal by taking a gamble on the midfielder Rohan Ricketts. The 20-year-old arrived at White Hart Lane after leaving Highbury under a cloud at around the time Arsenal signed the England defender Sol Campbell from Spurs on a free transfer.
Ricketts, a south Londoner who is on only a one-year contract at White Hart Lane, looks certain to be in the line-up again at Anfield after earning rave reviews for his display in Saturday's 2-1 home defeat of Leeds.
Hoddle said: "Rohan has really flourished in training and has deserved his place in the team. He almost made it towards the end of last season when he was on the bench a couple of times but he's still learning and he'll learn a lot alongside Jamie Redknapp in the midfield here."
Hoddle insists that Tottenham's interest in the Brazilian Diego, 18, is not "quite dead yet" despite reports that they have pulled out of negotiations with Santos having offered £7.6m for the midfielder.
The recalled Villa captain, Olof Mellberg, believes the goalless draw against Liverpool will give his side heart before tomorrow's trip to Arsenal.
Mellberg was surprisingly left out of the opening-day defeat at Portsmouth but returned with the captain's armband for David O'Leary's first home game in charge and impressed the Villa manager.
The Leeds manager, Peter Reid, has a central defensive problem before his side meet Southampton at Elland Road today. Dominic Matteo and Lucas Radebe face fitness tests after picking up knocks in Saturday's defeat at Spurs.
Matteo is struggling with a swollen ankle while Radebe's persistently problematic knee is once again sore. Reid suggested he may make other changes with Jermaine Pennant the likeliest beneficiary, replacing Jason Wilcox in midfield.
Reid has demanded his defenders be on their guard to combat Kevin Phillips, who is quickly settling into life at Southampton and looks like he is forming an effective partnership with the England striker James Beattie.
Reid indicated that he is likely to appeal against the yellow card handed to Matteo on Saturday. Matteo was booked by the referee, Steve Dunn, after bringing down Helder Postiga.
The decision incensed Reid who said: "The Matteo situation defies belief. The linesman stuck his hand up when he had made a good tackle. We're in danger of making this a non-contact sport which is pathetic.
"Dominic felt he had been cheated. I would like to see the card rescinded and I will be asking the referee to have a look at it."
- More about:
- Aston Villa
- Emile Heskey
- Liverpool FC
- Michael Owen
- Premier League
- Stoke City
- Tottenham Hotspur