Redknapp plans to gamble on Woodgate recall
Jonathan Woodgate could make his return from injury tonight in a move Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has described as a "massive gamble". The centre-half has not played since November 2009 but the unavailability of other centre-backs for Spurs' game at Blackburn Rovers may force Redknapp to select him.
The 31-year-old has played for the reserves but Redknapp recognised that a first-team return would be a risk given the length of his absence. "Woodgate is back in my squad which is a massive gamble for me, the club and for him," Redknapp said. "He could start. I have got him in my mind to throw him in at the deep end. He's not played a game of any note but he's in my mind because he's such a fantastic player. I'm dreaming that he can come in and be somewhere near what he was straight away, which is not easy. We have some key, very important, players missing so we have been pushed into pushing Woodgate in way in advance of what we should be."
Such a return to action would owe as much to Woodgate's fitness as to the absence of colleagues. Ledley King and Younes Kaboul require groin and knee surgery respectively; Redknapp said that club captain King was "nowhere near being able to play", having not featured since October. Michael Dawson is suspended having been sent off in Sunday's defeat at Fulham, while William Gallas is a doubt. Spurs will also be without Gareth Bale and Tom Huddlestone as they seek to return to the top four.
Blackburn will be without Roque Santa Cruz, who has a groin strain. The striker returned to Ewood Park recently after one and a half seasons at Manchester City but was substituted 10 minutes into his third game back. Neither of Rovers' deadline-day signings, Mauro Formica and Ruben Rochina, will be risked. Ryan Nelsen and Gaël Givet will have late fitness tests.
Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish will make a decision today on whether new signing Obafemi Martins is sufficiently fit to face Manchester City tonight. Martins, who signed on loan from Rubin Kazan on Monday, will undergo a fitness test before McLeish chooses whether to play him. Another recent recruit, centre-back Curtis Davies, will not start yet. "Curtis can't get into the team until somebody is injured or somebody is maybe off form," explained McLeish. For Manchester City, Micah Richards and Adam Johnson are out having sustained injuries last week.
Bolton Wanderers welcome Lee Chung-yong back from the Asian Cup against Wolverhampton Wanderers tonight. Lee has not played for Bolton since Boxing Day, and Owen Coyle described his return as a "terrific boost". Jamie O'Hara, on loan at Wolves from Tottenham, is available and believes his new team should be able to avoid relegation. "I believe there is the quality in this squad to stay up", he said before confirming there was an option for him to move permanently to Molineux in the summer.
Fulham could give debuts to two new loan signings tonight against Newcastle United. Gaël Kakuta and Eidur Gudjohnsen have joined from Chelsea and Stoke City respectively and both are available for selection. Mark Schwarzer is not yet ready despite returning from Asian Cup duty with Australia. Newcastle will not have their January loan signing available, as Stephen Ireland has a hamstring injury that will rule him out for another two weeks.
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