Spurs fear Bale lacks toughness to play through the pain


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The Independent Football

Gareth Bale is expected to be fit to play for Tottenham Hotspur against West Bromwich Albion tomorrow following his withdrawal at half-time against Arsenal on Wednesday night but there are fears at the club that their star player might be over-cautious with injuries.

Bale, the newly voted Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year, came off at half-time of the 3-3 draw with Arsenal after a second collision with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. Although there is no doubt that he was hurt in the incident the club are concerned that his instinct is to withdraw from games if he does not feel 100 per cent right.

It was a criticism of Harry Redknapp's when he first took over at the club that Bale was too ready to go down injured in training. While the last 16 months have seen Bale make extraordinary strides in his career the club would also like him to worry less about the bumps and bruises that he is likely to be subjected to as such a key attacking threat.

Redknapp said that Bale's injury, sustained three minutes before half-time, "shouldn't be too bad" and that he should be in contention for tomorrow. "He got a knock but he'll get plenty of them over the years," Redknapp said. "He should be OK."

The Spurs manager went on to praise the contribution of Luka Modric, his side's outstanding player, who is also a regular target for robust tackling. Redknapp said: "He [Modric] is a fantastic little player, so quick. He moves the ball and beats people and he got chopped down badly a few times but he is OK. He is a tough little lad. He gets up and gets on with it. He never lets you down."

The Spurs striker Peter Crouch said it now looked like his side would once again have to beat Manchester City at Eastlands in a Champions League fourth-place qualification play-off. Last season Crouch scored the winner for Tottenham at City that guaranteed them Champions League football this season. The game next month is scheduled for four days before City play the FA Cup final against Stoke City.

"It's two points now to Man City," Crouch said. "It might rest on going up there again. I enjoyed that one last year, that was great. I know that this year, they are going to be trying all out. I don't think they're going to maybe go as easily as they did last year. We did fantastically well up there last year and hopefully we can repeat that.

"If I was the [City] manager, I would come out and play but that's up to them. But hopefully they do and hopefully it's an entertaining game of football, everyone will be watching it. It's like a cup final in many ways.

"I think they are probably under more pressure than we are. But that doesn't mean we've got any less desire to get in there. We have probably got a bit more freedom but there is pressure on us because we've loved every minute of being in the Champions League this year, it's been fantastic and that's what we want to get next season. We've proved that we can play against the best."