The emergence of Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart as Tottenham Hotspur's two best players this season could have unfortunate consequences for the England manager Fabio Capello. The Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said yesterday that getting both of those talents in the same team will come at the expense of a striker. So when Jermain Defoe returns to fitness in two weeks he will be competing with his fellow England hopeful Peter Crouch for one place in the team.
Capello's striking options are limited as it is, but Van der Vaart's arrival seems certain to restrict the first-team opportunities for both Crouch and Defoe, who already have competition for places from Roman Pavlyuchenko and Robbie Keane.
Crouch has enjoyed a prolonged run in the team this season in Defoe's absence, scoring five goals in the Champions League but failing to score yet in the Premier League.
"Well, it's a problem isn't it? It's very difficult to get two strikers in and Van der Vaart," Redknapp said yesterday. "So really you're looking to play with one striker and Rafa because Rafa will score as many goals as most strikers anyway and he gives you other bits that he can do. You're looking at one striker because if you play two and him in behind, you can't balance your team up."
Redknapp admitted Tottenham, who have scored just 13 league goals from 11 games, have missed the contribution of Defoe, who has been out since suffering an ankle injury on England duty in September. Redknapp said: "He would certainly have had half a dozen, or seven. That could make the difference to another five or six points. It's hard when you lose your best players."
Van der Vaart may miss tonight's game with Sunderland, along with Aaron Lennon and Keane, who injured an ankle in training. Redknapp said the extra demands of playing in the Champions League was causing problems, such as those experienced at the weekend in the 4-2 defeat to Bolton Wanderers. "It takes its toll in terms of picking up injuries," he said. "When you lose three or four key players it's very difficult. It's hard to be as good as when everyone is fit, that's obvious."
The Football Association is to take no further action for an alleged stamp on Bolton's Johan Elmander on Saturday by Tom Huddlestone.
The decision has been taken because the referee Chris Hoy has confirmed to the FA that match officials did see the incident.
Last month Huddlestone avoided a Uefa charge after apparently elbowing the FC Twente forward Marc Janko during a Champions League game in September. Janko claimed the England midfielder had "smashed his arm into my face" but after viewing video footage Uefa decided Huddlestone had no case to answer.