'Too old' Poyet out to make Chelsea run

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The Independent Online

Gustavo Poyet returns to Stamford Bridge tonight trying to steer Tottenham Hotspur towards the Worthington Cup final.

Prior to the first leg of the semi-final, the Uruguayan insisted that there will be no malice in his quest to reach the final at the expense of Chelsea, the club which deemed him too old at the end of last season for their long-term future. Poyet scored 49 goals from midfield in four seasons at Chelsea but at the end of last term was offered only a one-year extension of his contract instead of the two-year deal he wanted.

So, at 33, Poyet made a cut-price £2m move across London to Spurs where, alongside 35-year-olds Teddy Sheringham and Les Ferdinand, he looks almost a junior recruit to Glenn Hoddle's Dad's Army. And just like the two veteran strikers he is already a big hit with the White Hart Lane faithful, scoring seven goals in 20 starts.

"I wasn't forced to leave Chelsea but I realised myself they didn't really want me there any more and I made a decision to move," he said. "But I think the reception for me on Wednesday night will be all right because I left in a good way and didn't have any problems there in my career."

Poyet, who signed for Chelsea on a Bosman free transfer from Real Zaragoza in the summer of 1997, was given a standing ovation by Stamford Bridge fans when he appeared at a match earlier this season to collect an award. But he may not be enamoured with the Chelsea chairman Ken Bates' cheeky comment: "We'll have to water the pitch to make sure Gus has all the energy sapped from his old, tiring legs."

Poyet missed Tottenham's 3-2 home defeat by the Blues in the Premiership in September through suspension. That was a defeat which stretched Chelsea's unbeaten run against Spurs to 26 matches.

Gary Lineker was one of the scorers when Tottenham last beat their west London neighbours, 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in January 1990.

Chelsea are sure to make changes from Saturday's goalless FA Cup draw at Norwich City. The Icelandic striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, who has scored 13 goals this season, was rested against the Canaries and is set to resume his partnership with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, but Graeme Le Saux is suspended.

Following the postponement of Saturday's FA Cup tie at Coventry City, Sheringham also starts a ban. Hoddle must check on minor injuries affecting Ferdinand, Steffen Iversen and Sergei Rebrov before naming his front-line pairing. He will also be without the cup-tied centre-back Dean Richards.

Goran Bunjevcevic is recovering from a thigh injury and the maturing Anthony Gardner is also available as a possible stand-in. Kasey Keller is likely to continue in goal having conceded just once since taking over from Scotland's Neil Sullivan in the last two games.

Chelsea's French centre-back William Gallas is a doubt after collecting a leg injury in Saturday's game at Norwich. John Terry is likely to return to a starting role a few hours after appearing in court alongside team-mate Jody Morris, following an alleged incident at a nightclub.

Marcel Desailly has declared himself fit to start, but Gallas's problem adds to the dilemma for manager Claudio Ranieri, although he is boosted by the return of Emmanuel Petit (ankle) and Boudewijn Zenden (calf).

Frank Lampard is set to return to the starting line-up after only a substitute's role on Saturday. Gianfranco Zola may start again in a supporting role to the front two, but Mario Stanic and Albert Ferrer are also available.

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