David Bentley is suffering a crisis of confidence as his Tottenham
career threatens to fall apart, according to his team-mate Didier Zokora.
Bentley's missed penalty in the shoot-out defeat by Manchester United in Sunday's Carling Cup final was the latest setback in a dire seven months for the 24-year-old since his £15million move from Blackburn.
Although he was initially a first-team regular after Harry Redknapp's arrival as manager in October, Bentley has since fallen down the pecking order and is behind Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric and Jamie O'Hara in the battle for places in the wide-midfield roles.
Zokora admitted: 'David Bentley needs the confidence of the manager. When the player has the confidence, he wants to play 100 per cent.
'For him, it is difficult, but he can come back quickly. He is a strong personality, and he brings a great atmosphere to the dressing room, because he talks to everybody.'
Despite Zokora's words of encouragement, it is understood that Spurs would be ready to sell Bentley in the summer as Redknapp prepares for another major rebuilding job on his squad.
Redknapp was so desperate to improve his options on the wings that he offered £15m for Stewart Downing during the January transfer window, and he can expect Middlesbrough to accept less than that in the summer especially if the Teesside club are relegated.
Bentley could earn a rare starting place against Boro tomorrow night if Lennon fails to recover from the knock he picked up at Wembley.
Lennon is not the only player struggling to be fit for the vital match at White Hart Lane Boro are in the relegation zone but only two points below 14th-placed Spurs as Redknapp counts the cost of his team's efforts on Sunday.
Defender Michael Dawson was limping heavily at the end of the game and is a doubt, while Ledley King will almost certainly miss the game as his knee problems mean he can play only once a week.
The possible additional absence of Jonathan Woodgate, who failed a fitness test on an Achilles injury before the Carling Cup final, could mean the unsettled Tom Huddlestone is in the frame to play at centre-back, which would be his first League start since Boxing Day.
Like Bentley, Huddlestone was heavily involved during Redknapp's early weeks in charge, but has since fallen out of favour.
The 22-year-old attracted interest from Fulham during the last transfer window, and headmitted: 'It has been very frustrating recently. If I get an opportunity, all I can do is remind the manager what I can do.
'I have not really spoken to the manager that much. The only rumours I know are what I hear and what I read about, so it has been frustrating.
'Not playing is very difficult. I just have to force my way back into the team. It is a case of continuing to work hard, and trying not to let the situation affect me daily.'
Redknapp is also likely to have defender Alan Hutton available again before the end of the season.
The former Rangers player has been out of action since November with a foot injury, and it was initially thought that he would miss the rest of the campaign.
But Hutton was due to resume training this week, and Scotland coach George Burley has not given up hope of including him in his squad for the World Cup qualifier against Holland on 28 March.