Bale injury puts Spurs under the microscope
Tottenham's Champions League credentials are set for a stern examination on Sunday when they take on Everton at White Hart Lane without top scorer Gareth Bale.
Wales winger Bale, who had contributed 22 goals for Andre Villas-Boas's side this season, suffered an ankle injury towards the end of the 2-2 draw against Basle in the Europa League on Thursday.
It was immediately feared the 23-year-old had suffered a season-ending setback and Tottenham fans were anxiously awaiting the results of scans that they hoped would confirm the manager's pronouncement soon after the final whistle that Bale's condition "shouldn't be as bad as it looks".
Bale will nevertheless be missing for the foreseeable future, and with Aaron Lennon also injured against Basle, Lewis Holtby and Gylfi Sigurdsson are likely to come in the starting line-up as the main attacking midfielders.
Tottenham have had to cope with suggestions all season that they are a one-man team because of Bale's brilliance, but they have far more quality than that, as Jan Vertonghen' Premier League Player of the Month award for March proved.
The 25-year-old Belgian, a Â£12 million recruit from Ajax, has contributed four goals in six appearances for his club in March and also excelled at both centre-back and left-back.
An injury to William Gallas, who was unable to complete the Basle match, means Vertonghen will be used in the heart of defence against the Toffees.
Vertonghen made no secret of the role Bale played during March however. "I'm very proud to win this trophy," he said on being handed the award. "It was an unbelievable feeling when I was told about it.
"Perhaps opponents forget to give defenders the attention. Actually, my secret is probably Gareth Bale giving me three amazing assists. I'm very happy to score and I'm sure it helped me to win this trophy."
Everton were also March winners as David Moyes won the managerial prize and Vertonghen knows they will pose a major test to his team's ambitions.
Third placed Spurs are currently six points ahead of Everton, who lie sixth, but a win for David Moyes' team would give them renewed hope of Champions Leage qualification via a top-four finish.
"We will have to be right at the top of our game against Everton, they are a tough side to beat but we'll be ready," Vertonghen added.
"We have big players who are used to the pressure. It's like a final for us every game now, so we have to perform every week and every midweek.
"We know we have to win every game to be in the top four and to move into the next round of the Europa League. It's a good pressure and a good motivation. Hopefully, I'll score a few more goals as well."
It is not impossible that Everton could snatch a place in the Champions League, which might persuade Moyes to remain at Goodison Park after he was linked with a move to German club Schalke.
"You hear me keep talking about how much I want to be back in Europe all the time," he said.
"Europe does take its toll in league fixtures and if we made it, we would have to find a way of dramatically getting more players into our squad.
"But it can galvanise your club as well. Tottenham have had some unbelievable results in Europe and some great nights. Think about their games against Inter Milan.
"Unfortunately Tottenham have lost a couple of players to injury. But that can happen to anyone."
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