Mousa Dembélé is yet to train this week but André Villas-Boas is hopeful the Tottenham Hotspur playmaker will be available for the Premier League fixture at Stoke City on Sunday.
Villas-Boas said that Dembélé, who damaged his hamstring in last weekend's home win over Southampton and missed Wednesday's draw at Chelsea, would rejoin the squad for Saturday's session and he was confident he would be able to prove his fitness. The manager refused to indicate whether Dembélé would start in a game in which victory appears essential for the club's Champions League hopes.
"Dembélé is still in recovery, in which we have sent him to Holland," Villas-Boas said. "But he will come back ready for selection. He is up for selection and it depends on the XI. He will come back fully fit. He trains fully with the team on Saturday."
It is the time of the season when players must battle through niggling injuries – Villas-Boas revealed that the striker Emmanuel Adebayor had had "some pain in his knee in recent fixtures" – and, also, when the permutations of the run-in become maddening. After the draw at Chelsea, Tottenham have surrendered control of their top-four destiny and they need either Chelsea to fail to beat Aston Villa and Everton or for Arsenal to drop points against either Wigan Athletic or Newcastle United.
Villas-Boas considered how Villa might feed off the emotion of Stilian Petrov's retirement or Everton, likewise, in David Moyes' final match as the manager, although he accepted it was highly unlikely that Chelsea would slip up. Tottenham's hopes appear to rest on Arsenal faltering: their neighbours could face a Wigan team motivated by an historic FA Cup triumph or a Newcastle side who also need a result to avoid relegation.
"What doesn't change is that we have to do our job," he said. "The Premier League can change in a weekend so it's not the time right now to reflect on what we have done wrong. Everything is still a possibility."
Villas-Boas' debut in English football came at Stoke on the opening day of last season, when his Chelsea team drew 0-0. He is wary of their physical power and he will consider whether to switch Jan Vertonghen to left-back and recall Steven Caulker in central defence.
"Stoke play with a totally different nature to the rest of the Premier League," Villas-Boas said. "They are very aggressive and direct, they are in your face. It is a style that has brought them success so it is not up to me to condemn them. But it is easier to cope with now I have played them a few times."