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Tottenham's Rafael van der Vaart fears he faces month out with injury
David Hytner - 3 years ago

Rafael van der Vaart fears that he will be ruled out for four weeks with the hamstring injury that he suffered in Tottenham Hotspur's Premier League win over Liverpool yesterday. Although the midfielder has not had confirmation of the extent of the damage, he is worried that he has torn a muscle in the area and he will struggle to play again until after Christmas.

If that were proved to be the case, he would miss Tottenham's league fixtures against Birmingham City, Chelsea and Blackpool, along with the Champions League trip to FC Twente in his native Holland next Tuesday, in which his club will seek the victory that would ensure they advance into the last 16 as group winners. Spurs play a further three league matches in seven days beginning on Boxing Day, against Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Fulham.

Van der Vaart has made a dazzling start to his Tottenham career, following his move from Real Madrid for £8m on transfer deadline day, scoring eight goals in 14 appearances, including the equaliser from the penalty spot in the 3-2 derby triumph at Arsenal the Saturday before last.

However, he has also endured a series of niggling injuries, principally to his hamstrings, which prompted the manager, Harry Redknapp, to say earlier in the month that he had to "get fitter and adapt to playing 90 minutes in the Premier League". Redknapp commented that Van der Vaart "does just run out of steam a little bit".

Van der Vaart was forced off at Manchester United on 30 October with what initially looked like a hamstring strain but turned out to be cramps and he declared himself fit for the following game at home to Internazionale in the Champions League, which Spurs memorably won 3-1.

Van der Vaart, though, felt the hamstring tighten and he came off at half-time. He missed the subsequent game away to Bolton Wanderers.

He took a bang on a foot against Arsenal that ruled him out of the Werder Bremen Champions League tie last Wednesday but against Liverpool, having tried to execute a backheel in the ninth minute, he felt the dreaded twang. As he walked off, he gestured to Redknapp that he had torn something.

Redknapp said afterwards that Van der Vaart's problems might have been related to his exertions at the World Cup with Holland. "Probably, he's missed a pre-season or was away at the World Cup and has not played many [pre-season] games," Redknapp said.

"When your fitness is a bit low, it's hard to get up to speed. He keeps getting little tears and nicks."

Van der Vaart came on as an extra-time substitute in the final against Spain in Johannesburg on 11 July and, a shade under four weeks later, he played in his first pre-season friendly for Real, against LA Galaxy.

He had missed the club's first friendly, against Club America, and played in their remaining three, against Bayern Munich, Standard Liège and Hércules, the last of which was on 22 August. Over the four matches he enjoyed 172 minutes of playing time and scored twice.

The Madrid manager, José Mourinho, did not select him for the opening game of the Spanish league season, against Real Mallorca on 29 August and, two days later and minutes before the transfer deadline, Van der Vaart saw his move to Tottenham rushed through. Van der Vaart has been forced to contend with a new culture on and off the pitch and it has been a frenetic period for him. An enforced break now beckons.

Van der Vaart leaves a Tottenham team who are brimming with belief and exuberance. The 2-1 win over Liverpool was secured by Aaron Lennon's injury-time goal and represented the club's latest come-from-behind success. They have now taken 16 points from losing positions this season.

"Can we win the title? Why not?" said the defender Sébastien Bassong. "Scoring the winner against Liverpool in the last minute is a good thing. It is the thing champions do. You can still talk about a Big Four but it depends who you are talking about in that Big Four. The teams are changing."

"Teams will be scared about coming to White Hart Lane," said the Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric, who was in outstanding form against Liverpool. "We are very good, especially at home. We are struggling a bit away but if we can improve there, we will be big contenders for the title."

Comeback kingsTottenham have picked up 16 of their last 20 Premier League points from losing positions

v Wolves H 18 Sep Won 3-1 3pts

Three goals in the last 15 minutes from Rafael van der Vaart, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Alan Hutton

v Aston Villa H 2 Oct Won 2-1 3pts

Van der Vaart struck twice as Spurs overcame Marc Albrighton's first-half goal

v Fulham A 16 Oct Won 2-1 3pts

Diomansy Kamara put Fulham 1-0 up but Pavlyuchenko equalised and Tom Huddlestone scored the winner

v Everton H 23 Oct Drew 1-1 1pt

Van der Vaart scored after Leighton Baines's opener

v Arsenal A 20 Nov Won 3-2 3pts

Two-nil down at half-time, Spurs recorded their most remarkable comeback yet, completed by Younes Kaboul's 85th minute header

v Liverpool H 28 Nov Won 2-1 3pts

Aaron Lennon scored in the last-minute as Spurs staged yet another second-half turnaround

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