André Villas-Boas and Tottenham Hotspur were left to sweat on the fitness of their talisman Gareth Bale, after he was taken away on a stretcher in the dying moments of the club's 2-2 home draw with Basel in the Europa League quarter-final first leg.
Bale rolled his right ankle in ugly fashion, as he tussled with the Basel substitute David Degen and he was in obvious distress as he departed after treatment. He will undergo scans on Friday, which should make for a clearer picture. But, as everyone connected to the club hoped for the best, Villas-Boas revealed that the initial diagnosis was positive.
The manager said that the TV replays and pictures had made it look worse than it was and that, although Bale stood to miss the Premier League visit of Everton on Sunday and next Thursday's return leg against Basel, he could return for the league fixture at Manchester City on 21 April. Tottenham's trip to Chelsea, which was scheduled for Sunday week, has been postponed due to their rivals' involvement in the FA Cup semi-final with City.
Villas-Boas conceded that he was no medical expert as he described, somewhat vaguely, how Bale had previously torn the ligament in his right ankle and, as such, there was "nothing to tear now". He was adamant that the club's top scorer with 22 goals in all competitions would not be ruled out for the season. It was noted that he had dismissed fears over the midfielder Sandro after the midfielder's injury at Queens Park Rangers on 12 January; Sandro subsequently had knee surgery and was ruled out for the season.
"Gareth has rolled over his ankle and we still need to get assessment that we can only have on Friday," the manager said. "But it shouldn't be as bad as it looks in the images. He has torn that ligament before and there's nothing to tear now. There is lots of swelling and the pain is obviously very, very big but we hope to assess him tomorrow.
"There is a big possibility he is going to be able to make it for the Man City game and he will only miss the next two games, but assurances we can only give you tomorrow when we have seen the scan. I do not want to mislead you. Tomorrow we will know better but I'm pretty confident that Gareth will definitely play again this season. From the medical department's first analysis, everything is positive."
Villas-Boas lost Jermain Defoe to an abdominal tear in training for two weeks and he also watched Aaron Lennon depart in the first half with a knee problem while William Gallas suffered a calf tear that forced him off in the 89th minute, when Villas-Boas had already used his three substitutes. When Bale went off in injury time, Tottenham played out time with nine men.
"Gallas has a small tear on his calf and Lennon has a problem with his knee joint," Villas-Boas reported. "Hopefully, they shouldn't be too bad. Let's see if Lennon can make the Everton game."
With the fight for a top-four finish entering the final straight and Europa League progress in the balance, it felt as though the injuries had come at the worst time for Villas-Boas, particularly that to Bale but the manager stressed that the team could win without the Wales international.
"These injuries are part of the season," he said. "They're obviously big, big misses but we have a big squad and the possibility to adapt. [Clint] Dempsey is back and [Lewis] Holtby had a very, very good game tonight. We're still in the frame, we don't have to make any adaptations to play against Everton and we'll just wait until the boys are back to make us stronger.
"We've played without Bale before and we've got the results that we needed; that have put us in the position we are in the league, also. We recognise the form the player is in but the squad will step up a level in his absence. Key players are always missed by any team but we have played without him before."
Tottenham fought back from 2-0 down against a Basel team that Villas-Boas said had been the most impressive visitors to White Hart Lane this season. But he retained the belief that Tottenham could "do away from home what Basel did tonight".
"We limited the damage to give us the possibility of still getting through," he said. "Within all the negatives, there is the positive of still being in the tie. It wasn't a bad result. This Basel team was probably the best team I have ever seen at White Hart Lane. All the recognition to a top opponent.
"We all know we have to improve but we've scored away goals in almost all of the European ties away from home this season and that's the belief we have for the second leg. How many chances did we have against Inter Milan [in the last 16, first-leg] and our 3-0 win wasn't enough to play the second-leg [with comfort]. This is football."
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