TOTTENHAM have suffered a blow ahead of their testing start to the new season after midfielder Steven Pienaar was ruled out for six weeks.
The South Africa star, who is recovering from groin surgery, will miss the visit of his former club Everton on Saturday and the difficult sequence of matches that follows.
If, as expected, Pienaar sits out eight games, he will be absent for fixtures against champions Manchester United, FA Cup winners Manchester City and resurgent Liverpool. Spurs would also be without the 29-year-old for both legs of their Europa League play-off against Hearts, and the first group stage match, if they qualify.
Pienaar, who only arrived at White Hart Lane in January, injured his groin during the weekend friendly against Athletic Bilbao and, following the advice of a specialist, went under the knife yesterday.
Manager Harry Redknapp is not short of players in midfield, with Gareth Bale preferred over Pienaar on the left. However, with games coming thick and fast, Redknapp could find his squad stretched if the injury-plagued Bale was also hurt.