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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 24, 2006

Blackburn sweating over Bellamy

Blackburn's Carling Cup hopes are on the line tomorrow as boss Mark Hughes faces a potential striker crisis.

With the tie poised at 1-1, Hughes goes into the second leg of Rovers' semi-final against former club Manchester United at Old Trafford without the services of Paul Dickov.

The seven-goal forward faces up to six weeks on the sidelines after dislocating his left shoulder in Saturday's 1-0 win at Newcastle.

Although Craig Bellamy missed out on a return to the north-east due to him serving a one-match suspension, an ongoing hamstring problem makes him a doubt to face United now he is eligible to play again.

It is a prospective double whammy which could land a knockout blow to Hughes' bid of reaching the final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium next month.

It is also sod's law for Hughes that with Dickov out and nine-goal Bellamy struggling, he recently allowed Matt Jansen to leave after complaining about his lack of opportunities.

With another option in Paul Gallagher on loan at Stoke, and with Hughes reluctant to recall him as yet, midfielder David Bentley will partner Shefki Kuqi in attack if Bellamy misses out.

'We have to be mindful of Craig's problem,' confirmed Hughes.

'It's not something that has cleared up as yet, so we have to be careful, and we will be.

'But given the type of player he is - dynamic, explosive - that will always put a strain on his hamstrings, so we will have to play it by ear and see which way we go with it.

'We just have to try to make sure we get him back as soon as we can.

'He has trained a couple of days, and hopefully there's no reaction and he will be fit and well for the game.

'It is still a concern, but he will be travelling with the squad.'

At least for Hughes the prognosis on Dickov is not as bad as first feared.

'He saw a specialist yesterday and he has come back with a better report than we initially thought,' added Hughes.

'At one point we thought he could be out for 10 to 12 weeks, but it's now more likely to be four to six - and knowing Paul as we do he will be back in three!

'But he has dislocated it, and there's a little crack as well. It's a painful injury and it will need to settle down.

'Once Paul can cope with the level of pain then he will soon be back playing.'

Yet with the transfer window due to close next Tuesday, Hughes is feeling under no pressure to immediately strengthen his forward line.

'We are still looking,' stated Hughes, who suggested he is perhaps willing to wait until the close season to spend.

'We've only had guys going out these past few weeks, but if nothing happens this window then it puts us in good shape for the summer.

'Recalling Paul [Gallagher] is an option we have looked at and it may be something we have to do, but we are not at that situation yet.'

With Blackburn needing to score, as they could get knocked out on the away-goals rule if the game finished scoreless after extra-time, Hughes knows the onus is on his side to force the issue.

Defensively, Blackburn have been superb as they have conceded just two goals in an unbeaten eight-game run which has included four away wins, while they also beat United 2-1 at Old Trafford earlier in the season.

'United probably have their noses in front with the away goal,' said Hughes, who also has captain Andy Todd available after he missed the Newcastle game through illness.

'But we're viewing it as a one-off game to get to a major final, so we have to be positive from the first minute to the last.

'If we do that then we know we will have opportunities to score. We know we have to get ourselves on the scoresheet.

'But we're going into the game in great shape, with no apprehension or fear. We know we can compete on the big stages, and against the big teams.'