Lightning—or diarrhoea, depending on your point of view—has struck for the second time at White Hart Lane. With Tottenham Hotspur entertaining Everton in a massive game this weekend, the whole first team squad has been hit by another mystery virus.
Spurs were forced to close their training ground on Wednesday, following a virus that has threatened to disrupt Harry Redknapp's vital preparations for Sunday’s Premier League visit of Everton. Despite losing 3-0 to Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League on Thursday, David Moyes' team are one of the form sides in the Premiership and this match at Spurs represents a make-or-break game for both sides.
The race to finish fourth is so tight at the moment that only one point separates four teams. Spurs and Manchester City are level on points at 46, with Liverpool and Aston Villa only one point behind on 45.
Defeat for Redknapp's men would put a massive dent in their aspirations, especially as Spurs take on Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea in as many weeks in April.
A loss for the blue half of Merseyside and any small chance the Toffees have of finishing fourth would be all but extinguished.
The virus at Chigwell, Tottenham's training ground, has spread like wildfire, and as many as 18 squad members are believed to have contracted the bug in some way, shape, or form.
Vedran Corluka was forced to miss Tottenham's midweek demolition of Bolton in the FA Cup through the virus, while Wilson Palacios had to come off early after feeling the effects of the virus worsen as the game went on.
Add the diarrhoea bug to Tottenham's recent injury problems and all of a sudden the game against Everton looks extremely daunting.
Long-term absentees Johnathan Woodgate, Carlo Cudicini, and Aaron Lennon have been joined on the sidelines by Ledley King after the Spurs skipper tore a thigh muscle, while Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch, and David Bentley are rated as extremely doubtful.
All that considered, Roman Pavlyuchenko is guaranteed to start. With four goals in his last two games, the Russian is in fantastic form, and Redknapp will need him to be at his best if his team are to take anything from this game.
Prior to the midweek FA Cup replay against Bolton, Redknapp had warned the media that a virus had shown itself at the club. However, following the 4-0 win, it seems to have taken hold.
"We had a few down with it the other day,” Redknapp said. “Corluka had the virus and Palacios was not feeling great with it either.”
Redknapp added: "It has swept through the academy. There are about 18 who work there or the kids who have all got it so the doctor decided we couldn't use it.
"It hasn't disrupted us, we are still training as normal and hopefully no one else gets it, but there have been so many other people who have gone down with it, including a few of the press boys who came over on Tuesday, it is certainly spreading."
Redknapp, who switched his normal pre-match press conference from the club’s Essex headquarters to White Hart Lane, remains hopeful that Palacios and Corluka will be fit for selection against Everton.
A Spurs statement read: "A number of (academy) scholars and several first-team players have reported feeling unwell and, as a precaution, are being kept away from the training ground for a period of 48 hours in order to avoid the risk of spread.
"As an additional precaution, the club has undertaken a comprehensive deep clean of the entire training ground's facilities while all administrative and academy staff have been instructed to work from home until Monday."
It is not the first time Spurs have been hit by illness at a crucial juncture. In 2006 Tottenham only needed to match Arsenal’s result on the final day of the season but went down with a bout of food poisoning.
Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy made protests to the Premier League in the hope that the game at West Ham could be rearranged, but the closeness of the protest to game time meant that the FA's hands were tied and the match had to go on.
Spurs lost, 2-1, and the rest is history.
Tottenham and Redknapp will be hoping for a much-needed win come Sunday, and unlike four years ago they have the chance to repair the damage should they lose.
Such an outcome is unthinkable at this stage of the season; good teams always find ways to counter adversity. There is no doubting that Tottenham have improved under Redknapp—whether they can be regarded as a good team remains to be seen, and Sunday's result will go a long way to explaining Spurs' development this season.