Crystal Palace manager Dougie Freedman will spend the early part of today dreading a phone call from the club doctor with more bad news about his virus-ravaged squad.
Freedman goes into tonight’s Carling Cup semi-final first leg with Cardiff at Selhurst Park waiting to hear if any more of his players will be struck down by the virus which has hit his playing resources in recent matches.
Freedman was forced to field some of his younger players for the FA Cup third round tie with Derby, which the Eagles lost 1-0 at the weekend, and he fears the effect the absence of his more experienced players could have on their hopes of earning a place in the final at Wembley next month.
Freedman has decided to leave it as late as he can before he names his team.
He said: “I will not know my team until 5pm (on Tuesday). At the moment I am just dreading a phone call in the morning from the doctor.”
If it is bad news Freedman will turn to the younger players in his squad, but is not concerned about drafting them in.
“I will take no risks with any player who is not 100 per cent fit. I have no worries with playing young players and never have done,” Freedman told the Croydon Guardian.
“What worries me more is putting out players who aren’t fully fit.”
Freedman fielded a forward line of Calvin Andrew, Antonio Pedroza and youngster Kyle De Silva against Derby, while there were also debuts in defence for loan signings Mustapha Dumbuya and John Egan.
Freedman admitted: “Hand on heart, I was forced into making changes. I gave youngsters debuts and it just shows you that is what we do at Crystal Palace – we give people opportunities.”
Freedman has seen his squad ravaged by the virus which has affected Julian Speroni, Paddy McCarthy, Anthony Gardner, Nathaniel Clyne, Mile Jedinak and Sean Scannell.
Goalkeeper Speroni is expected to be fit but the remainder of the group trained away from the rest of the main squad today.
He said: “Things can always be worse and that’s the challenge, we could be losing heading into the second leg with these problems.
“The players have been coming in throughout the day and have trained in different units.”
Cardiff beat Palace 2-0 in the league meeting at the Cardiff City Stadium on November 5, but City boss Malky Mackay added: “I don’t think either club will be looking too much at the league fixture now though.
“I don’t think the fact we won on that day will be of any significant benefit to us going into Tuesday night, while I think both clubs now know each other quite well.
“I would think it will be a tight affair.”
Mackay received some welcome news on the injury front ahead of the game with defender Kevin McNaughton and striker Rudy Gestede set to play.
McNaughton picked up a calf injury on Boxing Day but has trained for the last three days and is fit to return, while Gestede is expected to recover from an ankle problem after being given as long as possible to prove his fitness.