Bryan Robson is toying with the idea of resting Zoltan Gera for West Bromwich Albion's match against Blackburn Rovers at The Hawthorns tonight (7.45pm).
Gera, the Hungary international captain, has been Albion?s most consistent player this season but a recent slump in form has coincided with speculation linking him with moves to other clubs.
Albion have no intention of selling Gera (pictured) but Robson, the manager, will have no hesitation in omitting the player from the line-up if it benefited the team in their bid to avoid relegation.
Realistically, Albion would need to win two of their final four matches of the season to secure their Premiership status, and Robson cannot afford to risk any player who might be jaded.
?I do not think that the transfer speculation has affected Zoltan Gera,? Robson said. ?I think the only thing that has affected him of late is the number of games and the kid has not had a rest all the way through the season.
?It is his first year in the Premier League. He has done very well but Zoltan will come back next year an even better player. He needs a rest around about this time now.?
Albion?s 4-0 defeat away to Middlesbrough last Saturday seemed to be something of an injustice ? the team played some of their best football in weeks ? but Robson has emphasised the need to forget about it and move on.
?I have got to lift the players for an important game against Blackburn and make sure we do not just back as far as the performance is concerned,? Robson said. ?In terms of putting the pressure back on Crystal Palace and Norwich City, we need to win.
We know that if we win this game then we will be in a strong position going into the final three games of the season. Saturday is a little bit of a blow for the lads because everything in the last two months has been going well for months.
?When you do get a knockback it is all about how you respond to it and I am expecting a real good response from the players.
?They have lifted themselves after knockbacks in the past this season and have got straight back on with the job.
?Everyone has worked very hard and what we don?t want to happen now after all the hard work is let it all go up in smoke. That is why I think the players will respond very well.?
The anticipated return of Kieran Richardson will provide Albion with a boost. They missed his pace and enthusiasm against Middlesbrough and he seems set to return to the starting line-up.
?Kieran is really important to us,? Robson said. ?He has surprised me to a certain degree because he hardly played any games for Manchester United.
?I have always liked him as a player but to come in under the circumstances we were under, battling to stay in the Premiership, and perform the way he has is excellent.
?He has got a good temperament. He is a strong character and he wants to succeed in the game so that is why he plays the way he plays.
?It is the same with Richard Chaplow. He is a confident lad but for me he will be a very good player. He needs experience in the Premier League and this will be a good learning experience for him.
?I hope he proves to be a bargain. I do feel he has got the potential to be a top player but it is up to him to keep wanting to improve.
?As a central midfielder, you have to have everything in your locker. He has got a lot but he has still got a bit of learning to do but he has got every potential to go to the top.?
Robson is confident that Russell Hoult, the goalkeeper, has recovered from a groin problem. Geoff Horsfield could also start up front after making good progress with the slight kneeligament injury that meant he was only a substitute at the weekend, while Jonathan Greening will complete a threegame ban.