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Can Seb see off the next challenge to his Spurs spot?

PUBLISHED: 16:36 21 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:30 07 September 2010

MIDDLESBROUGH, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 16:  Jonathan Woodgate of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the Barclays Premier League match bewteen Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur at the Riverside Stadium on August 16, 2008 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

MIDDLESBROUGH, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 16: Jonathan Woodgate of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the Barclays Premier League match bewteen Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur at the Riverside Stadium on August 16, 2008 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

2008 Getty Images

MICHAEL Dawson could be forgiven for feeling rather concerned after he was reduced to another cameo showing on Saturday. The defender made his long-awaited return from injury a month ago...

Tottenham Hotspur's French defender Sebastien Bassong (L) vies with Portsmouth's German midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng (R) during the Premier League football match between Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Fratton Park in Portsmouth, Southern England on October 17, 2009. AFP PHOTO/Glyn Kirk  FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY Additional licence required for any commercial/promotional use or use on TV or internet (except identical online version of newspaper) of Premier League/Football League photos. Tel DataCo +44 207 2981656. Do not alter/modify photo. (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

By Ben Pearce

MICHAEL Dawson could be forgiven for feeling rather concerned after he was reduced to another cameo showing on Saturday.

The defender made his long-awaited return from injury a month ago, but has since played for a grand total of five minutes in the Premier League - plus injury-time.

If the 25-year-old was expecting to stroll back into the first team and replace summer signing Sebastien Bassong - who was relegated last season with Newcastle - he has clearly been very disappointed.

Of course, Bassong was only recruited in August because Harry Redknapp needed to bolster an injury-ravaged back line.

Dawson and Jonathan Woodgate were both expected to miss the early weeks of the season, while Ledley King's inability to train makes him susceptible to injuries even when he is fit - groin and hamstring pulls since the start of the campaign prove that Redknapp was right not to rely on Spurs' captain.

Had Dawson been fit two months ago, Tottenham would have had no need for Bassong.

And yet, with three of Spurs' four centre-backs now available, the Cameroon international is still holding down his place in the team. If he was just filling in until everyone returned, it appears that no-one told him.

Redknapp's team selection in recent weeks seems to be based on preference rather than any lingering doubts over Dawson's fitness.

The ex-Nottingham Forest man played 80 minutes against Preston North End on September 23 and there has been no suggestion of a setback since, but Bassong still got the nod against Burnley, Bolton and Portsmouth.

That will surely worry Dawson, who was the third choice centre-back last season and has seemingly dropped one since then.

Meanwhile Bassong may be relieved to have survived Dawson's return from injury, but he now faces an even bigger test.

Woodgate could be fit to return against Stoke, and he was certainly the first choice alongside King when the season ended back in May.

The pair played a key role in Tottenham's record-breaking defence at home, conceding just 10 times at White Hart Lane.

The question is, can Bassong swat away this second challenge from Woodgate, or will Redknapp simply reunite King and Woodgate?

The boss will soon reveal his long-term first-choice rearguard, and whatever happens it will be bad news for two top-class defenders.

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