Bolton’s FA Cup rematch against Tottenham on Tuesday is set to be as much a celebration of Fabrice Muamba’s remarkable recovery as a battle to reach the semifinals of the world’s oldest club knockout competition.
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The teams are set for an emotional reunion in the rearranged quarterfinal at White Hart Lane, where Muamba collapsed on the pitch after suffering a mid-game cardiac arrest on March 17.
”When we saw him go down that tunnel, we thought he might not make it to hospital,” Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said. ”We’re so pleased with what’s happened. It’s a miracle.”
After postponing its midweek Premier League match against Aston Villa out of respect of Muamba, Bolton returned to action on Saturday in a 2-1 home victory over Blackburn, lifting the team out of the relegation zone.
Fans paid tribute to the former England under-21 midfielder in emotional scenes at the Reebok Stadium that are set to be repeated Tuesday at the scene of the incident, which left players and spectators horrorstruck.
”It will give us a chance to thank the Tottenham fans because last Saturday it was almost like a sixth sense had taken over,” Bolton manager Owen Coyle said. ”Is it going to be tough? Yes.”
Tottenham says match shirts worn by players from both teams in the rematch will be signed and auctioned, with proceeds going to the London Chest Hospital, the London Ambulance Service, the British Heart Foundation, Pan Africa Heart Foundation and Cardiac Risk in the Young.
Messages of support from all over the world continue to pour in and the latest update on Muamba provides further encouragement, with the hospital saying he was able to ”sit out of bed for a short time, watch television and has begun to eat” over the weekend.
”Over the last few days, he has been able to take in more of the goodwill that globally he has been getting from people and the prayers and everything else,” Coyle said.
”He is on his way to recovery. God willing that continues.”
The winner of the match will play Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in the last four on April 15.
Tottenham has won just one match since Feb. 11 – an FA Cup last-16 replay over third-tier Stevenage at home – although Redknapp maintains Spurs haven’t picked up the results their performances deserve.
They have dropped to fourth place in the league, below north London rival Arsenal, but were the better team in a 0-0 draw at Chelsea on Saturday.
”We want to end in the top four and win the FA Cup – it would be great,” said Tottenham playmaker Rafael van der Vaart.
”It would be a dream, especially at Wembley. For me, it’s going to be the first time. So, let’s win Tuesday and then get Chelsea.”
Sunderland hosts Everton on Tuesday in a quarterfinal replay, with a semi against Liverpool the prize for the winning team.