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Jermain Defoe is back - but Harry Redknapp is without key players for the trip to Sunderland on Saturday.

Jermain Defoe is back - but Harry Redknapp is without key players for the trip to Sunderland.

Our top-scorer this term returns to the squad after recovering from a hamstring injury but Harry faces a headache in central defence and central midfield as he prepares for Premier League clash at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Unfortunately, the injury list again includes Tom Huddlestone, who is struggling with the ankle problem that kept him out for the best part of a month recently.

Michael Dawson is ruled out after an Achilles problem forced him out of the action against Portsmouth last weekend. Captain in recent weeks, 'Daws' has started the last 27 matches - a run where we've lost just four games in all competitions.

Vedran Corluka joins the defensive absentee list after he was also forced off early against Pompey with an ankle injury.

Ledley King is on his way back from a thigh problem but with him still out, it means Harry is without central defenders Ledley, Daws and long-term injured Jonathan Woodgate plus possible central defensive cover in Vedran and Tom.

"Michael picked up an Achilles injury last weekend and Tom Huddlestone's ankle has blown up again, so they are both out," reported Harry on Friday.

"Ledley is doing okay, he's not available but he's getting there. Hopefully he's not too far from fitness and we're going to need him if Michael's Achilles doesn't improve.

"Woodgate is out long-term and Younes Kaboul is cup-tied for Wembley, so we're short of centre-halves."

Harry's problems are not just defensive though as Wilson Palacios (adductor) looks likely to miss Sunderland and Jermain Jenas (groin) is still out - alongside Tom - so all three central midfielders could be out.

"It's a problem but we've done really well without so many players out injured," said Harry. "We've managed to keep picking up fantastic results and we'll see how we go again at Sunderland."

Aaron Lennon (groin) also remains out but the positive news is that he's progressing well. ""Yes, he's coming on well, he's improving," added Harry. "Yesterday (Thursday) was probably the best day he's had.

"He's worked hard with the fitness coaches and he's getting there. He's improving day by day, but we won't be taking any chances with him."