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Coyle expecting emotional replay

It will not be a normal FA Cup quarter-final at White Hart Lane tonight.

Although Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers are competing for the right to play Chelsea in a Wembley semi-final, the focus will be elsewhere.

This is not a cup replay in the traditional sense. Rather, this is the restaging of the game from 10 days ago, which will always be marked in English football history following Fabrice Muamba's shocking collapse from a cardiac arrest.

Muamba remains in intensive care in hospital but his gradual recovery has been stirring.

"Over the weekend, he has been able to sit out of bed for a short time, watch television and has begun to eat," a statement from Bolton Wanderers, Barts hospital and the London NHS Trust said yesterday.

Bolton manager Owen Coyle will visit Muamba before the game tonight, as will the club's chairman Phil Gartside.

"Fabrice is not just a team-mate and a colleague," Coyle said, "he is a dear friend to those lads. They want to know he is getting better."

It will inevitably be an emotional evening at White Hart Lane. There will be one minute's applause for Muamba and players from both sides will wear supportive Muamba T-shirts. Coyle said that only Muamba's recovery will allow the game to take place.

"Because Fabrice is getting better, that allows us to play the match," said the Bolton manager.

"If it was different circumstances, it might be a different conversation. Will it be emotional? Of course. But I can't say how it is going to be until we are physically there."

There have been T-shirt tributes staged at Barcelona and Real Madrid, and Thierry Henry wore a special captain's armband for New York Red Bulls this weekend with 'Muamba' written on it.

"He (Muamba) wanted to thank everybody for that support," Coyle said. "He is on his way to recovery. God willing that continues." (© Independent News Service)

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Irish Independent