Michael Appleton has praised the attitude of under-fire Tal Ben Haim.
The Israeli defender is Pompey’s biggest earner, picking up a reported £36,000 a week.
Signed by Peter Storrie on a four-year contract in August 2009, the wages remain a massive headache as the Blues battle to stay in existence.
Ben Haim has unquestionably been a consistent performer this season, making 27 appearances.
But in many fans’ eyes he represents times when the club outlived its means – and Pompey continue to pay the costly price.
In a club wage bill of around £12.5m, Ben Haim is by a considerable distance the best-paid player.
But Appleton cannot fault his displays on the pitch in recent weeks.
He said: ‘Tal has been good for us over a period of six, seven, eight games since he’s come back into the side.
‘I wouldn’t question his attitude from that point of view.
‘He went down with a virus on Tuesday morning so couldn’t travel to Reading.
‘I spoke to him briefly and he sounded a bit rough.
‘We will assess him over the next 24 hours and hopefully he will be okay for Brighton.’
The former Bolton man wasn’t alone in missing the 1-0 Madejski Stadium defeat.
Veteran strikers Kanu and Benjani were also absent from the squad.
Kanu, who has never featured under Appleton, is currently nursing a persistent back problem.
He is contracted until the summer of 2013.
As for Benjani, he is out with a calf problem.
Appleton added: ‘Benjani has got a calf injury.
‘And Kanu is in a position where he was before with his back and is just not fit enough to play.’