Tottenham’s hopes of reaching the Carabao Cup final were already hanging in the balance when Son Heung-min suffered a muscle injury in the semi-final first defeat to Chelsea.
The 29-year-old was replaced by Giovani Lo Celso in the 79th minute of the Carabao Cup match. Antonio Conte initially said the decision was not due to an injury.
“It was to give some rest,” the Spurs boss said. “So the next day he felt a bit of pain in his muscle, in his leg, and he was scanned … He has an injury. I do not know, but he could probably be without training until the end of this cycle, before the international break. . “
The South Korean national team player has already missed a match, 3-1 victory over Morecambe in the third round of the FA Cup. With Harry Kane and Lucas Moura also resting before coming off the bench with the Spurs 1-0 down, they started with a front two by Bryan Gil and Dele Alli.
For the more challenging matches in the second match against Chelsea, which takes place on Wednesday night, and the North London derby against Arsenal on Sunday, Conte must once again find a way to fill the gap that Son leaves behind.
It stands to become one of his biggest tactical puzzles since his appointment in November. Steven Berwijn would normally be the replacement, but the winger has struggled with a calf injury. There are also significant doubts about his long-term future at the club, as he remains associated with a switch back to the Eredivisie – although Conte on Tuesday insisted that Bergwijn was still part of his plans.
“I count on him,” he said. “He is a player with different characteristics than Sonny, Lucas and Harry. He is a very good 1v1, he is a creative player that we do not have in our squad.”
Gil, meanwhile, did not impress against Morecambe and has only played 13 appearances in all tournaments. While playing out of position in Sunday’s cup match, he has not yet scored or registered an assist since his summer arrival from Sevilla.
Jose Mourinho once experimented with full-back Ryan Sessegnon to the left of a front three, but it seems most likely that Conte will return to a 3-5-2 with Kane and Lucas in the lead, with Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilon as wing-backs.
Lo Celso will compete with Harry Winks, Oliver Skipp and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg for a place in midfield, but it is still unclear whether Tanguy Ndombele will be included after he was mocked for his quiet departure from the course when he was replaced by Morecambe. Reports have since suggested that Spurs’ record signing will now seek to move away in January.
Son is the Spurs’ top scorer in the league this season with eight, even though he struggled for form before his injury with just one goal in his last five games.
Tottenham’s task is made all the more difficult by the absence of their two first-choice center-backs, Eric Dier and Cristian Romero.
Despite the clear holes in his squad, however, Conte was unsure whether Spurs would dive into the January transfer market to tackle them. “I talked to the club and I had my thoughts on the situation,” he added.
“I think that’s the most important thing. Then the club must decide the best way to go. I have no expectations. I am a coach and I know we have to solve many problems. For me, the best possible way at the moment is to try to get the best out of my players and to improve the squad.I think now at this moment that this is the only way I can go to try to improve the situation.
“And then the club knows our situation very well and has to make the best decision.”
Predicted XI: Lloris, Sanchez, Rodon, Davies; Emerson, Højbjerg, Skipp, Winks, Reguilon; Lucas, Kane