Tottenham have been rocked by news that Son Heung-min has been ruled out until the end of the month with an injury.
The South Korean, the club’s top scorer in the Premier League this season, picked up a muscle problem in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg defeat at Chelsea and had a scan on Thursday.
Manager Antonio Conte does not expect him to be fit before the international break at the end of the month, which rules him out of crucial games.
After Spurs take on Morecambe in the FA Cup on Sunday, they play Chelsea in the League Cup semi-final second leg before hosting Arsenal in the Premier League and close this cycle of games with back-to-back league trips to Leicester and Chelsea.
Conte said: “It was a strange situation. Because against Chelsea, I made two substitutions together. With Lucas Moura and then Son. But not for injury, the substitutions, but only to try to give them a bit of rest, 15 minutes of rest.
“Then the day after, he felt a bit of pain in his muscle, in his leg. He had a scan and now we have to make the right evaluation from the doctors.
“He has an injury. I don’t know, but probably he will stay without training sessions until the end of this cycle, for the international break.”
Son has been Tottenham’s leading player this season, so his absence will be a big blow for Spurs.
He will not feature against Morecambe and Harry Kane will also get a rest against the League One strugglers.
The England captain has played every game under Conte so far and the Italian will give him a break ahead of a punishing run of games.
“Honestly, Harry played six games in 17 days. And I think if I have the possibility, I think it’s right to give him a bit of a rest,” he said.
“Also because after this game, before the international team break, we have four games, very difficult games. Chelsea, Arsenal, Leicester and then Chelsea again.
“It’s always difficult to think, to decide not to start with Harry. But at the same time, in some games if we can take the risk it’s right to take.”
Son’s injury could put the pressure on Spurs to reinforce their squad this month, though Conte is yet to give his feedback on his current squad to chairman Daniel Levy or managing director of football Fabio Paratici.
“I think, I’m sure that we want the best for Tottenham. The first person who wants to improve the situation is for sure our owner,” Conte said.
“I will have time to speak, also with the people who work within the club to try to understand well the situation, to understand if there is the opportunity to improve this squad in this transfer market.
“But I think we will do the same thing that all of the teams are doing in these days. I think it will be a good opportunity after two months to speak about the situation which now is very clear for me.
“I know that everybody wants to improve the situation. For sure we need time, we need passion, we need to continue to work in this way.
“We have two ways to improve the situation, no? One is to improve the players that we have in our squad. Another opportunity could be to improve the quality of the squad but as you know very well January is not easy for anyone. And we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”