Tottenham head coach Ange Postecoglou is facing a midfield selection crisis in January, when Yves Bissouma and Pape Sarr are at the Africa Cup of Nations after Rodrigo Bentancur was ruled out for 10 weeks with torn ankle ligaments.
Bentancur was forced off on his first club start in nine months during Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by Aston Villa and is expected to be out until mid-February.
It is an enormous blow for the Uruguayan and further depletes Postecoglou’s options for the foreseeable future, with the Australian set to be without 10 senior players for Sunday’s visit to champions Manchester City.
January is likely to be a particular headache for Spurs, with Bissouma and Sarr both set to compete in the AFCON and captain Heung-min Son to play in the Asia Cup with South Korea.
Spurs will likely have to release the trio in early January for the tournaments, both of which run from January 12 to February 11.
If Mali, Ivory Coast and South Korea go deep, Bissouma, Sarr and Son are set to miss the FA Cup third and fourth rounds on the weekends of January 6-7 and 27-28, respectively, as well as League games against Manchester United, Brentford, Everton and Brighton.
Postecoglou’s senior midfield options in January could be restricted to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Oliver Skipp and Giovani Lo Celso, who have made just four League starts between them this season.
Lo Celso impressed against Villa, scoring the opening goal, and could line up alongside Sarr and Bissouma at Etihad Stadium this weekend.
James Maddison, Micky van de Ven and Manor Solomon are also sidelined until the New Year, while Ivan Perisic is not expected to play again this season and Ryan Sessegnon and Ashley Phillips are also injured.
Richarlison is hopeful of returning to action in December, which should ease the blow of losing Son for up to five weeks.
Bentancur was clattered by a rash challenge from Villa’s Matty Cash, which sparked fury from the Spurs players, fans and staff.
“Rodri was really angry and he said it could maybe be more than a yellow card,” team-mate Dejan Kulusevski said after the game.
“It’s just hard for Rodri. Unbelievable person, unbelievable player. Out for eight months and comes back after two games and gets injured again. Life is hard. He has to stay strong and he has a great family to support him and good team-mates.
“It’s very hard [to see], because I love him as a guy. He’s the guy I want to go to war with and they take him out like that with a bad tackle."