Tottenham Hotspur will hope that Mousa Dembele is fit enough to feature in a number of consecutive games after news of an injury blow to Harry Winks has emerged.
The England international has been on the sidelines of late with an ankle injury, with the Daily Mail suggesting that the Spurs youth product has suffered a setback in his rehabilitation and will be out for at least another fortnight.
Tottenham are preparing for a clutch of crucial fixtures over the next month, with Premier League games against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool to play – as well as the Champions League glamour tie against Juventus.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino will need to be clever in his squad rotation over the busy period – but he really only has Dembele and Winks as viable options as a deep-lying playmaker in the team.
Tottenham fans have been frustrated in the past when the side’s central midfield does not possess one of these two men – as combinations involving Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko are too defensive and lack ball-playing ability.
Dembele was back to his mercurial best in the 4-0 win over Everton at the weekend, reminding the Spurs faithful just how effective he can be, both with and without the ball.
However, nursing the Belgian through a hectic Tottenham fixture schedule will be critical for Pochettino.
Dembele is one of Spurs’ longest-serving players having signed from Fulham in 2012, but injuries have started to catch up with the 30-year-old in recent years.
This has prevented the midfielder from playing as much of a consistent role in the Tottenham starting XI as he would like, with the Belgian in and out of the team as knocks take their toll.
Winks still has two weeks to recover before the home Premier League game against Manchester United – with the Englishman’s absence in Spurs’ games against Southampton and Newport County not the end of the world.
However, Dembele looks likely to have to step up as big games await in early February and he could be the only ball-playing central midfield option Tottenham have if Winks does not recover in time to share the workload.