Hit by injuries and suspensions over the past week, Ange Postecoglou isn’t far away from naming a Tottenham XI from the players who are unavailable at present. Losing Cristian Romero for three matches and Destiny Udogie for one following their red cards against Chelsea, Micky van de Ven and James Maddison, who came off injured in Monday’s 4-1 defeat, have joined Alfie Whiteman, Ivan Perisic, Manor Solomon and Ryan Sessegnon on the sidelines.
Richarlison is also absent now and faces a period out of action after undergoing groin surgery on Thursday, but there is some good news for Postecoglou heading into Saturday’s game at Wolves as Ben Davies is available to boost the defensive numbers following his recent absence. The Spurs boss does have quite the decision on his hands ahead of the trip to Molineux in terms of his starting XI going on the bad news on the injury front this week.
Whereas it’s a straightforward pick in goal with Guglielmo Vicario an automatic choice between the sticks, things get quite tricky when it comes to the backline. Without three of his usual back four, only Pedro Porro will keep his place in defence from Monday’s defeat.
Eric Dier looks a certainty to come in at centre-back after his excellent showing off the bench but there is a big question mark over who partners him. Ashley Phillips, who signed from Blackburn Rovers in the summer, is the next player in the pecking order at centre-back and he is perhaps the player more suited to playing there in the West Midlands.
However, Emerson Royal and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg excelled at the heart of defence against Chelsea and Davies also has experience of operating at centre-back, leaving Postecoglou with a huge call to make as a result. As Udogie is absent through suspension, it will be between Emerson and Davies for the left-back berth.
In midfield, it is a question of who joins Pape Matar Sarr and Yves Bissouma in the middle of the park. Giovani Lo Celso is seen as Maddison’s replacement but Rodrigo Bentancur, following his return from injury two weeks ago, also has the qualities to play there after having a big impact in the final third last season before his ACL injury.
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While many supporters have tipped the Uruguayan to come in from the off at Wolves, Postecoglou may have dropped a hint over his midfield selection when speaking in his pre-match press conference. Asked by football.london about whether this is a moment Lo Celso can come to the fore, the Australian namechecked a number of his players and revealed that Spurs have “got to be careful with Bentancur a bit,” thus potentially paving the way for the Argentina international to start
“Look, it is not just Gio, it is Bryan Gil, we’ve got to be careful with Bentancur a bit, it is for him, it’s for Skippy, for Eric Dier, for all these guys. That is why they have been training hard. They have been training with us, they haven’t been separate from the group,” he said.
“Everything we’ve done, we’ve done together. They’ve worked hard and for all of them it is about being prepared for when the opportunity comes. Fair to say the opportunity comes now for a few of them. It’s up to them now to take that opportunity, but they’ve been preparing themselves for that since the first day.”
Having huge calls to make both in defence and attack, it should be a fairly easy decision for the head coach to make when it comes to selecting his front three. Having limited options going forward after Richarlison joined the casualty list, Dejan Kulusevski, Son Heung-min and Brennan Johnson will be the favourites to lead the attack.
There is of course the option of utilising Kulusevski’s in Maddison’s position, which in turn could allow Bryan Gil to play from the left wing, yet that is something Postecoglou may want to avoid as the last thing he will want to do is change a number of positions at a time when his team need some consistency in their XI after the events of Monday night.
A tough week for all concerned in N17, the best thing Postecoglou and Spurs can now do is secure a win at Molineux and bring the curtain down on a rather eventual past seven days.