Alli absence another wound for the Tottenham attack
Are injuries and absences going to rob Tottenham at a key moment of their season?
The North Londoners lost another key man yesterday when Dele Alli limped out of the derby fixture at Fulham clutching his hamstring.
The England international joins Harry Kane and Mousa Sissoko on the sidelines at a time when Heung-Min Son is out at the Asian Cup. The South Korean striker will not be back until the beginning of February at the latest.
Ignore rumour mill - signings are unlikely
With Spurs' star names dropping like flies the rumour mill has whirred into action with a mixture of outrageous and outlandish names linked to the Premier League's third-placed side. Andy Carroll is the most notable of those, but as well-informed Tottenham journalist Alasdair Gold points out in his Football.London piece a move for the West Ham marksman would be enormously out-of-character for both Mauricio Pochettino and chairman Daniel Levy.
What is most likely at the club is opportunities for young players already at the club and the potential recruitment of talent from lower leagues. It looks like the club will be thin then for the upcoming month of cup, league and European football.
Spurs look vulnerable for Bridge mission
Alli's absence is particularly hurtful, weakening Spurs right at a key moment in the campaign with the second leg of the League Cup semi-final taking place on Thursday before an FA Cup fourth round fixture at Crystal Palace. A trio of top-flight home ties then beckon for Pochettino's side - a poor run there would see current 1.321/3 Top Four odds slide - before the Champions league resumes at home to Borussia Dortmund on February 13. It's the continuation of a packed schedule for the Lilywhites who surely could not suffer any more injuries to key men in forward positions without tumbling out of cup competitions or dropping down the league.
Spurs hold a 1-0 lead over Chelsea after the first leg at Wembley but must be expecting a thorough examination of that slender advantage against a team that sits immediately behind them in the Premier League table.
Brazilian attacker Lucas Moura may rejoin the starting XI having sat out the last few weeks with a knee injury. He is unlikely to be match fit of course but many fans would rather see the forward in action rather than Fernando Llorente after a poor day for the Spaniard at Craven Cottage. With Kane out, the former Swansea man made his first start of the season but suffered the embarrassment of scoring past his own keeper in a notably awful performance.
Moura, who has eight goals in all tournaments this season, looks likely to figure at some point. Pochettino said: "I hope that Lucas Moura is going to be good. He was training today at the training ground but today we didn't want to take a risk with him so we will wait until he is 100 per cent. Maybe for the bench, maybe he will start the game."
Tottenham go into the game as marginal favourites to qualify at 1.9210/11 but the drift over the last fortnight has been severe as Spurs lost key players in midfield and attack. Backed at a low of 1.412/5 to make the final, the Lilywhites are now almost at parity with their semi-final opponents ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea were chastened at The Emirates this weekend, ambushed by Arsenal's press and subseuqently savaged by Sarri after the game. There will surely be a reaction when they face their hated rivals on their home patch. The Blues were arguably the better side in the first leg of this fixture and will undoubtedly be desperate to oust Spurs from a cup semi-final just as they did in 2012 and 2017.
Palace test could be one too many
There are just two days of rest for Spurs' stretched squad before more cup football and another London derby, this time at Selhurst Park. The lineups of either team will be interesting. Despite sitting at 20.019/1 in Betfair's Premier League relegation betting, Palace lead 18th placed Cardiff by just three points and are very much still embroiled in an unexpected battle against the drop.
With a midweek round of Premier League football following just three days later, both Roy Hodgson and Pochettino may choose to field a few unfamiliar names in the XIs and it's no wonder that the betting is close at 3.052/1 the home win, 2.47/5 Spurs progressing after 90 minutes and 3.55/2 on a stalemate.
What we can say for sure is that any further injuries would be very difficult for a stretched Spurs to sustain and we absolutely shouldn't expect a suite of signings to plug the holes in the squad.
The club can come through this stretch of course, but they will surely need a decent portion of luck or the emergence of previously unheralded club talent to get them into spring unharmed.