Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me? There’s both good news and bad news on the Tottenham Hotspur injury front as Spurs prepare to head to Austria to face LASK in the Europa League group stages on Thursday.
The good news is that, according to The Athletic’s Charlie Eccleshire, Toby Alderweireld has made a miraculous (???) recovery from the groin injury that saw him miss Spurs’ past two matches against Chelsea and Ludogorets, and the Belgian defender has returned to training.
Toby Alderweireld back in #THFC training today. Jose's 'purposeful pessimism' strikes again!— Charlie Eccleshare (@CDEccleshare) December 2, 2020
Mourinho did say not to expect Toby to feature vs. LASK, but left the door open to him returning for the NLD.
“Yeah he has a chance [for the weekend]. Not for tomorrow. Joe (Rodon) played against Chelsea and it wasn’t an easy first match to play. Davinson (Sanchez) will play tomorrow. We have our options if he cannot play and we will not cry if he can’t like against Chelsea.”
The bad news is that Spurs are dealing with a swath of minor injuries that will keep an additional important quartet of players out of action for the trip to Austria. In his press conference, Mourinho said that Harry Kane, Carlos Vinicius, Sergio Reguilon, and Erik Lamela are all hurt and will likely miss the match against LASK.
#thfc Mourinho says Lamela, Kane, Vinicius & Reguilon are all injured. "All injured. Lamela is an injury from 3 weeks, a month. I don't believe he has a chance for the weekend. Harry, Vinicius and Sergio there is a chance for the weekend."— Dan Kilpatrick (@Dan_KP) December 2, 2020
So there are a couple of things to unpack here. First, the miracle recovery of Alderweireld is obviously good news for the team, though there are no indications as to whether Toby will be in line to play tomorrow. Regardless, I thought at the time that Toby would be out of action until at least Christmas, so having him return earlier will be a substantial boost to Tottenham’s chances of staying near the top of the table during the holiday fixtures.
Second, the biggest injury hit regarding tomorrow’s Europa League match is Carlos Vinicius, who has deputized well for Kane in earlier group stage matches. Vinicius and maybe Lucas were probably the only ones out of the quartet of injured players who would likely start in Austria (Lamela too, but he’s been out for a while), but while away European fixtures are tricky it’s likely Spurs can make do without a recognized striker for one match. It probably means Son Heung-Min or Gareth Bale gets the nod. I’m not wild about giving Sonny extra minutes on his legs ahead of the North London Derby, but unless someone else like Dele were to step in as a false nine I’m not sure what other options there are. Every other injured player has plenty of cover.
Third, and finally, Toby’s quick return after such a pessimistic initial reaction to his injury from Mourinho means that I’m unlikely to ever trust Mou’s word on injury return times ever again. Seriously, this is the second time this season that a player was listed as out with what seemed like a serious injury only to return way, way ahead of the assumed schedule. The only reasonable conclusion is that Mourinho is lying. That’s fine if he is — a lot of managers do — but surely we’ll be forgiven if we no longer believe anything he says when it comes to the injuries of his players. Blown knee ligaments, you say? Expect that player back next week.
With that in mind, I think we have nothing to worry about with regards to this Sunday’s North London Derby. When Mourinho says “there’s a chance” that Harry, Sergio, and Carlos will be fit for Arsenal, I think it’s safe to assume that all three will be. Especially Kane. If there’s one thing we know about Kane, it’s that he friggin’ loves the North London Derby.
Here’s what Mourinho said when asked about Kane directly:
“I’m not going to tell you the nature of his injury. I think he has a good chance [vs Arsenal]. I don’t want to lie, I don’t want to hide anything in relation to is he going to play or no? I think he’s going to play. That’s my feeling is that he’s going to play.”
I don’t want to lie, LOL. But as far as I’m concerned that’s confirmation that Harry’s going to be fine. The only thing I can think of that would keep Kane out of the starting lineup on Sunday is if his leg was amputated, and even then I think he’d make the bench.