After enduring a bit of a murderer’s row of opposition while under a severe injury crisis this past month, Spurs are now facing a bit of a reprieve, in as much as any Premier League opponent is a “reprieve,” starting with an away trip to Nottingham Forest on Friday. Naturally, that means one of the players who has performed well the past few matches is unavailable. Speaking to the assembled media in a pre-match press conference, Spurs head coach Ange Postecoglou revealed that Giovani Lo Celso has picked up a knock in training and will not feature against Forest.
“The only [new injury] is Gio, he unfortunately got a bit of a niggle at training. Unfortunately he got a bit of a niggle at training, I don’t know what it is, but he missed training today so he’s not available tomorrow. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious.
That’s both unfortunate, and also a distressingly familiar situation. Lo Celso has struggled with injuries, both major and minor, for almost his entire tenure at Spurs, and hearing that he’s picked up another one is frustrating when he’s finally been rounding into form.
Postecoglou didn’t go into further detail about the nature or extent of Gio’s injury, but it does inform the lineup we’re now likely to see tomorrow. Thankfully Dejan Kulusevski has been able to slot into a more central role and perform admirably in recent matches, so it seems likely we’ll get the same lineup we saw against Newcastle: a midfield three of Yves Bissouma, Pape Sarr, and Deki with an attacking band of Son Heung-Min, Richarlison, and Brennan Johnson.
Elsewhere, Postecoglou expressed praise for Ben Davies, Tottenham’s long-serving utility defender. Davies has come in for the injured Micky van de Ven and done, on the whole, about as good as could be asked, considering he’s not really a central defender especially in a back four. Big Ange suggested Spurs are still planning on addressing the lack of backup defensive options in the January window, saying Spurs are in a bad way if anything happens to Gentle Ben.
“I thought Ben Davies was outstanding. He’s getting a run of games. We’ve got to be mindful he’s not a centre-back and he’s growing into that role.
“Ben is still adapting to it. He’s done remarkably well. Centre-back is still a position, especially in our structure, where you need outstanding attributes and we’ve been very fortunate to have him that he’s been able to adapt there. He’s great at taking on information. He’s been helped by having Romero back and Vic has taken on a leadership role back there as well.
“We need to sign another centre-back though because at the moment we’re on tenterhooks in case something else happens there.”
Another thing to keep an eye on in the coming matches are yellow cards. Heading into tomorrow’s match, both Cuti Romero and Destiny Udogie are sitting on four yellows with three matches to go before the accumulation stats reset. If either player picks one up before then they’ll be subject to a one-match suspension.
This is particularly apropos for Cuti, who plays with an edge to his game and was lucky not to be sent off for a particularly, uh, robust challenge on Callum Wilson on Sunday. Ange was asked about Cuti and about that tackle in particular, and while he didn’t seem especially concerned with Cuti’s play style, he did say the situation is not far from the front of his mind heading into the next stretch of matches.
“To an extent but it’s fair to say the spotlight will be on [Romero] for the rest of the year. Any challenge he does whether it’s something that’s pretty clear like the Chelsea game or last week which I thought was as much clumsy as anything else. And he knows that, he understands that. He’s just got to make the adjustments that he needs to do during the game. But I don’t think it’s a subject for long chats. It’s pretty evident the impact he has on us when he’s playing and when he’s not, and we much prefer to have him out there.”
Nottingham Forest are winless in their last five matches but are fifth in the league in xGA at home. They may not be scoring much but also aren’t letting very many in at the City Ground. It’ll be interesting to see how their defense holds up against Ange-Ball. Spurs kick off against Forest on Friday at 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT.