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TEAM NEWS: four players out for United, with Romero unlikely

Davies, Lo Celso, Veliz, and Scarlett will miss out. Romero is back, but not soon enough.

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Ange Postecoglou addressed the assembled media ahead of a Premier League match for the first time in 2024, ahead of Spurs’ trip to the Theater of Dreams to play Manchester United on Sunday. There was a lot to go over — not only the match itself, but also Tottenham’s continuing injury crisis and two new incoming players.

But first, Spurs needed to address who will and will not play. Postecoglou confirmed that four Tottenham players will miss the United match through injury — Ben Davies , Giovani Lo Celso and Alejo Veliz were injured in Spurs’ FA Cup win over Burnley last week, while young striker Dane Scarlett injured his hamstring in training. Cuti Romero was a surprise return to training, but it appears to be too early to expect him to see any minutes.

“From the last game, Ben Davies came off with a hamstring issue. Probably looking for a month or so for him out. Gio Lo Celso similarly - though harder to diagnose where he’s at at the moment. We’ll send him for further tests on Monday to see exactly what the issue is. He’ll miss this weekend. Dane Scarlett has picked up an injury as well in training so he’ll miss out.

“And that’s it really. Coming back... the only one that’s joined the main group today is Romero. And that’s it I think. Everyone else who’s injured is still training away from the main group.

“[Romero] has just started training so fair to say it might be a bit quick this weekend.”

With Romero only returning to first team training today from his hamstring injury, it does seem mildly insane to consider throwing him in the starting lineup. Micky van de Ven is back and training for the past couple of weeks, which suggests he’ll likely slide back into a starting role in place of Davies.

That said, Spurs now have a shiny new Romanian central defender. Is there a chance Radu Dragusin could be thrown in the (cough) fire? Ange hinted that so long as the paperwork goes through, don’t rule it out.

“Yeah, from what I’ve been told and it’s not my area, but from what I’ve been told we’re pretty confident [Radu] will be available for Sunday.”

This was the first interview since Dragusin and Timo Werner joined the club, and hence it gave Postecoglou an opportunity to address both of them — their strengths and why the club targeted them in this window. With Dragusin, Ange confirmed that he was identified through the work of Spurs’ new recruitment team, and that his particular blend of skills will allow Spurs to be more flexible tactically in the future. He also confirmed that, despite Spurs’ dalliance with Nice’s Jean-Clair Todibo, Dragusin was Tottenham’s top target.

“We’ve been working on the centre-back position pretty much since the summer window closed and there’s been a whole list of players we worked through methodically. A lot of that work has been done by the scouting department and Johan [Lange] came in and Rob Mackenzie and the team started working into further detail.

“They presented it to me probably six weeks ago. From that onwards, Radu was always on the radar as one of the players we thought would be a good option for us. Then it was about getting as much information on him as a player and a person. We spoke to as many people about him as possible and had him scouted again and I’ve been following him since we highlighted him.

“In my mind once we got down to the real detail, I thought he was the best option for us. Before the window opened we made the decision that Radu would be our number one priority. I like his defensive attributes, his physical attributes, I think there’s still a lot of growth in him. A lot of improvement in him. He’s only 21, only had one year in Serie A, not even a full year and he fits the profile of the kind of players we want here.

“...The reality is I have had zero centre-backs for two positions for most of this year so I’ve had to play full-backs in there. The reason we brought Radu in is because it’s not just injuries, there will be certain games we want to change things and we need more than two top centre-backs. Bringing Radu in gives us that opportunity now to have three top centre-backs. Different games will call for different things and it will allow us to manage the playing time of those players so we don’t get as many injuries as we’ve had.

“In terms of the different style, it was something I spoke to Radu about that we obviously play very differently for what he is used to and he liked that. He was attracted to that and is what he thinks he needs for the next stage of his career. Again, that was pleasing to me because it will be very different, but again he is a quick learner and already he is asking all the questions he needs to ask on what he needs to do to improve and I am sure he will do that.”

By contrast, Ange also stated that while getting a central defender in was always the top priority, Spurs are now nimble enough to take advantages of opportunities when they arise. Timo Werner was one of those opportunities that Tottenham couldn’t pass up.

“We thought it was a good opportunity for us when it was presented to me before the new year. We knew that with Sonny going away for such a period of time we felt like we needed another player in the final third. And while centre-back was the priority, if an opportunity came we wanted to move fairly quickly.

“Again, I had a good chat to Johan [Lange] about it and thought Timo would be a really good fit for us stylistically. He certainly has the kind of attributes we look for. A player in that space - he can play in all three positions so that’s some real depth and quality for us in the front third and again after I had a chat to him he’s really motivated, really likes the opportunity Tottenham can give him in terms of where he’s at in his career. And I think it’s something that can add to us as a group.

Manchester United is always a challenge, and even this particular underperforming and dysfunctional United side will be a tough nut to crack at Old Trafford. Ange said that he is certainly not overlooking the challenge that United provides at their home ground, especially with Spurs missing a couple of key players.

“Going into these game you expect that they’ll be at their best. They’ve been inconsistent but when they’ve played well they’re still a very very good football side, and they’ve certainly got some real quality throughout their team. And particularly at Old Trafford it’s going to be a difficult game. The supporters will be behind them. We’re expecting a tough game, a big challenge for us. But so far in those big games at the biggest stadiums we’ve done fairly well. But this will be another good challenge for us come Sunday.”

Tottenham play vs. Manchester United at Old Trafford this Sunday. The match kicks off at 11:30 a.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. GMT.