London (AFP) – Tottenham have defied the odds to remain alive in three cup competitions and on course for a top-four finish in the Premier League after spending nothing in the summer but staying afloat without injured talisman Harry Kane could be the biggest challenge yet for manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Kane will not even be fit to train until early March after suffering ligament damage in his left ankle during Sunday’s 1-0 home defeat to Manchester United.
His absence could not have come at a worse time for Pochettino ahead of a potentially season-defining run of at least 11 games on four fronts over the next seven weeks.
What will Kane miss?
Kane is expected to miss both legs of Spurs’ Champions League last-16 tie against Borussia Dortmund, the second leg of a League Cup semi-final at Chelsea and the final should they progress, a trip to Crystal Palace in the fourth round of the FA Cup and the fifth round if Spurs make it through, plus seven Premier League games, including vital clashes in the battle for the top four with Chelsea and Arsenal.
The loss of the World Cup’s Golden Boot winner has been exacerbated by the departure of Son Heung-min to the Asian Cup — potentially for the rest of the month — leaving Pochettino desperately short of striking options.
Son is Spurs’ second top scorer with 12 goals behind Kane’s 20 this season. The South Korean has shown his ability to carry the goalscoring burden on the few occasions Kane has been rested and when he was briefly sidelined by right ankle ligament damage last season.
What are Pochettino’s options?
Pochettino will now be forced to turn to 33-year-old Spanish striker Fernando Llorente, who has played just over an hour of Premier League and Champions League football all season.
Llorente was strongly linked with a return to Athletic Bilbao this month due to his limited game time but is the only natural striker Pochettino can turn to as the shallowness of Spurs’ squad begins to be exposed.
Lucas Moura is another makeshift option who would offer more mobility than Llorente’s physical approach and might be better suited if Spurs are not to alter their style drastically for Llorente to feed off crosses.
However, after a bright start to the season, the Brazilian has scored just five goals since August.
Pochettino has also shot down any suggestions Vincent Janssen could be welcomed back into the fold 17 months after the Dutch striker’s last appearance for the club.