Has any individual Premier League game this season proven as damaging for one team as Tottenham’s 4-1 loss to Chelsea on Monday? Not only was Spurs’ unbeaten start to the campaign smashed by their rivals in a storm of red cards, but Ange Postecoglu’s side must now face a tricky run of games without some of their most talismanic players.
Among those could be James Maddison, who has withdrawn from the England squad after suffering an ankle injury in the first half of that defeat. Tottenham have not confirmed a timescale for the 26-year-old’s return to action, but CBS Sports sources have indicated that he is in a race against time to recover for Spurs’ festive fixtures.
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Maddison will undergo rehabilitation work at Hotspur Way during the international break, his club confirmed in a statement released on Friday morning. Postecoglu is expected to shed further light on the playmaker’s status in his Friday press conference.
The former Leicester playmaker has, perhaps, been the player who best exemplifies Postecoglu’s transformative impact at Spurs over recent months. Made vice-captain before he had even made his competitive debut, he has taken on the creative mantle left by Harry Kane with ease. No one on the team creates more chances per 90 minutes than Maddison, who averages 2.92, while his combined non-penalty expected goals (npxG) and expected assists of 0.58 is his best mark in a Premier League season.
An extended absence would constitute a hammer blow for Spurs, who are second in the table after 11 games ahead of Saturday’s trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers. A tricky run of fixtures lies ahead of them after the international break, where Tottenham will face Aston Villa, Manchester City, West Ham and Newcastle in successive games. Taking on those opponents without their leading creator would be an altogether greater challenge, particularly at a time when Micky van de Ven is also set to be missing for an extended period with a hamstring issue. They will also have to do without his central defensive partner Cristian Romero for three games after he was sent off against Chelsea.
A difficult run of fixtures without key players may yet be the measure of Spurs, whose rise to second in the table was all the more remarkable given that they have the Premier League’s seventh best non-penalty xG mark and its eighth best record defensively by the same metric (though the latter was warped by their cavalier defense when down to nine men against Chelsea). The coming weeks will, then, offer a major test as to whether Spurs can hold on to a top four berth, particularly when they face two of their likely rivals for that spot in Aston Villa and Newcastle. In what could be games decided by fine margins, Postecoglu would dearly love to have Maddison available.
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