This season’s gruelling schedule has already begun to take its toll at Tottenham Hotspur with players sidelined due to injuries and any more in October could have a say in the Premier League title race, manager Antonio Conte said on Thursday.
Spurs visit north London rivals Arsenal on Saturday and could be without key regulars such as goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, winger Dejan Kulusevski and defender Ben Davies.
Davies suffered a hairline fracture below his knee before the international break, Lloris sustained a thigh injury that forced him to pull out of the France squad and Kulusevski has a hamstring problem after playing twice for Sweden.
“I have seen that many clubs are having big problems with players that played these two games (during the international break), for sure Tottenham is one of these clubs,” Conte told reporters.
“You know very well there is only one-and-a-half months for the World Cup and you have to understand the national team players, these were the last games to show they deserve to play in the World Cup.
“To play so many games before the international break and then now to play 13 games in 43 days is crazy. We are faced with injuries... This is the moment you understand who are title contenders and teams competing for Champions League positions.”
When asked about which players are unavailable, Conte opted to keep his cards close to his chest, saying he did not want to give Arsenal an advantage.
“We have to wait till tomorrow to check some players because they have returned from their national teams with some physical problems. Tomorrow will be very important, the last training session, to understand the players we can count on,” he added.
“For sure we have to try to make the best solution and not take big risks. If we take big risks and lose players for the rest of the games, it will be a disaster.”
Arsenal leads the standings with 18 points after seven games but Spurs -- a point behind in third -- can take top spot with a victory at the Emirates Stadium where they have not won a league game since 2010.
“Arsenal have had a fantastic start, they’ve lost only one game... They’re showing they are a really good team. In the summer they made good signings,” Conte said.
“I know the quality of this team, they’ve worked with (manager Mikel) Arteta for many years. They are really well organised.
“Arteta is a really good coach, he’s young but he can have a great career.”