Chelsea are not the only obstacle standing between Tottenham Hotspur and the League Cup final match as they go into Thursday’s second leg tie at Stamford Bridge.
Spurs take a 1-0 lead to Stamford Bridge, but they will be missing several key players whose injuries have continued to take their toll on team performance.
Harry Kane, whose penalty kick was the difference in the opener, is out with an ankle injury and Son Heung Min is at the Asian Cup with South Korea.
Lucas Moura’s status is still unknown as he recovers from a knee injury and Dele Alli limped off with a hamstring problem at Fulham on Sunday.
It shows that manager Mauricio Pochettino could be without four of his biggest weapons in attack.
“It’s not a worry, it’s a massive opportunity for different players to play,” Pochettino said. “We’re going to go there expecting to win.
“We hope it’s not a big issue but the most important thing is to believe.
“It’s going to be tough because Chelsea are a very good team but we’re going there to try to win.”
Tottenham’s resilience was tested at Fulham.
Fernando Llorente, the only recognised striker in the squad, did score but unfortunately it was at the wrong end as it was his own goal that put the hosts in front.
Still, Alli headed them level before exiting and Harry Winks snatched the victory with a stoppage-time header.
“Every team gets injuries. We have to deal with it, we’re not sulking about it or feeling sorry for ourselves,” midfielder Eric Dier said.
“Injuries happen in football and that’s why you have a squad and not just 11 players.”
Chelsea are still healthy favourites to advance to the final, but it may not be a given.
The Blues were toothless in losing 0-2 at Arsenal on Saturday, bringing scathing criticism from angry manager Maurizio Sarri.
“Very angry indeed because this defeat was due to our mentality more than anything else. Our mental approach (was poor) because we played against a team that was far more determined mentally than we were and this is something I can’t accept,” the Italian told reporters in his native tongue to further hammer home the points.
“The fact of the matter is it appears this group of players is extremely difficult to motivate.”
The winners will face Manchester City in the final match, after the holders’ 9-0 first leg thrashing of League One’s Burton Albion rendered Wednesday’s return match practically meaningless.
So, that leaves Tottenham and Chelsea to provide the remaining drama in the last four.
And though Spurs have won the first two meetings of the teams this season, Dier knows a hat-trick won’t be easy.
“It’s another huge game. We’re going to have to be at our best if we want to win. It’s just a question of preparing for the game,” he said.
“We’ve had some fantastic games against Chelsea in the past couple of years. So, hopefully that’s another one.”
By Olawale Alabi