Tottenham Hotspur are set to miss three key midfielders for their clash against Arsenal in the third round of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday (23 September) night. Mousa Dembele has been out since the end of August, while Nabil Bentaleb has missed the last three games, but Ryan Mason, who has been one of Spurs' best players this season, suffered an injury after scoring the winner against Sunderland on 13 September.
The latter two have made a big impact since breaking into the first-team last season, and formed a solid partnership at the heart of the Spurs midfield, but Bentaleb's lengthy absence has seen Mauricio Pochettino deploy centre-back Eric Dier in a defensive midfield role alongside Mason. The midfielder's performances have also seen him make his England debut in a friendly against Italy on 31 March earlier this year.
Mason's absence will come as a big blow to the Argentine manager, but the return of Christian Eriksen to full fitness will see the Dane occupy the place alongside Dier at the heart of the north London club's midfield. However, the manager has indicated that all three are close to returning to first-team training, with Wednesday's game coming a tad bit early for the trio.
"Mousa, Ryan and Nabil are still out. Their progression is very good, they are close to being back with the squad but not for Wednesday, unlucky for them and for us," Pochettino is quoted as saying on Tottenham's official site.
Derbies are special
Meanwhile, Pochettino understands that Derbies are special, and has admitted that he would love to be on the pitch playing the games. The former Southampton manager has played his share of Derbies during his time in Spain and France as a footballer, and is confident that his team will put in a performance worthy of the occasion.
"Yes, yes it's true," the former Espanyol manager said, regarding his craving to be on the field for derby matches.
"For me, it was always important to play against your rivals in the derby matches. I always enjoyed playing this type of game. It's always a special feeling. Derbies are special. It's a different game. Our supporters have that expectation to win. It's impossible to guess what will happen but one thing is for sure, we need to play at 100%. We are ready and our motivation is big to play this game on Wednesday," Pochettino explained, as quoted on Spurs' official site.
Tottenham made the final of last year's tournament, but had to settle for silver as Chelsea took home the trophy. The manager is hoping that his team can take motivation from their loss at Wembley Stadium to beat their arch rivals Arsenal and move into the fourth round of the League Cup.