Mauricio Pochettino is facing a defensive crisis ahead of Tottenham Hotspur's game against Watford on New Year's Day after Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Walker picked up their fifth bookings of the season during their 4-1 win over Southampton on Thursday (28 December) and will now serve a one-game ban.
Vertonghen was forced to walk a defensive tightrope after picking up bookings against Liverpool, West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth with the latter coming in October. The Belgian had to ensure he avoided a booking for just one more game before the first booking amnesty of the season kicks in on 31 December.
The centre-back, however, fell foul in the latter stages of the game following a clash with Shane Long and will now miss the visit to Vicarage Road. The Belgium international's absence will come as a blow since Toby Alderweireld's availability is also in doubt after he missed the clash against the Saints with a virus.
The duo's absence will leave the Argentine manager short of cover in central defence with Kevin Wimmer the only other option. Eric Dier can play at centre-back and could move in to partner the Austrian, like he did during Alderweireld's absence owing to a knee injury.
Walker will also miss the trip to face the Hornets on Sunday (1 January) after picking up his fifth booking of the season just 10 minutes into the second-half. The right-back who has been in good form this season will be replaced by Kieran Trippier.
However, according to the Mirror, Tottenham are sweating over a possible retrospective ban for Vertonghen, which could see him miss more than one game after TV replays appeared to show him scratching Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez's face in the 17th minute.
The referee failed to spot it and if the FA deem it worthy of a charge, then the defender could face a ban that will be longer than one game. Mauricio Pochettino revealed that he did not see the incident when questioned post game.
"I didn't see it. By the way, he got the the yellow card at the end and is suspended for next game. But I didn't see it. I don't know," the Argentine manager said, as quoted by the Mirror.