Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen will be assessed on Monday (26 February) to determine the severity of the injury that forced him to miss the last-gasp victory over Crystal Palace at the weekend.
The ever-present Belgium international was expected to feature in the Premier League London derby on Sunday [25 February] having yet to miss a top-flight fixture so far in 2017-18 and being just one of 14 outfield players to have started every game, per Sky Sports, but ended up as a surprise omission from the visitors' teamsheet for an early kick-off at Selhurst Park.
With compatriot Toby Alderweireld also missing due to a fresh knock sustained at Hotspur Way last week, Eric Dier was called upon to start alongside Davinson Sanchez in the centre of defence against injury-stricken relegation battlers Palace and the duo helped dominant but profligate Spurs to keep a clean sheet as a late header from Harry Kane saw them leapfrog Chelsea into fourth.
That effort was the 24-year-old's 35th in just 36 outings already this season and saw him match his goal tally for the entire 2016-17 campaign.
Mauricio Pochettino subsequently explained to reporters that Vertonghen's absence was caused by a hefty blow to his ankle sustained on the training pitch on Saturday [24 February]
"Jan we need to assess tomorrow," he said, per football.london. "He received a heavy knock on his ankle. We were training yesterday and we couldn't not communicate because we were waiting until the next day to assess him to see whether it was possible to play him. He wasn't ready, but now we need to see. We hope it's not a big deal."
Pochettino also praised Dier's versatility and Kane's self-belief in addition to suggesting that Dele Alli is an "easy target for everyone" after the latest accusations of simulation. He stressed that Serge Aurier needs time to grow in English football and promised the Ivorian would practice throw-ins every day this week after being ridiculed for a hat-trick of foul throws against Palace.
Alongside Vertonghen, back-up striker Fernando Llorente - just as in recent high-profile meetings with Arsenal and Juventus - was also left out of yesterday's matchday squad and the manager revealed that was not an injury-related or tactically-motivated decision but rather born of a desire to put together a well-balanced bench.
"No, no, no, it was a decision that we have nearly all [the players] fit," he said. "It wasn't a tactical decision but to pick the right balance in the squad. Fernando, Kyle Walker-Peters, Harry Winks. They are fully fit, but we only have seven places on the bench and we can't put them all. In Italy they put everyone who is fit on the bench. That situation can avoid those questions. The only injuries are Toby and Jan."