Tottenham Hotspur centre-back Toby Alderweireld is set to undergo another scan in December to further assess his recovery from injury and help determine when he might be able to return to action.
A regular and influential figure in Mauricio Pochettino's back-line, the versatile Belgian international featured in all but one of Spurs' opening 14 matches across all competitions in 2017-18 before suffering a hamstring issue while surging up-field during the first half of the memorable 3-1 Champions League defeat of Real Madrid at Wembley Stadium on 1 November.
Alderweireld has missed all of Tottenham's subsequent five fixtures and it emerged before the north London derby defeat to Arsenal that the problem was worse than first feared and will keep him out until after the festive period.
"We expect he will be out for longer than we did previously," Pochettino said last month. "Maybe [Alderweireld will be back] after Christmas. That is the expectation."
Tottenham have laboured without Alderweireld and travel to Watford on Saturday (2 December) in seventh place in the Premier League and a full 16 points adrift of leaders Manchester City after winning just one of their last six domestic matches and slumping to a third successive away league defeat at Leicester City.
While Pochettino expects to have him back after Christmas, the 28-year-old, who has still yet to agree an improved contract extension, is refusing to put a timeline on his return.
"I don't have a deadline, because it's dangerous to make it worse," he was quoted as saying by The Times. "So we have to work hard, but in a controlled way. In two weeks there's a scan to see how it goes. I only try to be on the pitch as fast as possible."
Pochettino admitted during his pre-Watford press conference that Tottenham do miss both Alderweireld and long-term absentee Victor Wanyama, although claimed he was not "focused on one player" when questioned if he had considered deploying defensive changes in the former's absence.
Spurs also struggled in patches last term when he spent nearly two months out with a freak nerve problem in his knee.
When asked if it was now time for other players to step up without Alderweireld, Pochettino said: "I think we miss him, because in the last few seasons he's been one of our best players. But now what can we do if he's out injured?
"I'm happy with the performance of our defensive line. In the last few weeks I think we've felt disappointed in our results but not our performances. It's true that we can do better of course. If you ask me do we miss him, of course we miss all the players that are injured."