Forward Dejan Kulusevski may not feature for Tottenham Hotspur until after the World Cup, manager Antonio Conte said on Friday, after the Sweden international suffered a setback while recovering from a hamstring injury.
Kulusevski, 22, has been a key player for Spurs since joining from Juventus in January. He has missed their last six games after sustaining the injury on international duty.
Conte had said on Monday that Kulusevski was close to full fitness but now fears he might only return after the Nov. 14-Dec. 25 break for the World Cup.
“His recovery was going well and then one day the situation worsened. When this type of situation happens, you have to restart,” Conte told reporters before Tottenham host Newcastle United on Sunday.
“I think we have to wait a bit of time to see him with us again.”
Richarlison also remains sidelined due to a calf injury but Emerson Royal is available after serving a three-game suspension.
Conte joked he may have to lace up his boots to help his team, with Lucas Moura a long-term absentee.
“We have in this moment (Harry) Kane and Heung-min Son in good health. Fingers crossed, I hope they continue to stay that way or I’ll have to think about putting my shoes on to play,” Conte said.
Tottenham is third in the table, level on 23 points with Manchester City and four behind Arsenal, and will hope to bounce back after Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat at Manchester United.
Newcastle is five points behind Spurs in sixth. Eddie Howe’s side are on a six-game unbeaten run and have only lost once this season.
“You have to consider Newcastle as a dangerous team for the first position, for the Champions League position, for the fight to win trophies,” Conte said.
“They have had the potential to go into the market and to become one of the best teams in England.”