Losing Paulinho for a game may be the least of Tottenham's worries in the wake of a 5-0 defeat to Liverpool at White Hart Lane on Sunday, Dec. 15, but it could really come back to bite Spurs.
The midfielder's costly blunder occurred as Tottenham sported a 2-0 deficit in the 63rd minute. Contesting a high ball absurdly with his open boot, he struck Luis Suarez in the chest for an immediate red.
The Premier League's Twitter account noted the ejection:
RED CARD Paulinho is dismissed for a high tackle on Luis Suarez. Spurs 0-2 Liverpool (63 mins) #TOTLIV— Premier League (@premierleague) December 15, 2013
Paulinho could have benefited had he shied away from Suarez, who Infostrada Sports says has drawn more red cards than anyone in the EPL as of late:
Paulinho became the 5th player to receive a red card for a foul on Luis Suarez. No player caused more PL red cards since he joined Liverpool— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaLive) December 15, 2013
Not only was it reckless and put the nail in the coffin of Spurs' chances of a comeback, but it also puts his club in a precarious situation moving forward.
Facing the typical one-game ban, Paulinho will be forced to miss a crucial road test at Southampton on Sunday, Dec. 22.
Southampton are certainly a winnable contest for Spurs, but pegging it as a must-win may be an understatement with Andre Villas-Boas sure to take more heat after a five-goal loss at home. They need to be firing on all cylinders, and certainly won't be anymore.
The Saints are tied with Everton for the least goals conceded (15) all season, so Tottenham will have to get their offense figured out without one of their key contributors. Of course, it doesn't help that Spurs failed to secure a shot on goal in their most recent loss.
Paulinho plays a vital role in the middle of the midfield. While he affects both ends moderately, the offense is at its best when he displays good form. He's one of just three Tottenham players who has more than one goal in the Premier League, and one of the three (Gylfi Sigurdsson) has seen a lot of the bench as of late.
Are Tottenham still favorites against Southampton without Paulinho?
It was no coincidence that Paulinho was a non-factor on offense in the same game that Spurs failed to score. Tottenham's attack produced a couple of chances, but no shots on goal. Most of their chances were thanks to quick counters and not midfield possession, which isn't how Spurs will be able to find success in the long run.
Certainly, Tottenham feature players on the roster capable of creating offense. Aaron Lennon and Sandro are able to turn on the switch at times, and Roberto Soldado has shown his potential on a number of occasions. Securing three points on the road, despite the tough competition, is far from impossible.
But to say that Tottenham are assured offensive success on Matchday 17 against one of the EPL's stingiest defenses without Paulinho would be quite naive.