Tottenham Hotspur's chances of getting past RB Leipzig in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League took a significant hit when Jose Mourinho appeared to rule Heung-Min Son out for the season on Tuesday.
Son's pace and eye for goal have been helping to offset the injury-enforced absence of Harry Kane. Yet a fractured arm suffered during Sunday's 3-2 win over Aston Villa has ruled Son out for a prolonged period:
Now Mourinho must get creative to fill the void up front, although it won't be easy for depleted Spurs to keep pace with a Leipzig team headlined by classy forward Timo Werner.
Wednesday's other game will see tournament surprise package Atalanta test their free-flowing attack against Valencia in Italy. The Serie A outfit are loaded with quality in the final third thanks to Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata, who will test a Valencia back line that conceded seven times through six matches during the group stage.
- Atalanta vs. Valencia: 8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET, BT Sport 3
- Tottenham Hotspur vs. RB Leipzig: 8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET, BT Sport 2/TNT
- Atalanta: -150 (bet $150 to win $100)
- Valencia: +400 (bet $100 to win $400)
- Draw: +300
- Tottenham: +165
- Leipzig: +165
- Draw: +240
Odds per Caesars Palace.
Spurs' striker shortage, a situation Mourinho said "couldn't be worse" on Tuesday, will prove fatal since he has struggled to solidify a shaky defence. Tottenham have kept a mere two clean sheets during their last 12 matches in all competitions.
Staying strong at the back was also an issue during the group stage, even before Mourinho arrived. Spurs shipped 14 goals in Group B, including seven against Bayern Munich in north London back in October.
Leipzig will test out the fragile Tottenham back line with Werner's artistry and the pace and power of Roma loanee Patrik Schick.
This capable duo enjoys steady supply from midfield thanks to the creative Emil Forsberg and industrious Christopher Nkunku.
Tottenham's best chance to answer will be to win the midfield battle with their own energy and ingenuity. Fortunately for Mourinho, Dele Alli remains a steady source of goals and assists, while Giovani Lo Celso can impact the game in both boxes.
Lo Celso and Alli need to keep the lines of supply open to Lucas Moura. The winger could well operate as a false nine during the first leg.
He played a similar role last season, famously helping to see off Ajax in the last four:
Unlike Spurs, Atalanta aren't short of options in the final third. Ilicic has the technique and vision to spring Zapata behind a Valencia back four led by former Villarreal and Arsenal man Gabriel Paulista.
The Brazilian centre-back could be partnered by former Manchester City flop Eliaquim Mangala. They will both need the protection of another ex-Gunner, Francis Coquelin, at the base of midfield.
Valencia know the importance of keeping things close, especially since striker Rodrigo Moreno is efficient enough to make the most of whatever chances come his way. The visitors will need to disrupt Atalanta's stylish possession game long enough to play Rodrigo in, so getting Dani Parejo on the ball early and often will be key.