Four Tottenham players Antonio Conte set for unlikely first-team chance after Matt Doherty injury

Just when everything was going well for Tottenham, Antonio Conte receives yet another major injury blow. The Italian has already had to deal with a number of injury setbacks this season, including the ongoing wait for the return of Oliver Skipp.

Spurs had a perfect weekend, not only winning their match against Aston Villa, but watching both Arsenal and Man United lose their matches, a boost in the battle for a spot in the top four. However, it was seemingly too good to be true, with Matt Doherty now set to be out for the rest of the season.

football.london understands that the knee injury the Irishman suffered on Saturday, after a challenge from Matty Cash, has ended his season early. The scans on his knee showed he has ruptured his medial collateral ligament, which could see him out for up to 12 weeks.

READ MORE: Antonio Conte receives Tottenham injury blow as Matt Doherty ruled out for the rest of season

The Lilywhites are currently fourth in the Premier League, with seven games to go and have been in solid form in the last few games. There have been some cohesive team displays but also a big impact from individuals, including Doherty.

After a rocky start to the season, the 30-year-old has made a big step-up since Conte’s arrival, bagging two goals and four assists in the league. Therefore it’s a great shame that Spurs will now have to be without him for the final stretch of the campaign.

The Italian will now be forced into making a rotation at right wing-back and football.london takes a look at the potential options available to Conte.

Emerson Royal

Royal has made 24 Premier League appearances since his arrival in north London last summer, scoring a goal and registering an assist. The Brazilian has had an up and down season, being a regular under Nuno Espirito Santo as a right-back and then under Conte as a wing-back.

However his drop in form saw him replaced by Doherty and he has struggled to get regular minutes since, with the Irishman’s resurgence. Just last week, the 23-year-old spoke about his future, after less than a year at Spurs, as the transfer window looms.

“Yes, it has come to me that Atletico has been interested in me. But now I’m in a good moment at Tottenham, I don’t know what will happen in the future. I like that the teams are watching my football,” he explained.

Royal has featured in Tottenham’s last two matches, filling in with injuries to both left wing-backs and then stepping in when Doherty went off injured at Villa Park. Against Aston Villa, the defender improved during the second half and tried to make an impact down the right flank.

Statistics highlight that the 30-year-old has been the more effective wing-back, but could the Brazilian just need a run of games and further guidance, to help him improve even further? With the Italian using the 23-year-old as a right-wing-back on multiple occasions, Royal seems like the obvious choice to step in.

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Steven Bergwijn

Bergwijn is another Spurs player who has struggled for regular game time this season. The Dutch international has scored three Premier League goals and registered an assist in 20 appearances, of which he has only played 90 minutes twice.

The 24-year-old has proven himself as an impact substitute, highlighted in Tottenham’s thrilling 3-2 victory against Leicester and scoring against Newcastle, after coming on in the 81st minute. However, with the impact that the front three are currently making, he will find it difficult to break into the regular starting XI.

In Spurs’ 1-0 defeat to Burnley in February, Bergwijn replaced Ryan Sessegnon in the 79th minute and finished the game as a wing-back. “We finish [vs Burnley] with an offensive solution because Steven Bergwijn is a number 10, is a striker,” Conte explained in his pre-match press conference, ahead of the match against Leeds.

“At the same time I think he can do the last 15-20 minutes, especially if we want a solution in 1-v-1 on one side, or on the other side.” This indicates that the Italian isn’t opposed to playing the 24-year-old as a wing-back.

Royal is missing that attacking flare, which Bergwijn has proven he has. The only issue would be the Dutch international’s defensive play, which he isn’t used to when playing further up the pitch.

Therefore it may be a bit of a risk to put someone like Bergwijn as a right wing-back, but could be an option if the Brazilian isn’t performing well or gets injured.

Lucas Moura

Another potentially risky option would be using Moura as the wing-back to replace Doherty. The Brazilian is also struggling for regular game time, with the front three performing so well in recent games.

Moura has made 28 Premier League appearances this season, scoring twice and registering three assists, but hasn’t played 90 minutes in any of his features since January. The 29-year-old is again someone who has proven his attacking impact with Spurs and he adds pace and energy to games, when he is on the pitch.

Earlier this month former Tottenham player Alan Hutton began doubting Moura’s future at Spurs. “Look, I don’t think anybody’s happy playing second fiddle. [Dejan] Kulusevski’s come in and he’s done really well,” the former defender said.

“So sometimes you just need to hold your hands up and say: ‘At this moment in time, he’s playing better.’ It’s now down to Lucas Moura to go and prove his worth. To go and show that he’s still capable of playing at a high level consistently.”

Could the Brazilian improve his defensive abilities and step in for Doherty, in order to get himself back on the field for regular game time? It may not be an obvious choice, but it could be one of Conte’s options, if needed.

Dejan Kulusevski

In the same game that Bergwijn finished as a wing-back, so did the Swede. “Kulusevski is another player who can play in this role [wing-back], and give us quality, and can be also a good solution for us in this position,” Conte explained.

The former Juventus player has made 11 league appearances since his arrival in January and has already scored three goals and registered six assists. Playing alongside Son Heung-min and Harry Kane, the 21-year-old has made an immediate positive impact on his new side and the trio are quite unstoppable, at the moment.

Therefore, it would seem a bit odd for the Italian to disrupt that and bring Kulusevski further back, to play as a wing-back. However, with his previous admission, it seems that it may not be something Conte rules out.

The most likely outcome for Tottenham, with Doherty’s absence, is to slot Royal back into the wing-back role he has played in on multiple occasions under the 52-year-old. However, if the worst-case scenario happened and the Brazilian got injured, Conte does have some other options if required.

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https://www.football.london/tottenham-hotspur-fc/players/antonio-conte-matt-doherty-tottenham-23654358

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