LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino is worried about Tottenham's international players becoming burned out and injury-prone with the increasing demands being placed on them.
The Spurs manager, who saw England captain Harry Kane score twice in a 2-0 Premier League win away to Huddersfield on Saturday, faces being without three key players for Wednesday's Champions League Group B match against Barcelona at Wembley.
Dele Alli will definitely be absent, while Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Dembele are now significant doubts for the crucial clash against the Catalan giants.
Alli this week aggravated a hamstring injury initially suffered during England's Uefa Nations League loss to Spain on Sept 8, and Belgium internationals Vertonghen and Dembele were both withdrawn at half-time during the win at Huddersfield with muscle problems.
All three players were involved at the World Cup until mid-July, and Pochettino has also expressed particular concern over Uefa's decision to add more competitive international games to the calendar by introducing the Nations League, arguing that there is now less chance to rest players.
"The players finish the World Cup and they need to rest a few weeks," he said. "Then they start the Premier League, and then there are the first international games. They play two games but they are not friendlies; instead, they play in the Nations League, and all the teams want the best players to play.
"Who cares about the player? It's so difficult. With the circumstances of the season, it's a massive challenge for everyone. The players are not machines."
Alli's injury is of particular concern to Pochettino, because it appears to be an old problem that has resurfaced for the midfielder.
Kane is another player who could claim to have suffered from such a busy schedule, having struggled for form since returning from the World Cup, where he was the leading scorer as England ended fourth.
Tottenham's star striker scored 13 goals in eight games during September last year, but had managed just one in six before Saturday's visit to the John Smith's Stadium.
His return to scoring form secured a second successive Premier League victory for Tottenham, who have climbed back up to fourth place after recovering from the disappointment of defeats by Watford and Liverpool earlier last month.
"I am so pleased because the team was ready to fight," said Pochettino.
"But I'm sure it will be a completely different game on Wednesday (against Barcelona)."