The 2019 Asian Cup comes at the worst possible moment for Tottenham Hotspur. The North London club are competing on four fronts. They are very much still in the Premier League race, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and a Champions League last-16 tie with Borussia Dortmund in February.
Without the attacking luxury of their top rivals, Mauricio Pochettino tries to make maximum use of his squad. However, the expected departure of Son Heung-min would further reduce his offensive options. But how long will the skilful playmaker be away with his South Korean team in Saudi Arabia?
The tournament runs for almost one month from January 5 to February 1. The number of games the 26-year-old will miss exactly depends entirely on how well his nation fare at the continental tournament.
South Korea is drawn in Group C alongside China, Philippines and Kyrgyzstan. Son missed his country’s first match against the Philippines as he helped Spurs to a 1-0 win over Chelsea in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final, but he will be available for their upcoming group matches.
In the situation whereby Korea reach the final, Son could miss as many as five games in what is a crucial period for Pochettino’s charges.
“It’s not easy for me to leave the team at this important time,” Son told Sky Sports. “I feel very sad and sorry but I want to win this game and go with confidence to Dubai.”
Son’s final game is the Premier League clash with Manchester United. After that, he will miss the trip to Fulham on January 20. Even without the Korean, Spurs have enough manpower to defeat the struggling side.
Should they reach the quarter-final, the 26-year-old will be absent for the decisive second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final against Chelsea and, most perhaps, the FA Cup fourth-round tie with Crystal Palace.
Son will be ruled out of Spurs’ league game at home to Watford if his nation crosses to the semis.
A place in the final of the Asian Cup for South Korea will rule the forward out of the Premier League encounter with Newcastle United.
However, Son is not only the Premier League star who will be competing at the competition and thus potentially missing a sizeable football.
Newcastle United will be without Ki Sung-Yeung, who is Son’s teammate, and Yoshinori Muto, who has been called up by Japan.
Brighton will be without Matt Ryan and Alireza Jahanbakhsh representing Australia and Iran respectively.