André Villas-Boas fears that Scott Parker could be out until Christmas as he suggested he would recall Brad Friedel at the expense of Hugo Lloris for the visit of Chelsea on Saturday lunchtime.
The game is of individual significance to Villas-Boas, the Tottenham manager, after he was sacked by Chelsea last March following only eight months in charge.
Villas-Boas has been keen to stress in public that he is not seeking revenge, that the derby's importance is based purely on what is at stake for each club, with the spice for Tottenham being related to a pair of results from the end of last season. Chelsea beat them 5-1 in the FA Cup semi-final and the west London club's Champions League triumph over Bayern Munich meant that Tottenham, who finished fourth in the Premier League, were demoted to the Europa League.
Villas-Boas, though, is focused on his team's preparations and he is vexed by a couple of selection decisions, particularly in goal, where the battle between Friedel and Lloris is fast becoming a sideshow. He had a grim update, however, on Parker, who was a talisman last season but has not played since his appearance for England in the Euro 2012 quarter-final defeat by Italy on 24 June.
The former Chelsea midfielder underwent surgery on a troublesome achilles on 8 August and it was originally hoped that he might return at the beginning of this month. But Villas-Boas said that Parker had encountered setbacks and was yet to return to training.
"It's difficult for him as he still feels pain and is still disturbed in his recovery," Villas-Boas said. "It prevents him from being on the pitch but he has been evolving inside, in the gym, with the medical department. We could be looking at Christmas, although hopefully less."
Villas-Boas, who added that the defender Benoît Assou-Ekotto "should return to training in 10 days" after knee trouble, dropped a heavy hint that Friedel would play against Chelsea, describing him as the club's No1 goalkeeper. He had started Lloris in the two matches before the international break, against Panathinaikos in the Europa League and, more significantly, against Aston Villa in the Premier League.
Lloris started for France in the friendly against Japan and the World Cup qualifier against Spain, in which he saved a penalty from Cesc Fábregas.
"We have made Brad the No1 for the beginning of the season and we still see Brad as No1, a player who has been tremendous in goal for us," Villas-Boas said. "Hugo has been tremendous for us in exactly the same manner. We spoke about the Villa team selection beforehand and it was difficult for Brad. It was not based on performance that we made the switch, that's for sure. Brad was looking good.
"We had the opportunity to give Hugo a consecutive run of four games, including the two internationals and that is what has happened. We are extremely happy about the fact we did. It gave him his first impact of Premier League football. But as a great professional, [you] have to move on from that."