The Premier League midseason break has returned, giving Ange Postecoglou and his Tottenham players a rare weekend off. Matchday 21 took place over two weekends in order to give all clubs time off following a demanding schedule during the holidays. Spurs played last Sunday at Old Trafford, where they drew 2-2 with Manchester United.
Many Tottenham supporters may have seen the team’s stars play during the past few days, like Pape Matar Sarr, Yves Bissouma, and Son Heung-min, in an effort to satisfy their football compulsion. After watching Sarr play for Senegal against Cameroon on Friday night at the Africa Cup of Nations, Bissouma participated for Mali in the same competition a little more than twenty-four hours later.
Son led South Korea against Jordan in the Asian Cup earlier on Saturday in Qatar. It is not yet certain when the three will play next for Tottenham after both competitions conclude the second weekend in February.
Here, we examine the three players’ current international performances and speculate on when they might rejoin Ange Postecoglou’s Spurs team.
South Korean Son Heung-min
With four points from their opening two games, Son and South Korea appear certain to make it to the Asian Cup knockout round. Son scored his first goal of the tournament on Saturday in a 2-2 tie with Jordan, scoring from the penalty spot. Son was not on the scoresheet in their opening game, a 3-1 victory over Bahrain.
At the Al-Thumama Stadium, South Korea appeared to be headed for defeat until Yazan Al-Arab scored via his own net in the ninetieth minute. When South Korea plays Malaysia in their last group match on Thursday afternoon, they will be looking to overtake their adversaries, who are now second in Group E behind Jordan due to a lower goal differential.
With a guaranteed spot in the top three of Group E—four of the six clubs with the best third-place finishes advance to the knockout stage—any chance of Son returning to Tottenham early appears to be gone. The Asian Cup Round of 16 will take place on Sunday, January 28 and Wednesday, January 31. On Wednesday night, Spurs will visit Brentford in the Premier League.
Son might travel to the UK following a Round of 16 exit, but that seems unlikely given that South Korea is predicted to advance far farther in the competition and Tottenham’s Premier League match against Everton on Sunday, February 3. However, Son would be well-positioned to make his Tottenham comeback against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, February 10, if they were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Son’s homecoming match for Tottenham in N17 will take place at home against Wolves on Saturday, February 17, unless the Asian Cup concludes before then.
Senegalese Pape Matar Sarr
Sarr and Senegal have already advanced to the Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16, having won two of their first three games in Group C. The Spurs star was not used as a substitute in their 3-0 victory over The Gambia in their opening match, but he made a spectacular comeback on Friday in their 3-1 victory over Cameroon.
Sarr, who began the competition in a midfield three, left his imprint after just 16 minutes when he set up Ismaila Sarr for the game’s first goal. The 21-year-old played 74 minutes of the match in his first game since sustaining a hamstring injury early in Tottenham’s match against Bournemouth on New Year’s Eve, before being replaced by Idrissa Gana Gueye of Everton.
Tuesday night, Senegal will play Guinea in Group C, with the goal of securing first position. Sarr and Senegal will need only one point to secure the top spot, thanks to their two-point lead after two games. This will set up a Round of 16 matchup with one of the top third-place teams on Monday, January 29.
Sarr would have plenty of time to return to London following his elimination from the AFCON’s first knockout round, well in advance of Saturday, February 3’s Premier League match against Everton. A Round of 16 loss, though, would come as a huge surprise considering Senegal is currently the favorite to win the tournament again after winning it two years prior.
Similar to what happened with Son, Sarr would be well-positioned to rejoin Tottenham the following week when they play Brighton & Hove Albion at home if they were to lose in the quarterfinals on either Friday, February 2 or Saturday, February 3. If it’s any later, though, he won’t be available for selection again until Saturday, February 17 against Wolves.
Yves Bissouma (Mali) After earning four points from their opening two games, Mali is in a great position to go to the Africa Cup of Nations’ knockout stage. As things are, Bissouma’s nation leads Group E. However, on Sunday night, they could lose ground when second-place Namibia, who are now one point behind Mali, plays fourth-place South Africa.
Then, on Wednesday, January 24, Mali and Namibia will square off for first place in their last Group C match. Bissouma has participated in both of Mali’s AFCON games thus far. He played 58 minutes in the team’s 2-0 victory over South Africa and then saw seven minutes from the bench in their 1-1 draw with Tunisia on Saturday.
In the event that Mali wins Group E, they will play Group D’s runner-up on Tuesday, January 30. In the days preceding the Everton match, Bissouma would return to London following an elimination in the Round of 16. But despite losing in the quarterfinals the weekend of the Goodison Park match, the midfield player might play a week later against Brighton & Hove Albion, his old team.