Antonio Conte admitted England captain Harry Kane is “really, really tired” less than a week before England fly out for the World Cup.
Kane has started every game for Tottenham this season and was again in the starting XI as Spurs crashed out of the Carabao Cup after a 2-0 loss to Nottingham Forest.
The 29-year-old’s participation at the City Ground was doubtful due to fatigue, but Conte said he had no choice but to start him due to injuries in his squad.
He was withdrawn after 59 minutes, with his side 2-0 down, in an apparently premeditated move, but the England skipper has played all but 33 minutes of Tottenham’s 12 games in the last 39 days.
Conte revealed Kane pulled out of Tuesday’s training session to conserve energy, but it is far from ideal with England’s campaign in Qatar starting on November 21, with another Premier League game on Saturday.
“With Harry, until this morning we waited to see if he could start or not,” said the Italian. “But in this situation he was the only striker for us. For this reason I can only say thank you for the availability they show me.
“It was a problem with fatigue. Really, really tired and yesterday we had a soft training session and at one point he stopped to recover energy.
“But he’s fine, it’s just fatigue but that’s normal because Harry played every game. When you have a player like him it’s hard to decide not to play with him.
“Other players might say to me, ‘I’m tired and don’t want to play and help the team.’ I have a group of players who are men and good players because of this.
“Another could be selfish and think for himself because in a week they have to play the World Cup. Instead, Harry Kane proved to be a really good man.
“Today was really difficult if Kane said to me, ‘maybe it’s better I don’t start today because I’m at high risk of getting an injury’.”
“But I repeat, it is normal, what happens during this period.”
Given Tottenham’s grueling schedule, it is no surprise that they were outplayed by Forest, who made light of their position at the bottom of the Premier League.
They have a rich history in the League Cup, winning it four times, and they progressed to the last 16 when Jesse Lingard finally broke his wood duck, setting up Renan Lodi’s opener.
Lingard has enjoyed an underwhelming start to his Forest career following his surprise free transfer in the summer, failing to score or assist in his first 12 appearances – but he put it right on a memorable night at the City Ground.
The former Manchester United forward headed home from close range in the second half, seven minutes after setting up Lodi’s opener.
Forest boss Steve Cooper said: “I thought he was excellent. He scored a goal with his head and could have scored another with his head.
“I thought his positional play was good. He picked up the spaces and found the spaces really well.
“And more importantly, he did what you want your attacking players to do – you want them to be a threat and have an end product.
“He did that, not only with the goal, but some of his final passes and link-ups were really good as well. I’m really happy with him tonight, as I am with everyone else.”
Will Kane fatigue be a concern for England?
Sky Sports Sam Blitz:
“Nobody could believe their eyes when they saw Harry Kane in the starting line-up for Tottenham in their Carabao Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest.
“With their Champions League group stage drawing to a close, this was the England captain’s chance to get some much-needed rest ahead of the World Cup and he didn’t get that, playing an hour before coming off Spurs 2-0 down.
“Since the start of June, Kane has been involved in 27 games for club and country, starting 26 of them. He has sat on the bench for just 117 minutes of football since then. If he plays the full 90 minutes against Leeds on Saturday, he will to have averaged a game every 5.7 days over the past five months.
“What does Kane have to do in his very rare time off to stay mentally and physically fresh, and where is his breaking point? England fans and Gareth Southgate will have to hope it doesn’t come in the next six weeks between now and the World Cup final.
“Kane must now lead the country after leading Tottenham’s line in every game this season so far. Spurs boss Antonio Conte says he is managing his workload in training sessions, which are known to be as intense as they are.”
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