Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino admits starting the season without Mousa Dembele is a blow but believes new signing Victor Wanyama is ready to fill the void.
Dembele will miss the first four games of the Premier League campaign as he serves the remainder of a six-match ban following his altercation with Chelsea striker Diego Costa in May.
Tottenham lost both games Dembele missed at the end of last season, one of them against Wanyama’s Southampton.
Wanyama is likely to be handed his Spurs debut against Everton on Saturday and Pochettino is confident the Kenyan can step into Dembele’s shoes.
“It’s true that Mousa was important for us last season. It’s a big loss for us for the first few games but we need to deal with that,” Pochettino said.
“It is a concern but it’s not fair to say that the team dropped performance because Mousa wasn’t in the team. It was about (the absence of) Dele Alli too and the team.
“It’s an opportunity for Victor. I think Victor is a player that knows us and how we work and the philosophy and it was easy for him to develop his quality, his skill in the team.
“From day one of pre-season, he felt very comfortable and settled in the team. This is a good help for us.”
Pochettino is confident Tottenham can match last season’s surprise title challenge but their task may prove more difficult this season, with all of their top four rivals making expensive additions this summer.
Spurs must also negotiate a testing Champions League campaign, which Pochettino admits will offer less room for rotation than the Europa League.
“It’s a big challenge,” Pochettino said.
“It’s true that in our training sessions always we try to push more because now we need to spend more energy than before.
“Maybe when you’re in the Europa League you can rotate the squad and the team, but now in the Champions League they all want to play, they are all excited to play.