Antonio Conte sympathised with his Tottenham players after they were eliminated from the EFL Cup by Nottingham Forest, citing tiredness in the run-up to the World Cup.
Despite playing 12 games since the beginning of October, Conte decided to make just four changes to the team that lost to Liverpool on Sunday, including starts for Eric Dier and Harry Kane, both ever presents this season.
The Italian blamed a lack of alternative options due to injuries as his team fell to a 2-0 loss at the City Ground thanks to goals from Renan Lodi and Jesse Lingard on Wednesday.
"The performance, I have to be honest, I think maybe tonight the energy was really poor for us" Spurs head coach Conte said.
"Don't forget that it was the 12th game in a really short period. The games that we played in the past, every game was really, really difficult and we lost a lot of mental energy and physical energy.
"I only say thanks to my players because there are players who are really tired. I have to manage the situation with [Pierre-Emile] Hojbjerg and [Rodrigo] Bentancur because they were tired.
"The same for Harry Kane. Until this morning we waited to see if he could start or not. He was the only [fit] striker so again, I can only say thanks to my players."
Full-time. pic.twitter.com/hmq27oUVlw— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) November 9, 2022
One positive for Spurs was that they did not go in behind at half-time, as they had done in their previous five games, but they also did not come out in the second half with much energy.
Lodi and Lingard's goals arrived in the first 12 minutes following the break, and even though Forest were reduced to 10 men when Orel Mangala was shown a second yellow card with 15 minutes remaining, Spurs could not find a response, having just two shots on target to the hosts' eight.
Debutant goalkeeper Fraser Forster made six saves to keep the score down, though Conte could at least call on the returning Richarlison from the bench, just a day after he was named in Brazil's World Cup squad.
"I have a group of players who are first men, and then good players," he added. "Another could be selfish to think to himself 'in a week I have to play the World Cup.'
"Instead, Harry Kane showed to be a really good man. Not only him though, the same for Bentancur, Perisic, and Dier is another player who has played a lot of games.
"We faced a situation that is really bad with the injuries. We arrived at the end in real difficulty. Now we have to try to rest and find energy."