Antonio Conte could be on the Tottenham bench for Sunday's Premier League game against Manchester City, just four days after having his gallbladder removed.
That possibility was revealed by his assistant coach, Cristian Stellini, who would take the reins if Conte has to wait for his return to work.
Stellini held the fort at Friday's pre-match press conference, and there is a strong chance of him remaining in charge for the home clash with title-chasing City.
Yet Conte said within hours of the operation that he was "already feeling better", and that improvement has continued according to his second-in-command.
Stellini said: "We don't know yet when Antonio is coming back. Everything is possible. The surgery was good and he's recovering well.
"At the moment he's at home. We have two days before the game and everything can happen."
Asked whether Conte could therefore be involved on Sunday, Stellini said: "We don't know yet. The decision will be made tomorrow. We are ready to do everything.
"Probably a doctor that did the surgery, they have to decide for him. We have 48 hours from today to decide, so we have time."
Conte was experiencing severe pain which necessitated the surgery, and usually a patient will need a longer recovery than four days after such an operation.
The UK's National Health Service suggests a patient will usually require two weeks of recovery before returning to a desk job, and longer for manual work.
Given Conte is usually an animated figure on the Tottenham touchline, his role seemingly falls into the latter category, and Stellini said it would be important for his fellow Italian to be prudent once he does come back.
"I think no one here can keep Antonio calm. He knows that to have a surgery and a surprise like he had, it's not easy," Stellini said.
"He's an intelligent man, so he knows what's happened to him. It's not the worst surgery you can have, but it's a surgery. You have to be careful and Antonio has to do it."
Richarlison— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 3, 2023
Cristian Stellini gives a team news update ahead of #TOTMCI... pic.twitter.com/nyHuC9qJoA
Stellini said Conte's staff, including first-team coach Ryan Mason, were ready to carry out his usual duties.
"Antonio sends me a message and he trusts us completely, one hundred per cent trust in the staff," Stellini said. "We are focused more than normal because we have to do what Antonio normally does, and Antonio is happy about our job."
He said Conte had been "so sad" about the prospect of having to have surgery, and it comes at a time when fifth-placed Tottenham do not want to risk becoming cut off from the top four.
They trail Newcastle United and Manchester United by three points, having played one game more than both, raising the stakes for a rematch with City, a fortnight after Spurs squandered a 2-0 half-time lead and lost 4-2 to the same opposition at the Etihad Stadium.
Stellini said Tottenham are "scared, in the right way" about the game, expressing optimism the outcome can be different this time, with Richarlison fit to play and new recruit Pedro Porro in line for a possible debut.
"This is the game you are waiting for, and you want to play every time this type of game," Stellini said.
"The players are excited. I feel the players are so focused on this match. For sure, we have to be worried in the right way, speaking about not only [Erling] Haaland but all the team they have.
"It's a great team, maybe it's the greatest team in the world, and they fight every time to win a trophy.
"So we are scared, in the right way. We respect them, but we think we can repeat the same first half we had in the last game and we can do it for 90 minutes."