Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte said Harry Kane is "really tired" following a lucklustre performance against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup and just over a week before he leads England into battle at the World Cup.
Conte blamed a lack of other available options for starting Kane in Spurs' 2-0 League Cup defeat to Forest on Wednesday.
The England captain was replaced on the hour mark, but has now started all of Tottenham's 21 games in all competitions this season.
England boss Gareth Southgate names his squad for the World Cup on Thursday.
Conte is currently without Son Heung-min due to a fractured eye socket, while Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski are making their way back from injury.
"He was really, really tired. Yesterday we had a soft training session, really soft and at one point he stopped himself to recover energy," said Conte.
"I repeat he's OK, it's only fatigue, but it is normal because Harry played every game. When you have a player like him it is difficult to decide not to play with him."
To make space in the schedule for a first mid-season World Cup, the group stages of European club competitions were squeezed into a two-month period.
By the time Spurs face Leeds on Saturday, they will have played 13 games in 42 days before the World Cup break.
"Harry Kane showed to be a really good man also," added Conte as he thanked his players for not pulling out of games to save themselves for their countries.
"But not only him it is the same for [Pierre-Emile] Hojbjerg, [Rodrigo] Bentancur, [Ivan] Perisic, [Eric] Dier. We faced a bad situation about the injuries and we arrive at the end in difficulty. Now we have to try to rest and recover energy."
Forest earned the win through strikes by Renan Lodi and Jesse Lingard.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said he could look to add to his “short squad” in the January transfer window after his much-changed side slumped to Carabao Cup defeat to Brighton.
The Gunners boss made 10 changes to the team that beat Chelsea at the weekend which took them back to the top of the Premier League as Brighton left the Emirates Stadium with a 3-1 win.
Eddie Nketiah opened the scoring for the hosts with his 11th goal in 12 Carabao Cup outings, but Brighton stormed back.
Danny Welbeck levelled from the penalty spot after the former Arsenal man had been fouled by Gunners debutant Karl Hein, the Estonia goalkeeper slipping over before jumping back to his feet just in time to trip Welbeck.
Kaoru Mitoma and Tariq Lamptey scored on the break to send Brighton through as Arteta’s call for the cavalry – Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel Magalhaes, Granit Xhaka and Oleksandr Zinchenko all coming off the bench – failed to rouse a response.
With Arsenal top of the league and progressing as winners of the Europa League group, Arteta believes reinforcements may be required in the window to consolidate their strong position.
“That’s the squad that we have,” he replied when asked if the result showed the need to spend in the transfer market.
“We have to utilise in the best possible way and today we came short, especially because we didn’t do what we have to do in both boxes to win a football match. We paid that price.
“It’s the same squad as when we win. I said from day one that we have a short squad because at the end we left some players. It’s what we have.
“If everyone’s available and no one is injured we are OK, but the moment there is, we know what it is. It’s nothing new. I think I said it the first day after the transfer window.”
Pushed on whether January could change things, Arteta added: “That’s a window that is open and we’ll have to discuss the opportunities that we have, the capacity that we have for any changes and be on the market for opportunities because we don’t know what’s going to happen the last game before the World Cup.
“So it’s a lot of options that are open.”
Newcastle United needed penalties to get past Crystal Palace after a 0-0 draw at St James' Park.
Nick Pope will be in Gareth Southgate's England squad for Qatar and showed he can be called on if needed in a shoot-out by saving three of Palace's five spot-kicks.
Neither goalkeeper managed to save any of the 20 penalties at the London Stadium as Blackburn dumped out West Ham.
The tie was level at 2-2 after 90 minutes as Ben Brereton Diaz equalised two minutes from time for Rovers.
Blackburn converted their 10 penalties and were through when West Ham captain for the night Angelo Ogbonna hit the bar.
Boubacar Traore's strike five minutes from time gave Wolves a 1-0 win over Leeds.
Meanwhile, Southampton edged through on penalties over Sheffield Wednesday after a 1-1 draw in front of Nathan Jones, who is expected to be named the Saints' new manager on Thursday.