Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is not surprised to see Jadon Sancho hit the heights for Borussia Dortmund this season.
The 18-year-old midfielder has burst onto the scene at Dortmund having left Manchester City, where opportunities were limited, in August 2017 for £8m.
He has scored eight goals and produced 11 assists in all competitions for the German side, form which earned him England recognition before Christmas.
Sancho, who was involved in all three goals in Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim, will return to Wembley with Dortmund on Wednesday as they play Spurs in the first leg of the last-16 Champions League tie.
Pochettino, who hinted Sancho was on Spurs’ radar when he left City, expected the youngster to make waves if he got action.
“We knew very well that he was capable to do what he is doing now with game time,” said Pochettino.
“Of course he is showing now in Germany that he can cope with the pressure to play in the Bundesliga or in the Champions League. And no surprise to me.
“We have seen the quality that he was showing in Manchester City or in his national team.
“I think we were talking in the last few years that he was a massive prospect to be a very good player. His talent is there and he’s a very talented player.”
Jan Vertonghen is set for a more testing evening than he might have otherwise expected as the Belgian looks set to start at left-back, following injuries to Danny Rose and Ben Davies.
Rose will have a fitness test on Wednesday morning to see whether he can be on the bench.
Vertonghen, who has played that position for Spurs and his national team, will be hoping that Sancho has an off-day like Tuesday – when he delayed Dortmund’s departure by forgetting his passport.
The teenager has received glowing feedback from his England team-mates in the Spurs camp.
“I was speaking with some of the guys with the national team and they are impressed,” he said.
“He came there as a young player with not too many expectations for this season but he’s done very well, scored goals and lots of assists so impressed by his development and always exciting to see a young player do so well.”
Spurs, who beat Dortmund twice in last season’s group stage, have also picked up results against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus and Vertonghen is confident Tottenham can reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2011.
“We can beat anyone,” he added. “We have shown that last year. Over two games we were the better team against Real Madrid who were the eventual winners of the trophy.
“That is why it was a shame we could not do better last year because we felt we should have done better. That is why everyone has the feeling we can do it this year.”
Rose’s absence from the starting XI heightens Pochettino’s frustrations at his side’s schedule, as their Premier League game with Leicester was played 24 hours after Dortmund’s Bundesliga match.
Spurs have had a gruelling run of games over the last few months, but Pochettino can see his players’ motivation for their clash against the Germans in their eyes.
He said: “I’ve described before, or in the last few days, that it was a little bit unfair (the schedule) but that is not an excuse to arrive tomorrow in our best condition and fight to try to win.
“I think you can feel in the eyes of the players the energy.
“We were talking in the meeting before and it’s completely different. If you ask me why, I don’t know, because I’m a person whose own motivation is always high, when we play against Dortmund or Barcelona or we play against different games in different competitions.
“But of course you can feel that it’s the Champions League, that it’s going to be a massive game with, I hope, a full stadium at Wembley and of course the energy and motivation is going to be there.”
- Press Association