Emmanuel Adebayor is again absent for Tottenham’s Europa League travels, but head coach Mauricio Pochettino denied his non-appearance against Asteras Tripolis is symptomatic of a wider problem.
Despite being one of Spurs’ most experienced and high-profile players, the 30-year-old has not travelled for a continental match since last year’s trip to Sheriff Tiraspol.
Adebayor was an unused substitute that night in Moldova, perhaps after falling out with then head coach Andre Villas-Boas, yet his absence has continued despite re-establishing himself under Tim Sherwood and now Pochettino.
The striker started against Asteras at White Hart Lane two weeks ago but has not travelled for the reverse fixture in Greece – the sixth straight European trip he has not been involved in.
That pattern of absenteeism led to Pochettino being peppered with questions at the pre-match press conference, leading him to flit between English and Spanish at the Theodoros Kolokotronis Stadium.
“Aaron Lennon is not here, Kyle Naughton is not here, Younes Kaboul is not here,” he said when asked specifically about Adebayor. “It is the same situation.
“I decide the list for those coming to Greece and the players here are the players in the squad that will play.
“Okay, yes, it is a reality that Adebayor has not travelled in three games from England, to Limassol, Partizan Belgrade and here.
“For every single mission, for every single trip, we have our organisation and selections. We are ready.”
Adebayor’s absence and Pochettino’s insistence nothing untoward is behind it suggests the Togo striker has been rested ahead of starting against Stoke on Sunday.
That would be a blow to Harry Kane – and many Tottenham fans – given the striker’s impact in place of the ineffective Adebayor last weekend, when the 21-year-old’s introduction helped Spurs to come from behind to win 2-1 at Aston Villa.
When that was put to Pochettino, in tetchier mood than usual, he retorted: “I want to say that tomorrow we have a very important (match). Our mind is only on Asteras.”
The former Argentina international finally broke into a smile when asked whether hat-trick hero Kane would go in goal like he had done in the closing stages against Asteras a fortnight ago after Hugo Lloris was sent off.
“No, no he will not be in goal,” he said, laughing.
Pochettino is expecting a much tougher ask against Asteras than that 5-1 win at White Hart Lane, with the Greek club preparing for one of the biggest matches in their history.
“Every game is different, a different moment,” he said. “We know Asteras at home is a difficult team, a strong team.
“Their supporters are brave and we expect a very, very difficult game. Different, sure, to what we played in London.
“It will be a very important game for Asteras Tripolis, but don’t forget we also want the three points.”