Key defender back for Spurs

Mauricio Pochettino has revealed Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld will return for their final Champions League group game against CSKA Moscow.

But Pochettino said Erik Lamela will not be available as the midfielder has flown back to Argentina to see his brother, who is in hospital.

Alderweireld has been out for seven-and-a-half weeks with a knee injury, but is likely to be named on the bench at Wembley, where Spurs need only a point to secure third place and qualify for the Europa League.

If the Belgian comes through tonight unscathed, Pochettino said he could start against Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday.

“Toby will be involved in the squad tomorrow. We’re happy. He is recovering well,” said Pochettino.

“It’s important for him after two months to be involved in the squad. Tomorrow, maybe he will be on the bench, it is important for him to recover that feeling.

“Then we’ll decide if he will be in the starting XI or on the bench against Manchester United. It’s about performance, it’s about feeling, it’s about how we assess him.”

Lamela is not available for the match against CSKA. The Argentinian has been out for six weeks with a hip injury and the 24-year-old has now returned home to visit his brother.

“Erik Lamela is still out. It’s important to send our support because he has a problem with his family in Argentina and travelled to Argentina last night,” said Pochettino.

“We want to send our big support to him and his family. He has a problem with his brother. We hope it’s not too serious, but it’s an issue that he needed to go to Argentina for.”

Ben Davies is back in training after an ankle injury, but needs more time to regain match sharpness, while Vincent Janssen is a doubt with the same problem.

Dropping into the Europa League is arguably the worst case scenario for Tottenham in Group E, given the toll the competition could take on their domestic ambitions.

Pochettino admits the combination of Thursday nights in Europe and Sunday afternoons in the Premier League would be psychologically more difficult for his players.

“For us it was also hard to play Tuesday and Wednesday too, we’re out of the Champions League,” he said.

“But always it’s harder to play Thursday and Sunday, it’s psychological, we need to play Sunday at 4pm while our habit now is to play Saturday 3pm in the Premier League — it’s the best time to play football.

“It’s always difficult because with Thursday travel, you’re back maybe late on Friday morning, always it’s difficult and tough.”

Pochettino insists, however, Tottenham will go all out to beat CSKA, not least because it will end their losing run at Wembley, where Spurs have lost six consecutive matches and are due to play all their home fixtures next season.

Meanwhile, coach Leonid Slutsky is to leave CSKA Moscow following tonight’s game. The 45-year-old took over from Juande Ramos in 2009, guiding the club to three league titles and two domestic cups.

Alongside his role as CSKA coach, Slutsky also took the reins of the Russia national team following Fabio Capello’s departure in August 2015 but his stay ended after the team’s group-stage exit at Euro 2016.


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