Mauricio Pochettino has lauded Erik Lamela as one of the first Tottenham players to adopt his methods after the winger declared himself ready to return to competitive action.
Lamela, who joined Spurs four years ago for a then club record £30m (€33.5m), has undergone operations on each of his hips and not played since October 25, 2016.
But after beginning training early last month, Lamela gave Pochettino the green light yesterday and is now expected to be on the bench for tonight’s game against Leicester.
“It is very good news because he is in contention for tomorrow,” Pochettino said.
“It’s because after the training today he felt good and said: ‘Ok I am ready to move on and be available if you want’.”
Lamela’s recovery has proven complex and he was even allowed to get treatment from his former club Roma in January.
There was also a traumatic period in December last year when Lamela rushed back to his native Argentina to attend to his brother, who had been unexpectedly taken into hospital.
While Pochettino is likely to ease Lamela back in slowly over the Christmas period, Tottenham have missed the 25-year-old’s precision in the final third and willingness to harry opponents.
“I think we miss his energy, his energy is massive,” Pochettino said. “When we arrived he was the player that was kind to do what we expected from the team because he has a massive energy and is a very energetic person.
“When you see him in the dressing room or restaurant he is always moving. He is hyperactive and that’s how he is on the pitch.
“He loves to run, loves to feel the ball in his feet. He always wants the ball.”
Lamela may get a run-out as a substitute against Leicester but next week’s Champions League dead rubber against Apoel Nicosia could offer the chance of a start.
Spurs, who play Watford in between on Saturday, have already qualified for the knock-out stages in first place and will likely rotate against the Cypriot side ahead of a busy Christmas period.
“I always said that he needed time to recover his feeling,” Pochettino said.
“If tomorrow he plays, what do we expect from him? To take the ball, to beat his opponents and put the ball in the top corner?
“But when it is another player who plays in another position, you expect some tackles or to play a good ball or a good pass. It is enough.
“It is completely different the position on the pitch and what we expect from them.”
Tottenham’s title challenge has been derailed by a disappointing run that has included only one win in their last four Premier League matches.
They now sit 13 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City but Pochettino called for perspective.
“I think if you remember everything that happened three years ago, no-one would believe we would be talking about finishing first, beating Dortmund and Real Madrid and finishing first in the Champions League and have the capacity in the last three seasons to fight for the top four and the Premier League,” Pochettino said.
“We were talking about in the next three or four seasons arriving to the new stadium and trying to reduce the gap to the top four, and now we are involved in the battle for the best competitions in the world.”
For his part, Leicester boss Claude Puel wants greater consistency from Riyad Mahrez.
The midfielder, who submitted a transfer request at the end of last season but did not move during the summer, was clearly unhappy at being substituted against West Ham at the weekend.
Mahrez made way for Ben Chilwell after 70 minutes of the 1-1 draw at the London Stadium on Friday night. The 26-year-old was seen to be shaking his head and muttering as he slowly trudged off the pitch.
Puel has since spoken to the former PFA Player of the Year and insists there is no issue.
“I think he was a little frustrated in the second half without the possibility to touch more balls and to play,” said the Frenchman.
“It’s a good thing when a player is not happy but now it’s important to help him have more consistency once again because he is an important player for us.
“Riyad, like all the other players, have to find good consistency in their game — game after game. It’s the most important thing.
“He’s a talented player and if he can show his quality game after game then it will be fantastic for him and also the squad.”
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