Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino confirmed that he left his Belgian center back Toby Alderweireld back in London ahead of Spurs’ Champions League match against Juventus tomorrow in Turin. But Pochettino was quick to squash speculation that there has been any sort of falling out between the club and the player.
In a press conference today, Pochettino was asked directly about Alderweireld’s absence, and Poch was pretty clear: Toby’s just not quite ready for this level of competition.
“You know how we work, how we think. After three and a half months he suffered a massive injury. From the day he got injured, our idea is to create a plan to help him, the most important thing is to help him, we worked together in medical area and sports science to analyse his injury.
“He is 28 and it was a massive injury that we need to care, be cautious because we cannot put his career at risk. We design a plan from day one to provide him with best tools to recover as soon as possible and be stronger than before.
“In that period that he started to work with the team under our judgement he needed to build his fitness strongly. He needs to work hard. To play this type of game you need to be 200 percent — competing is not the same as training and that’s why we are caring about him with our plan for him. In a moment he will be for us in condition to play in high-level again, he can compete for a place in the starting 11.
This is pretty much what we thought, but Matt Law’s article in the Independent yesterday re-opened the old controversy surrounding both Alderweireld’s lingering contract extension as well as the player management situation from last summer that eventually saw Kyle Walker sold to Manchester City.
Alderweireld played a full 90 minutes in Spurs’ FA Cup replay win over Newport County last week, and he looked fine enough in his first match back against sub-par competition. But Newport isn’t Juventus, and Pochettino knows it. Poch did say that it’s very likely that we will see Toby play again in Spurs’ next FA Cup match against Rochdale next week.
“It’s always what we try to do with different players and of course we are sorry for him because when you miss games like Arsenal or the Champions League that we work a lot to try to play this type of game, I can understand and we are frustrated too, when you can’t play it’s difficult to accept.
“From everything in his career, of course it’s a very important game but he will have the chance and be strong after the injury. We need to apply our common sense and be careful in how we will use him in the first few weeks after he is fit for training. To compete is different. We were lucky to have the replay against Newport for him to start to feel the competition. If all is going well he will be part of the team next Sunday against Rochdale. We’re going to assess him day by day.”
Pochettino went on to say that he met with Toby and assistant manager Jesus Perez for a two hour meeting to discuss Toby’s recovery and explain why Poch was leaving him home for such an important Champions League fixture. I’d have liked to have been a fly on the wall of that meeting!
What this means for Tuesday is that Spurs are almost certainly starting the match in a 4-2-3-1 with Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez anchoring the back line. Spurs will face a tough challenge against a Juventus side that has only conceded one goal in its last 16 matches, but will likely be without starting center back Andrea Barzagli, as well as Paulo Dybala and Blaise Maitudi.