Mauricio Pochettino has explained why his best defender is not in Italy for tomorrow night's Champions League last 16 tie first leg against Juventus. Toby Alderweireld only returned from a hamstring injury last week when he played against Newport County in the FA Cup. The 28 year-old was also left out of Saturday's 1-0 win over Arsenal when most expected him to be named among the substitutes at the very least. Pochettino insists Spurs want to ease Alderweireld back into first-team football but the player himself declared himself fit and ready after last week's cup win at Wembley.
Alderweireld's omission will only raise question marks over his future at the club because his contract expires next summer. He's one of the best defenders in the Premier League so he won't be short of offers if he wants out. The Belgian started as part of a back-three when Spurs beat reigning champions Real Madrid in the group stage of the competition before he limped off with injury.
Pochettino said: "we were lucky to have the replay against Newport for him to feel the competition. It's all going well. He will be part of the team to face Rochdale next Sunday and then we are going to assess him day-by-day."
"It's not the same as training to compete, and that's why we are caring about him with our plan, to try for him in to be at a high level of condition again, and can be competing for one place in the starting eleven.
Tottenham are in good form going into the first leg of their tie against the Italian champions. Spurs have taken seven points from a possible nine after league games against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. Pochettino will point out that all those results were achieved without Alderweireld.