Mauricio Pochettino confident Tottenham Hotspur talisman Harry Kane will be fit to face Real Madrid
PUBLISHED: 14:46 31 October 2017 | UPDATED: 14:46 31 October 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
Spurs boss tells team to be brave when Champions League holders visit Wembley Stadium tomorrow night
Mauricio Pochettino is “very confident” Harry Kane will be fit to face Real Madrid tomorrow – and he is pleased to also have Dele Alli available after the end of his European ban.
Kane missed Saturday’s defeat at Manchester United with a hamstring strain but took part in training today and is in contention to face Zinedine Zidane’s European champions at Wembley, as the top two teams in Group H of the Champions League go head-to-head.
“We’re very confident,” said Pochettino. “He’s on the list. Maybe it’s possible he can play tomorrow but I don’t want to say 100 per cent because we have one more day to assess him.
“Today and yesterday he was good at training. Now it’s with the medical staff and everyone to try to take the right decision, because it’s important to take the right decision.
“He was training with the group and was good - at the same level as the team. We must know now the feeling from him, after tonight and tomorrow - how he is going to feel and many other things. Then we take the best decision for him, first of all, and then for the team.”
Whether Kane starts or not, Pochettino can now call upon Alli, who was forced to sit out the first half of the Champions League group stage after receiving a three-match European ban last season – his punishment for a horrible tackle during February’s Europa League tie against Gent.
Alli has cut a frustrated figure at times this season, struggling to consistently maintain the form he has shown in the previous two campaigns – and Pochettino feels his inability to play on the biggest stage against Borussia Dortmund, Apoel Nicosia and Madrid may have played a part.
“It was a strange pre-season, a difficult pre-season for him for different reasons, and then he was banned and of course it can affect the motivation about preparing himself to compete,” said Spurs’ manager.
“Always for a player that’s not involved from the beginning in a very exciting competition, you feel a little bit down. You sometimes stay here at the training ground alone, training, and it’s not easy for everyone. Maybe he was affected a little bit about that.
“But now we’re so happy about the way he’s doing. His internal motivation is higher now to try to compete at his best level.
“The last three games that he’s played, we’re happy with his performances, and I think it’s increasing, his level. I’m not worried about him. Maybe he’s disappointed with himself that he’s not at his best but it’s coming - like winter is coming.”
Pochettino took Alli to Madrid for Spurs’ last game against Real at the Bernabeu a fortnight ago, and he continued: “The good thing was many players asked me about going, to be with the team.
“It was not only my decision. It was my final decision to take him but many players who were injured said ‘we want to stay with the team, it’s a good opportunity to stay’, and that I think is so important.
“Something starts to move in the group, in the club, to feel you’re part of the group and the project and everything. I think that is the last step that we need, to be stronger mentally.
“It’s not about running more, doing more sessions, tactical or playing in a different way. I think the last step for us as a group and a club is mental, and we must work very hard to try to change everything in the future.”
Real Madrid have won the Champions League in each of the last two seasons, but Pochettino picked two forwards for the away game at the Bernabeu - Fernando Llorente and Kane – and he intends to be positive again tomorrow.
“It’s a game where we must be brave,” he said. “When you’re going to play the best team in the world, if you’re not brave it’s so difficult - you start losing.
“If the mentality is right, it’s good. We’re going to play without fear and try to dominate the game, to win with that mentality.
“It’s not about the team, more the squad. It’s not about picking one or another player. The way we’ll play is to try to be brave and win.
“That is the key – to play every game with that type of feelings. We must remember that we must play with freedom and enjoy the game because if not, if fears start to appear, it’s difficult to show your real quality.
“I agree tomorrow is a game where, with all respect to Real Madrid, we must do our job and believe we can win. Then on the pitch we must show good quality, enjoy playing and try to be better than Real Madrid.”
Zidane’s Galacticos travel to Wembley on the back of a 2-1 defeat away against 13th-placed La Liga outfit Girona on Sunday, but Pochettino is reading little into the result.
Asked whether this is a good time to face the European champions, he said: “My answer will be tomorrow after the game.
“Sometimes you can believe it’s better after a defeat, or maybe when they’re relaxed and confident in the way they’re playing. You never know. They have unbelievable players and a very good team who can change quickly.
“Tomorrow they can compete at their best. For us it’s so important to be focused on us, not them. We’re not going to watch anything related to Girona.
“We only analyse the Champions League games, 15 days ago when we played against them, because I think Real Madrid have the capacity and quality to change completely from one game to another in two days, in the way they play.
“The performance can increase and maybe you won’t recognise them from one game to another. For us, it’s most important to be so focused on us, play well and do our job. We know what they’re capable of but the last game is not a reference.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs and visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BenPearceSpurs/