Argentinian Erik Lamela set to return for Spurs trip to Leicester
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Mauricio Pochettino has announced that Erik Lamela is finally available to make his long-awaited return for Tottenham, having missed the last 13 months through injury.
The Argentinian’s last game for Spurs was on October 25 last year, and he has since had operations on both of his hips.
The 25-year-old, who became a father for the first time on Saturday, is now set to return – probably as a substitute – at Leicester City on Tuesday night.
“It’s very good news because he is in contention for tomorrow,” said Pochettino. “After the training today he felt good and said ‘ok I am ready to move on and be available if you want’.
“It’s so important because we have a very busy schedule ahead. To have Erik available to help the team is so important. On Saturday his [girlfriend] had a baby. It’s fantastic news for him and more good news for him after one year out.
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“After one year we need to stay calm with him. He’s so important for the team because he’s one player more with different qualities to help the team in different situations during the game - but we cannot expect too much now, only to be happy. He will be involved again tomorrow in a competition. We hope that he will be important for us in the future.”
Asked if he ever doubted that Lamela would play again, Pochettino replied: “No, never doubts. We trusted in our medical staff and him and he’s a very competitive player, always focused on his recovery.
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“After a year it’s difficult for a player to be fit and find the feelings in the competition, when it’s a long-term injury.
“It’s never easy and the expectations need to be low. Maybe it’s similar to Danny Rose - after 10 months or a year, it’s similar.
“You need to provide them with the time to be fit and feel again the competition. With Lamela there’s no pressure on him, only to feel he’s a player in the competition again.”
Tottenham head to Leicester having taken just four points from their last four Premier League games – most recently losing at Arsenal and drawing 1-1 at home against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
That leaves them in fifth place, 13 points behind league leaders Manchester City. But, speaking at his press conference on Monday, Pochettino keenly pointed out repeatedly that his side have the same number of top-flight points as at this stage last season (24 points from 13 matches), while they are having a far better European campaign.
In his eyes, it shows Tottenham are still progressing.
“It’s true the gap after yesterday is a great gap that has Manchester City [away from] the rest of the contenders,” he said.
“We are in a similar position to last season. We have the same points, only we have finished first in the Champions League [group] this season, and last season we were out in this week.
“Manchester City have improved a lot from last season and the gap is massive. We’ll see what happens. We need to try to win games. If we don’t it’s difficult to be a contender.
“Of course in the Champions League we progress a lot. If you compare the Champions League last season and this season, the improvement is massive. It’s real.
“In the Premier League, if you compare statistics - and playing in our home like last season at White Hart Lane - I think we have the same points. It is nothing to complain about, only the reality and circumstances are different to last season.”
Asked whether Manchester City’s spending and dominance at the top of the table is ruining this season’s Premier League title chase, Pochettino said: “I think different clubs spend the same money as Manchester City and are below them.
“I think they’re doing very well and deserve to be there. Of course we want to win. We’re in a similar position to the last two or three seasons and of course we need to deliver our way. We cannot change because today another club is at the top with a massive gap.
“To assess the last three seasons, you can see it’s not easy to compete in the Premier League and in the Champions League and have the same performance.
“Last season I remember I told you it was difficult to cope with the pressure of playing and competing in the Premier League and Champions League, and today I think we have the same points as last season in the Premier League. Last season it was fantastic because the gap with Manchester City didn’t exist, and we were fifth or fourth, but we were out of the Champions League.
“In this season we finished first against Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Apoel, and we have the same points (in the league).
“The team has improved – maybe not enough to win the Premier League so far but we are competing of course and we feel proud, because the team is building a fantastic structure, and we need time.
“In time you never know, you can win a title when sometimes you don’t expect it, or sometimes when you expect it. But 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 having the capacity in the last three seasons to fight for the top four and the Premier League.
“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.”
Harry Winks is a doubt for the trip to Leicester due to illness, and Pochettino has said Mousa Dembele “has a lot of chance to play tomorrow”.