Toby Alderweireld and Tottenham Hotspur know what to expect from Arsenal’s new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
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The centre back reflects on his three-month injury lay-off and what he needed to do to ensure he returned fully fit
Tottenham Hotspur’s returning defender Toby Alderweireld is ready for a battle of wits with Arsenal’s new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang if he is selected for Saturday’s north London derby.
Alderweireld made his comeback from a three-month injury lay-off in Wednesday’s FA Cup clash against Newport County, and Mauricio Pochettino is now deciding whether to field him against Spurs’ bitter rivals this weekend.
If he keeps his place he is likely to line up against Aubameyang, who has scored four goals in four games against Spurs in the last two years, having faced the Lilywhites in the 2015/16 Europa League and in this season’s Champions League group stage with Borussia Dortmund.
The £56million man netted on his Arsenal debut against Everton last weekend, and Alderweireld is fully aware of the challenge that lies in store.
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“Like everyone knows, he’s very quick, he’s a good finisher, he has it all,” said the Belgian. “He’s in a good moment now as well so it’s going to be very difficult to beat him but I think we’ll be ready for it.
“You have to work your mind against him. One against one, on the same line, he will beat you, so you have to be very clever - you have to read the situation and try to beat him with your head.”
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Alderweireld has only just recovered from a hamstring injury sustained during Spurs’ victory over Real Madrid on November 1.
He missed 20 matches during his recovery but is pleased to be back in time for Saturday’s derby and the resumption of Tottenham’s Champions League campaign, as the Lilywhites prepare to visit Juventus in the last 16 next Tuesday.
“It was a difficult period mentally but if you have a goal in your head, that’s what you work towards every day,” said Alderweireld. “The goal was just to be back as quickly as possible, but of course you have these kinds of games that you want to be involved in.
“It was my longest injury ever. It was a little bit unfortunate. There was a tear in the tendon, not only the muscle, and it just takes time.
“It was a proper hamstring injury and the risk of re-tearing it was very big. That’s why we took our time and worked very hard so my muscles are ready for this type of game and to play a lot of games again.
“It was a difficult period for me. On the other hand, it was three months - in a football career it’s not that long. I’m 28 and I’m lucky I’ve never had a knee injury or something, which would be a lot worse.
“Three months is difficult but we worked very hard to get to this point. It could have been even longer but because we worked hard, were very clever, doing the right things, I’m back playing today.
“We did the right things – don’t start too early, train a lot of weeks so the muscle is ready to compete.”
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