Boost for Tottenham as Jan Vertonghen set to face Ajax in Amsterdam
Belgian defender suffered head injury in first-leg defeat to Dutch side
Jan Vertonghen during Tottenham Hotspur’s training session at the Johan Cruyff Arena ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg against Ajax on Wednesday. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen could return for his side’s Champions League semi-final, second leg against Ajax on Wednesday after suffering a head injury in last week’s 1-0 home defeat.
In a boost for the London club the former Ajax player trained on Tuesday wearing a face mask to protect his injured nose, which was broken in a sickening clash of heads with team-mate and fellow Belgium international Toby Alderweireld.
Vertonghen, who attempted to play on last week before being substituted after seemingly struggling to stand up, missed his side’s Premier League defeat at Bournemouth on Saturday. The club said last week he had not suffered a concussion.
There was less good news, however, with fellow defender Davinson Sanchez ruled out with a thigh injury picked up in the defeat at Bournemouth on Saturday.
“He [Vertonghen] suffered nothing wrong more than cutting his nose,” manager Mauricio Pochettino told reporters.
“A lot of players keep playing with the same situation. If he is tomorrow fit, and we believe that, then we want to give him the possibility to play. I don’t think he needs a mask.”
Tottenham, who face a daunting task to reach their first Champions League final, are also without leading striker Harry Kane but Son Heung-min, suspended for the first leg, will be back to offer Pochettino some added firepower. Forward Erik Lamela is also available.
Ajax are bidding to reach their first Champions League final for 23 years and will be favourites after Donny van de Beek’s goal in north London last week.
Only one team of the 17 who have lost a Champions League semi-final, first leg at home have overturned the tie – when Ajax overhauled Panathinaikos in the second leg in 1995/96.
Pochettino said the situation should allow his side to play with more freedom in the Johan Cruyff Arena.
“The negative result in the first leg obviously makes it more difficult tomorrow, but the tie is still open,” the Argentine said. “We know we need to win and perform to our best. It’s an exciting moment for us.
“We need to feel more freedom to play tomorrow, because we have nothing to lose.”
Pochettino was in a playful mood and even suggested he would “go home” if Tottenham went on to win the Champions League – pricking up the ears of the assembled media
Asked to clarify, he said: “To win the Champions League with Tottenham, in this circumstance, maybe I need to think to do something different in the future.”
“But sure, whatever happens tomorrow, I go home.”