Alderweireld will not play for Spurs against Juventus next Wednesday
New setback for defender after he was out for three months with hamstring problem
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino: “We don’t take our decisions based on public opinion. When we take them it’s because we have assessed and analysed.” Photograph: Reuters
Mauricio Pochettino has made it plain Toby Alderweireld will not be fit for Tottenham’s Champions League match against Juventus next Wednesday. The central defender, who has a hamstring injury sustained in training last Thursday, is still recovering.
“He is still not participating with the group,” Pochettino said when asked about Alderweireld’s prospects for the Wembley leg of the last-16 tie, which is finely poised at 2-2. “The answer is clear.”
Alderweireld had returned from three months out with a hamstring problem in the FA Cup replay against Newport on February 7th. It was the longest lay-off of his career, and the injury was particularly problematic because, in his words, “there was a tear in the tendon, not only the muscle”.
Pochettino then omitted him for the league derby against Arsenal and the Champions League first leg against Juventus in Turin, claiming Alderweireld was not yet ready for top-level matches, and that, because of the severity of the problem, he had to be handled with care. It went down badly with Alderweireld.
He played all of the FA Cup draw at Rochdale on the Sunday before last – he will miss the replay at Wembley on Wednesday night – although he struggled to show his best level.
The 28-year-old has now damaged a different part of the same hamstring, and it is unclear how long he will be out. In a perverse way the setback has shone a light on why Pochettino chose to hold him back.
“Sometimes we are confused about what it means to be fit,” Pochettino said. “After you tear the muscle you can be fit to participate in training, but then it’s to be fit to play, and then [to be fit] to compete.
“Sometimes the people create an expectation and then we are the bad guys when we say ‘no, you cannot play,’ or ‘we start to build your fitness step by step.’
“We don’t take our decisions based on public opinion. When we take them it’s because we have assessed and analysed. We look after the whole situation, not just a bit of it. The people see this player is fit and he should play. It’s not like that, especially with this kind of injury.”
The broader picture for Alderweireld is that, when fit, he faces a battle to regain his starting place. In his absence Pochettino has liked Davinson Sánchez’s partnership with Jan Vertonghen.
New contract talks
Alderweireld’s new contract talks have reached impasse, and it is easy to pick up on the mood at the club – he has become a disposal asset. Owing to a contractual clause Alderweireld can be bought for £25 million in the summer of 2019. If Spurs can get more for him this summer they may take it.
Vertonghen will not play against Rochdale because of an ankle injury that caused him to miss the win at Crystal Palace on Sunday. Pochettino said he may return for the home game against Huddersfield on Saturday.