Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has cast doubt over Toby Alderweireld’s
chances of facing Juventus in the Champions League next week.
Spurs host the Serie A champions at Wembley Stadium next Wednesday with the last-16 tie level at 2-2 following the first leg in Turin earlier this month.
Alderweireld, who remains in protracted talks over a new contract at Spurs, is yet to resume training after suffering a tweak in the same hamstring which kept him sidelined for four months this season.
The Belgium international has not played a Premier League game since October, despite declaring himself fit in January.
Mauricio Pochettino believes the proposed winter break for the Premier League should not affect traditional festive fixtures
“He is still recovering. He is still not participating with the group,” said Pochettino.
“When you tear a muscle, then you are fit but fit to participate in training. And then, it’s to be fit to play, and then to compete. It’s a different process and sometimes it’s longer, depending on the injury.
“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.
“It’s our responsibility sometimes, but it’s impossible to explain everything. It’s just to be careful about the player because we want Toby 100 per cent ready to play.
“And then it’s my decision to pick him. But if you have your best player at 100 per cent, it’s sure that he increases your level and he’s going to help.
“But we don’t take our decisions based on public opinion. We are professional and when we take a decision, it’s because we have assessed and analysed, we have thought 100 times to try to take the best decision for the team and for the player.”
Tottenham face Rochdale on Wednesday night in their FA Cup fifth-round replay and could set themselves up for a semi-final at their temporary Wembley home.
Pochettino has dismissed suggestions Spurs hold an unfair advantage should they reach the last four.
He said: “Now it’s an advantage?
“Whereas before it was a disadvantage. Remember the Wembley hoodoo?
“I laugh, but it’s not an advantage. Because we are playing at a stadium that is massive motivation for our opponent to play. To have the opportunity to play there.
“But it’s true that now the team is feeling good, comfortable. Yes, we start to feel like it’s like home.”