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Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has defended his decision not to include Toby Alderweireld in the squad for the Champions League last-16 first-leg tie against Juventus on Tuesday.
Alderweireld made his return from a long-term hamstring injury in Tottenham's FA Cup fourth-round replay against Newport last week but was subsequently left out of the North London derby on Saturday.
While the player is unhappy at missing out on the games against Arsenal and Juventus, Pochettino believes the Belgian centre-half is not fit enough to take on the Italian giants and he is not prepared to risk his wellbeing by including him in his squad.
“We understand the player was working hard to play in the Champions League, and it is normal that it is exciting to have the possibility to play. The player feels they are fit to play. But it is our responsibility, together with the medial department, to take the best decision," Pochettino told his pre-match press conference.
“It is easy to put the player in, and then the player is put at risk. OK, maybe you can take the risk. But with this type of injury, be careful. Look at different players that had setbacks, like [Ross] Barkley. He is not 20 years old, he is 28. He needs to work hard. To play these type of tough games, you need to be 200 per cent.
“It’s not the same training as when you compete. It was a massive injury and we needed to be cautious, because we cannot put his career at risk. We designed a plan from day one to provide him the best route to recover. For sure, he is going to have the opportunity to be strong after the injury.
“But we need to apply our common sense and be careful in the way we are going to use him in the first few weeks after he is fit for training. We were lucky to have the replay against Newport for him to start to feel the competition. He will be part of the team next Sunday against Rochdale, and we are going to assess him day by day.”
Tottenham's Champions League Round of 16 first-leg tie against Italian champions Juventus at the Juventus Stadium on Tuesday, 13 February is live on BT Sport 2 on the eir Sport pack [kick off 7.45pm].
Image: Getty Images/Mike Hewitt