Tottenham Hotspur’s English midfielder Dele Alli celebrates scoring the team’s second goal during the FA Cup semi-final football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley stadium in London on April 22, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS
Mauricio Pochettino is hoping for a surge up the Premier League table now he is close to being able to unleash his strongest Tottenham team on surprise packages Burnley.
Spurs dropped to seventh in the Premier League table following last week’s 4-1 drubbing at leaders Manchester City, their second defeat in five league games.
That put them back below Burnley, who they visit on Saturday evening. Tottenham could overtake their hosts with a win against Sean Dyche’s team, and put pressure on fourth-placed Liverpool and Arsenal, who are fifth.
Defender Davinson Sanchez is back following a three-match ban and Pochettino is hopeful that two more key men — Toby Alderweireld and Victor Wanyama — can also feature in a busy period that sees Spurs host Southampton on December 26 before clashes with Swansea and West Ham.
Alderweireld is set to return from the hamstring injury he suffered against Real Madrid in November while Kenyan Wanyama, absent with a knee problem since August, is back in full training.
“When you lose, it is human nature to miss who wasn’t on the pitch,” Pochettino said.
“Wanyama is very close, Toby is doing well and we are very close to having everyone fit.
“The team trusts each other and in what we are doing.
“We need to keep going and belief is so important, to change the dynamic, win games and be close to the top four. It is a long way until the end of the season.”
England duo Harry Kane and Dele Alli are available, although both came close to red cards at City for challenges many referees would have ruled were straight reds.
– Protecting Alli –
Kane’s lunge on Raheem Sterling was deemed out of character but Alli, who stamped on Kevin de Bruyne, has a history of reckless tackling.
Pochettino vowed to keep helping the 21-year-old, whose form on the pitch has been less consistent than Kane’s.
“It is a massive time for him, he is an important player for us and England too,” he said. “He is young and we need to understand that youngsters sometimes are maybe not at his best.”
He said Spurs needed to provide Alli with “better tools” if he is re-discover the form that made him such a hot property.
“I am happy with him, it is our responsibility to try and help. This week was good for him but we need to understand he is only 21,” the Argentinian said.
No team in the Premier League has a better defensive record than Burnley, who have conceded just 12 goals in 18 league matches.
Dyche’s side have kept clean sheets in each of their last three games, including the 0-0 draw at Brighton, although that point came at a cost as centre-back James Tarkowski was retrospectively banned for three matches by the Football Association on Thursday, after admitting violent conduct.
Tarkowski was caught by TV cameras elbowing Glenn Murray in the ribs after the Brighton striker had grabbed him by the hand he had injured in an earlier incident.
The suspension means Kevin Long will slot in alongside Ben Mee in central defence, while Matt Lowton may return at right-back after five games out with a knee injury.
Dyche said: “We’re a little bit stretched for the first time, with injuries, and when you add in a suspension, it does make things stretched.”