Mauricio Pochettino has revealed he will not risk the long-term fitness of his World Cup stars and rush them back for Tottenham Hotspur’s first game of the Premier League season – even if supporters are upset by that decision.
Spurs face being without up to nine first-team players – all of whom played in the semi-finals of the World Cup 2018 (and therefore either the final or third-place play-off) – for their opening game against Newcastle United in eight days’ time.
Those nine potential absentees from Russia are not due back in training until five days before the Newcastle game, while Spurs’ preseason tour in the USA has left Victor Wanyama, Moussa Sissoko and Erik Lamela all injured, with Harry Winks also struggling with an ankle problem.
With no new signings to speak of yet – and only nine days left of the window – Pochettino is down to the bare bones going into the season but insisted he would refuse to risk the fitness of Hugo Lloris, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele at St James’ Park.
“On Monday morning they will start their job on the training ground,” said Pochettino following Tottenham’s 1-0 victory over AC Milan in their final preseason match, sealed by Georges-Kevin Nkoudou’s second goal in as many games.
“First we need to assess them and see what happens. Maybe some players looked after themselves and they’ve been training, maybe others rested.
“We are not going to take risks. If some players are not ready to play, they are not going to be involved at the weekend. That is so, so clear. If someone is not ready, he’s not going to be involved because we are not going to take risks.
“Of course, it’s not our fault. It’s the reality that happens and pushes us to take some decisions that doesn’t help the team from the beginning [of the season] but we need to help some players because after the World Cup, they need a minimum 20 days to rest and stop thinking about football.
“That is the reality. It is a massive challenge for us, because for us it never happened before and we need to be careful. We cannot play them because we need to or because the supporters will be disappointed [if they don’t play].
“We are going to look after them in the best way, try to help them and start to play when they will be ready – not before.”