Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld will not face Juventus on Tuesday as he believes the defender is not yet fit enough for a crunch Champions League tie.
Pochettino told Alderweireld he would miss the match in Turin during a conversation that lasted longer than two hours.
He told a press conference on Monday that to go up against a team like Juventus, every player needed to be at “200 per cent” fitness.
Alderweireld played 90 minutes against Newport in the FA Cup last week, having returned from a 14-week absence due to a hamstring tear.
The Belgian declared after the match he felt “very good” but was not included in the squad against Arsenal on Saturday and did not join Monday’s travelling party to Italy either.
“He is 28 and it was a massive injury that we need to take care and be cautious with because we cannot put his career at risk,” Pochettino said.
“To play this type of game you need to be 200 per cent. Competing is not the same as training and that’s why we are caring about him with our plan.”
Tottenham are still to persuade Alderweireld to extend his current contract, which expires in the summer of 2019, but Pochettino says this latest absence is down to nothing other than physical factors.
“We have a nice conversation after the Liverpool game. We explained during two hours – first it was a conversation with (assistant manager) Jesus (Perez) and for nearly two hours with Jesus and myself,” Pochettino said.
“We understand the player last season was working hard to try to play in the Champions League and it is normal, it is exciting to have the possibility to play.
“The player always feels they are fit to play but it is our responsibility together – the medical and fitness area – to take the best decision.
“For us it is easy to put the player to play and then if something wrong happens, the responsibility is with us. Then the player is put at risk.”
Tottenham face a gargantuan task at the Allianz Stadium, against a side that have conceded only one goal in their last 16 matches.
Juventus have also reached the Champions League final twice in the last three seasons while Spurs are into the knock-out stages for only the second time in their history, and first since 2011.
“I think Juventus is a massive club. We cannot compare with Juventus, in their history they won everything,” Pochettino said.
“Of course our dream is to reach the level of Juventus. We’re going to be competitive and we’ll see if we can compete tomorrow.”
Alderweireld is Tottenham’s only major absentee, meaning Pochettino could stick with the same team that beat Arsenal. Victor Wanyama could come in to add more resilience to the midfield.
Juventus have several key players out. Paulo Dybala is missing with a hamstring strain while Andrea Barzagli has joined Blaise Matuidi, Benedikt Howedes and Juan Cuadrado on the sidelines.