Mauricio Pochettino ready to axe first-team player to fit Erik Lamela into Tottenham's Champions League squad

Jack Pitt-Brooke
The Independent
Erik Lamela is set to be named in Tottenham's Champions League squad: Getty
Erik Lamela is set to be named in Tottenham's Champions League squad: Getty

Mauricio Pochettino is ready to axe a first-team player to fit Erik Lamela back into his squad for the Champions League knock-out rounds.

Tottenham Hotspur will face Italian champions Juventus in the last-16 but Lamela is not currently eligible, having been left out of Spurs’ squad for the group stages. But Lamela has just returned to action after a whole year out with a persistent hip injury and has impressed in his contributions so far.

But for Pochettino to put Lamela back in, he would have to remove another senior non-homegrown player from his current list. Georges Kevin N’Koudou, who has struggled again to make an impact this season, is likeliest to be in the firing line.

“Of course, we are thinking about that,” Pochettino confirmed when asked about this at his Thursday press conference. “I cannot lie. We are thinking about it. We will see what happens regarding ins or outs in January because we need to consider to provide one place to Erik.”

If N’Koudou, or another player, is removed from the European squad then he may also be loaned for the second half of the season. “We will see what happens because of course, when January arrives, different players have different ideas, different challenges,” Pochettino said.

“Yes, we are going to consider that [loaning a player out]. If we want to provide Erik a place in the Champions League squad, we need someone to go. But we will see what happens in the next few weeks because we have time until the end of January.”

Tottenham travel to Burnley on Saturday, hoping to turn around their away form. They have taken just one point from their last five away games in the Premier League, and that at struggling Watford. Pochettino was full of praise for Sean Dyche’s “simple but difficult” style that has made Turf Moor such a difficult place to go for opposition teams.

“They are so tough, such a physical team,” Pochettino said. “They play simple but it’s difficult sometimes to play simple as well as they do. We need to be ready to fight because they are such athletic players, tough players and they manage the long ball so well with two or three strikers that are so big and the second ball. Midfielders that play so well. It doesn’t surprise me that they are doing so well because they have good quality.”

So can Burnley do the unthinkable and qualify for the Champions League? “Two years ago, Leicester won the Premier League,” Pochettino pointed out. “In football, all can happen. And of course they are doing so well. It will be tough because they are competing with big sides and so are we. In football, all can happen.”

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