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Toby injury not as bad as Spurs first feared, says Pochettino

By Tom Allnutt

Mauricio Pochettino believes Toby Alderweireld could make a surprise return next week as Tottenham prepare to face Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League without their key defender.

Alderweireld was carried off on a stretcher during Saturday's draw against West Brom with what appeared to be pain in his knee, prompting fears the Belgian could face a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

The problem, however, is not too serious. Spurs were yet to receive the results of a scan yesterday but Pochettino believes Alderweireld could recover next week, putting him in line to play against Leicester in 11 days' time.

"We need to wait for the scan but we believe it's not a big issue," Pochettino said.

"He got a knock on his leg but it was better yesterday and today. We need to wait for the results of the scan but I hope it's nothing important.

"The moment he went down it was tough and from our position it was difficult to see what had happened.

"But it wasn't a big issue, a big knock, a heavy knock on his leg, but we hope it's not a big problem for the next week."

Alderweireld's absence in the short-term, however, is a major blow for Tottenham, given that he has been a star performer under Pochettino and integral to the team boasting the Premier League's best defensive record so far this season.

The most likely replacement in Germany is England international Eric Dier, who replaced his injured team-mate against West Brom, and whose place in midfield has become less essential due to the excellent form of Victor Wanyama.

Dier, who only recently recovered from a hamstring strain, has endured an underwhelming start to the campaign but he would appear the safest choice tonight.

Kevin Wimmer is out of favour and more comfortable in Jan Vertonghen's left side of central defence.

Pochettino also admitted it would be "difficult" to throw 18-year-old Cameron Carter-Vickers into such a high-pressure situation.

On Dier, Pochettino said: "The important thing is we trust in him. It's not important the position he will play - midfield, centre-back or full-back - we believe and trust in him.

"We trust him as a person and his skills.

"For me Eric is a player who can develop his game in different positions."

Tottenham can ill-afford a slip-up against Leverkusen, who have drawn both of their opening two games in Group E but can climb above their opponents with a victory.

Avoiding defeat at the BayArena and a win in the reverse fixture at Wembley next month would leave Spurs in a commanding position to qualify.

"It's important, we must win," Pochettino said.

"If we want to make it through to the next round then it is key to take three points from this game and to play at Wembley the same way.

"The next two games against Leverkusen for us hold the key to the possibility of going to the next round."

Kyle Walker, meanwhile, has not travelled with the squad as he is being rested, meaning Kieran Trippier is likely to start at right-back.

Mousa Dembele has overcome a foot problem and is available for selection.

But star England striker, and last season's top scorer, Harry Kane is still recovering from his long-term ankle ligament injury and stays on the sidelines.

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