Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

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I wouldn't trade Harry Kane for anyone in the world, says Tottenham defender

 

By Tom Allnutt

Jan Vertonghen has said he would not swap Harry Kane for any other player on the planet on current form, as the prolific Tottenham striker prepares to return to first-team action.

Kane is set to return from a minor hamstring injury in this evening's game against Real Madrid, providing a timely boost for a side coming off the back of two consecutive defeats against West Ham and Manchester United.

He trained with the squad on Monday and yesterday, offering an A-okay sign to photographers who enquired as to whether he would be fit for the Wembley showdown.

And while his manager Mauricio Pochettino was a little more circumspect, refusing to guarantee Kane would start, the general feeling is that he has sufficiently recovered from the niggle sustained against Liverpool 10 days ago to make his re-entrance.

"We are very confident," Pochettino said. "He is on the list. We have one more day to assess him, but I think it can be possible for him to be available to play. He is now training with the group and was good, at the same level of the team.

"But I don't want to say 100 per cent, because we have one more day. Today and yesterday were good with the training, and now it's with the medical staff and everyone to try to take the right decision."

Asked to compare Kane with Cristiano Ronaldo, who Tottenham will face for the second time in two weeks, Vertonghen said: "They are both unbelievable players. Ronaldo has his qualities and Harry has his. We have to show respect to Ronaldo for what he has won, his level and how he is still doing it.

"Harry, for me, is one of the best No.9s in Europe - maybe the best. He shows that every week and I wouldn't swap Harry for any player at the moment. Having him is always a major boost.

"Definitely, we can beat (Real Madrid). That is our intention, with or without Harry Kane."

Pochettino will at least have the attacking threat of Dele Alli to call upon, with the 21-year-old available after missing Tottenham's first three Champions League ties through suspension.

Alli travelled with the squad to Madrid last month, a move aimed at making the youngster feel included.

"When a player is not involved, you feel a little bit down," Pochettino said. "Sometimes he had to stay at the training ground alone. It was not easy for anyone. Maybe he was affected a little bit by that.

"Now we're so happy with what he's doing. His internal motivation is higher now, to try to compete at his best level. We're very happy with his performances, he's increasing his level.

"I'm not worried about him. It's true, he's disappointed too that he's not at his best. But it's coming."

Tottenham sit level with Real on seven points in Group H and it would appear a good time to play the European champions, who slipped to a shock La Liga defeat against Girona on Sunday.

They will also be without injured trio Gareth Bale, Keylor Navas and Raphael Varane at Wembley but Pochettino is taking nothing for granted.

"We're not going to watch anything related to Girona. We only analyse the Champions League games and 15 days ago when we played them," Pochettino said.

"I think Real Madrid have the capacity and quality to change completely in two days."

Victory, however, would put Spurs not only in a strong position to qualify for the knockout stages but to progress as group winners. After travelling to Dortmund, they finish at home to Apoel Nicosia.

"That's the last step we need - mental," Pochettino said. "It's not about training harder or running more. The last step is mental for us as a club and it's about working hard to change everything in the future."

• Sergio Ramos has called on Real Madrid to stick together and share the blame for poor performances collectively rather than individually.

Zinedine Zidane's side's defeat at Girona on Sunday left them floundering in the title race as they drifted eight points off league leaders Barcelona.

"Nobody is to blame," Ramos said. "Everybody can do more, that is always the case. When you win, you do that as a team and it is the same when you lose.

"It's the wrong time to point fingers at anyone in particular because we can always give more as a team and individuals.

"Had we have taken our chances in the first half it would have been a different game but maybe our intensity did drop.

"Girona had a bit of luck with their winner but they performed magnificently and set up well.

"We cannot feel sorry for ourselves and must learn from these mistakes. It wouldn't be the first time we've recovered eight points."

Belfast Telegraph

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