Belfast Telegraph

Pochettino expects injury to rule Sissoko out of first Ajax tie

Tottenham v Brighton, Premier League, Tottenham Stadium, Tonight, 7.45pm

Latest casualty: Spurs’ Moussa Sissoko is on the injured list
Latest casualty: Spurs’ Moussa Sissoko is on the injured list

By Jonathan Veal

Tottenham's Champions League hopes have been hit with a huge blow with the news that Moussa Sissoko looks likely to miss the semi-final first leg against Ajax.

The midfielder, who is a candidate for the club's player of the season, suffered a groin injury in the quarter-final second-leg match at Manchester City and has been ruled out by boss Mauricio Pochettino for two weeks.

That would mean he misses the home leg of their last-four tie on April 30 - a game which another star, Son Heung-min, who has stepped up in Harry Kane's absence, is also suspended for.

Sissoko joins Kane in the treatment room ahead of tonight's Premier League clash with Brighton, while Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks will also be assessed.

"Moussa Sissoko is not going to be fit, maybe for the next two weeks. We hope he can recover before but I am not so optimistic," Pochettino said.

"Harry Winks we don't know because it is a problem that is one day very good, next day not very good, it is about assessing each day.

"Lloris, I hope yes. We are going to assess, we have a training session and we hope it is not a big issue, we hope he is going to be available."

With the Ajax tie looming large, it could be easy for Spurs' players to be focused solely on that, but results in the Premier League this weekend will sharpen their mind.

Even though they lost at City in their second game in 72 hours at the Etihad Stadium, their top-four chances were enhanced as Arsenal and Manchester United also lost. If they can beat Brighton and then West Ham at their new stadium, then they will go a long way to ensuring a fourth successive top-four finish.

"We are not thinking of Ajax," Pochettino added. "We showed at Manchester City that we are thinking in the today and that competition, the Premier League.

"Now our energy is in Brighton. It is so clear that we have two objectives - one is to be in the top four at the end of the season and the other is to beat Ajax, but we need to go step-by-step. The players, they know it, I think the behaviour and the mentality is perfect.

"You know very well if there is something wrong I see it and I am going to tell them, but I think they were very professional at City, the performance was very good and very professional."

Meanwhile, Chris Hughton has disputed Martin Keown's suggestion that Brighton's players have "downed tools" and are relying on results elsewhere to avoid relegation.

Pundit Keown accused Albion of lacking effort during their recent run of poor form.

The struggling Seagulls have failed to score during a five-match winless streak and sit just three points above 18th-placed Cardiff.

Asked whether he agreed with the comments of former Arsenal and England defender Keown, Albion boss Hughton said: "No, I certainly wouldn't. As with all pundits it's their job and responsibility to say what they think, but certainly no.

"Probably our poorest period came at the worst time. But that happens when you're playing in a division as difficult as this division and when you are the level of club that we are."

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