Pochettino Spurs manager weighs fitness worries for crucial Monaco clash

Spurs have had a sluggish European campaign and a defeat could end their prospects of reaching the last 16.

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Tottenham Hotspurs players, seen in April 2016, have had one day less to recover from their weekend game than upcoming opponents Monaco, their manager Mauricio Pochettino said play

Tottenham Hotspurs players, seen in April 2016, have had one day less to recover from their weekend game than upcoming opponents Monaco, their manager Mauricio Pochettino said

(AFP/File)
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Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is refusing to "take risks" with any of his players for Tuesday's must-win Champions League clash at free-scoring Monaco.

Spurs have had a sluggish European campaign and a defeat or even a draw in the Mediterranean principality could end their prospects of reaching the last 16, depending how Bayer Leverkusen fare in the other Group E game at CSKA Moscow.

Despite that Pochettino is wary of asking too much of players who have recently had spells on the sidelines and took part in Saturday's dramatic 3-2 win over West Ham United in the Premier League.

"Our selection will depend on whether players like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Moussa Dembele can play 90 minutes or not. We don't want to take risks with them," the Argentine told a press conference at the Stade Louis II on Monday.

"We've had one day less than Monaco to recover (from their weekend game). We need to see whether players have fully recovered or not. Some players might need to start on the bench and then come on and make an impact."

Tottenham players react after during the UEFA Europe League Round of 16 first leg football match against Borussia Dortmund March 10, 2016 play

Tottenham players react after during the UEFA Europe League Round of 16 first leg football match against Borussia Dortmund March 10, 2016

(AFP/File)

Kane played the whole match against West Ham having only just returned from an ankle injury, while Alli has been struggling with a knee injury and Dembele has a niggling foot problem.

Erik Lamela and defensive duo Toby Alderweireld and Ben Davies are out of the game.

The victory over West Ham, in which Spurs came from 2-1 down thanks to two late goals by Kane, was a first win in eight matches for the north London club.

If their Champions League form has been patchy, there is cause for optimism. After all, while they have lost to Monaco and Leverkusen in "home" matches at Wembley, they have claimed four points from previous trips to Germany and Moscow, both without conceding a goal.

"I think it's a game we must win and we need to find a way to do it. We need to be clever and follow our plan and try to win. Taking risks or not taking risks? Football is about balance," Pochettino added.

There is much at stake, and while elimination with a game to spare is a possibility, a victory could lift Spurs up to second place and keep alive their chances of topping the group.

Prolific Monaco

Tottenham have the best defensive record in the Premier League, but opponents Monaco have shaken off a reputation as a dour, defensive side to boast the most prolific attack in Europe's big five leagues this season.

Monaco have scored 39 times in 13 league games this season, an average of three a game that has left Real Madrid, Barcelona and Liverpool trailing.

"Monaco are playing very well and have found it easy to kill off games, as they did against Lorient last weekend," said Tottenham and France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who began his career just along the Cote d'Azur at Nice.

Tottenham Hotspurs head coach Mauricio Pochettino, seen November 6, 2016, said the team's upcoming match against Monaco is "a game we must win" play

Tottenham Hotspurs head coach Mauricio Pochettino, seen November 6, 2016, said the team's upcoming match against Monaco is "a game we must win"

(AFP)

"We're expecting a tough game. They're on a fine run. We're ambitious and we have no option but to win."

Thirteen different players have found the net for Monaco this season, including a rejuvenated Radamel Falcao, who has scored nine times altogether.

Given that they need only draw the game to progress to the last 16, they could be forgiven for deploying a slightly more cautious approach.

But coach Leonardo Jardim said: "The message is clear: the players will not go out to play for a draw, but to win."

They have no injury worries, with Joao Moutinho fit again, but the biggest concern for both teams could be the weather, with rain in the region on Monday forecast to continue well into Tuesday.

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