Erik Lamela to make Tottenham Hotspur return after over a year out
Erik Lamela has been included in the Tottenham squad for the first time in over a year for Tuesday's Premier League match at Leicester City. Lamela, who became a father for the first time on Saturday, has been sidelined with problems in both hips since last playing in the League Cup defeat to Liverpool in October last year.
Since he last featured 13 months ago, the winger has undergone double-hip surgery, spent time in his home city of Buenos Aires on compassionate leave and returned to former club Roma for treatment.
The 25-year-old has been training with the first team since Oct. 11 but Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino said he was finally ready to return to the squad at the King Power Stadium.
"It's very good news because he is in contention for tomorrow," Pochettino told a news conference on Monday. "After the training today he felt good and said, 'OK, I am ready to move on and be available if you want.' "I think it's so important because we have a very busy schedule ahead. Always to have Erik available to help the team is so important.
Saturday his wife [girlfriend] had a baby. Fantastic news for him and more good news for him after one year out. "After one year we need to stay calm with him. He's so important for the team because he's one player more with different qualities to help the team in different situations during the game.
It's true we cannot expect too much now, only to be happy. He will be involved again tomorrow in a competition. We hope that he will be important for us in the future."
Asked if he ever doubted if Lamela would play again, Pochettino insisted: "No, never doubts. We trusted in our medical staff and him that he's a very competitive player, always focused on his recovery.
"It's true that after a year it's difficult for a player to be fit and find the feelings in the competition when it's an injury for long term. Always it's not easy and the expectations need to be low. Maybe similar to Danny Rose, after 10 months or year it's similar.
"You need to provide them the time to be fit and feel again the competition. With Lamela there's no pressure on him, only to feel he's a player in the competition again. "Of course he's going to help us, but I think it's so important because we have [a] massive, busy schedule in the future and it's always important to have a player with his quality to help the team."
Pochettino conceded again that the gap to league leaders Manchester City, now 13 points, is "massive" but he was keen to point out that fifth-placed Spurs have exactly the same number of points after 13 games as last season, when they finished second.
"We have the same points as last season in the Premier League, and we were fifth or fourth, but we were out of the Champions League -- and in this season we finished first [in the Champions League group] against Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Apoel, and we have the same points [in the league]," he said.
"The team has improved -- maybe not enough to win the Premier League so far but we are competing and we feel proud because the team is building a fantastic structure, and we need time.
"In time you never know, you can win a title when sometimes you don't expect it, or sometimes when you expect it. If you remember everything that happened three years ago, no one would believe we would be talking about finishing first, beating Dortmund and Real Madrid and finishing first in the Champions League and [to] have the capacity in the last three seasons to fight for the top four and the Premier League.
"We were talking about in the next three or four seasons arriving to the new stadium and trying to reduce the gap to the top four, and now we are involved in the battle for the best competitions in the world."