Jan Vertonghen

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Vertonghen: “We need to level up” like rest of PL contenders

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Tottenham put up a heck of a title fight in 2016/17 as the club attempted to chase down Premier League champions Chelsea, but Spurs have been inactive this summer as Mauricio Pochettino‘s group gears up for next month.

[ MORE: Striker Morata signs five-year contract with Chelsea ]

The London side finished second in the PL a season ago — a record-high for the club during the modern Premier League Era.

[ VIDEO: History of the North London Derby ]

However, Pochettino and Co. have made no moves in the transfer market this summer, while its competitors — Chelsea, Manchester United, etc. — have all made significant roster additions to bolster their lineups.

Defender Jan Vertonghen says that Spurs must compete with the rest of the PL’s elite in the transfer market if the club is to finally realize its goal of finishing atop England’s top flight.

“The way our rivals are strengthening this season, we need to be aware of that and we need to level up as well,” Vertonghen told ESPN FC.

“I’m not saying with new players, but we need to take our levels up and I think we can. I’m the oldest outfield player in the team and I feel very fit. The younger guys can improve even more. It can definitely be our year and we want it to be our year.

“Luckily we almost kept everyone from this year. Obviously the window is not closed yet but if we can keep these guys, we can do the same thing again. It’ll be a bit harder because we play at Wembley! [The pitch] is a lot bigger but the training pitches have already been adapted.

While Spurs certainly benefit from having one of the strongest young groups of players in England, the club’s lack of spending is a bit concerning, especially after its recent loss of Kyle Walker — who joined Manchester City for a record fee.

Watch Live: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City (Lineups, Stream)

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The penultimate Premier League match of the weekend pits Stoke City against third-place Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Sunday (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Jan Vertonghen is back alongside Toby Alderweireld in the heart of Spurs’ back line, and it’s no surprise that PL Download stars Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris also start.

Geoff Cameron‘s four-month layoff appears to be reaching its end, as the USMNT back is on the subs bench for Stoke City. He last played on Oct. 22.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Walker, Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Wanyama, Dembele, Eriksen, Alli, Kane. Subs: Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Winks, Sissoko, Son, Janssen.

Stoke City: Grant; Bardsley, Shawcross, Martins Indi, Pieters; Whelan, Adam; Arnautovic, Allen, Ramadan; Crouch. Subs: Given; Muniesa, Berahino, Afellay, Diouf, Cameron, Imbula.

Vertonghen to miss 2 months with ankle ligament damage

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Jan Vertronghen is expected to miss at least two months while recovering from ankle ligament damage, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time, with Tottenham Hotspur currently second in the Premier League, seven points back of leaders Chelsea.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Vertonghen suffered the injury in the 65th minute of Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion, when he went full-stretch to clear the ball along the sideline before landing on the outside of his left foot, causing the ankle to roll violently. The 29-year-old Belgian international was in clear, visible agony as he sat on the field at White Hart Lane and eventually limped down the tunnel.

The Guardian described the injury as “a tear lying between grades two and three, damage which had left Vertonghen in tears as he departed the turf at White Hart Lane and would normally rule him out at the very least until mid-March.”

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

In the meantime, Kevin Wimmer and Ben Davies will be tasked with filling the void for a Tottenham side which has conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season (14 in 21 games). (As a small aside, 19-year-old American center back Cameron Carter-Vickers is likely set for a handful of appearances as well, perhaps in the Europa League round of 32 and FA Cup fourth round, with Wimmer and Davies called upon for additional PL service.)

Wimmer filled in for Vertonghen for nearly three months last season, at the exact same point of the campaign (Jan. 20 through April 2). In Wimmer’s 10 PL starts during that stretch (Vertonghen out with knee ligament damage), Spurs conceded seven goals (seven wins and two draws). The loss of Toby Aldeweireld, for nearly two months back in October of this season, proved a far greater blow (two wins in six PL games), and Spurs should once again manage just fine for as long as Aldeweireld remains healthy alongside Eric Dier, Wimmer and Davies.

Pochettino gives injury update on Tottenham’s Vertonghen

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Tottenham Hotspur battered West Bromwich Albion 4-0 on Saturday to move second in the Premier League as they recorded a sixth-straight win.

[ MORE: Messi to Premier League? ]

But that victory, courtesy of a Harry Kane hat trick, looks to have come at a cost.

Belgian center back Jan Vertonghen, 29, twisted his ankle in the second half and hobbled off injured with 25 minutes to go.

Speaking after the game Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino confirmed that it is not looking good for Vertonghen.

“It looks bad for Jan,” Pochettino said. “We need to wait to assess him better on Sunday or Monday. He is very disappointed.”

Vertonghen was injured in January last season and missed a big chunk of Spurs’ campaign. He also suffered a left ankle injury in the summer which kept him out of Belgium’s EURO 2016 campaign.

With Spurs favoring a 3-4-3 formation in recent weeks, losing one of their key central defenders will be a big blow for Pochettino but the likes of Ben Davies could slot in on the left-hand side of a three-man defense like he has for the Welsh national team in the past. Or, perhaps most likely, Pochettino may go back to a 4-2-3-1 with Danny Rose at left back, Kyle Walker at right back and a central defensive partnership of Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld.

Whatever way you look at it, this is a big blow for Spurs just as they closed the gap to PL leaders Chelsea to four points.

Vertonghen out injured, will miss rest of EURO 2016

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Belgium have been handed a big blow on the eve of their EURO 2016 quarterfinal against Wales as Jan Vertonghen has been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament.

[ MORE: Full PL preseason schedule ]

Vertonghen, 29, has started all four of Belgium’s games at left back and now Marc Wilmots will have to reshuffle his back line ahead of the game in Lille on Friday.

Tottenham’s central defender tore two ligaments in his left ankle after twisting it in a training session and is expected to miss at least 6-8 weeks.

That means he is also likely to miss most of Tottenham’s preseason and the first few games of the 2016-17 Premier League campaign.

[ MORE: Zlatan confirms United move ]

The former Ajax man has been a pivotal figure for Belgium in recent years and his absence could thrust Jordan Lukaku — that’s right, Romelu’s brother — into the limelight as Thomas Vermaelen is suspended. That means Jason Denayer will likely play at center back with Lukaku on the left, as Belgium is of course also missing captain and center back Vincent Kompany through injury.

Eden Hazard, the vice-captain, spoke about Vertonghen’s absence at Belgium’s press conference in Lille ahead of the showdown with Wales.

“I am used to playing with Jan up the left flank. We’ll have to adapt. We hope we’ll be ready tomorrow night,” Hazard said.

Wales could’ve just been handed a huge boost in their quest to reach the semifinals of EURO 2016 as Gareth Bale and Co. will face a makeshift Belgium defense.

It’s worth noting these two teams met in the qualifying stages, with Wales beating Belgium 1-0 in Cardiff and also drawing 0-0 against them in Brussels.

Advantage Wales?