Toby Alderweireld

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Davinson delights Pochettino, who predicts “massive” strides

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It’s still very early days for Davinson Sanchez as a Tottenham Hotspur player, but the early returns are extremely positive as the Colombian center back has featured in 14 of the club’s 17 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Dortmund again to win group with Real Madrid ]

What’s more encouraging than Sanchez’s initial performances? The 21-year-old’s “massive” room for improvement and the expectation he’ll one day soon be one of the world’s best defenders, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

After signing for Spurs in August, Sanchez went straight into Pochettino’s starting lineup, slotted in between stalwarts Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who together last season led the defense with the PL’s best record (26 goals conceded in 38 games), as part of a back-three. Sanchez has taken to Tottenham like a duck to water, in Pochettino’s estimation — quotes from ESPN FC:

“You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one-versus-one. How many central defenders can play one-versus-one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running. I think not many center backs in the world can do this.

“Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?”

“We expect more from him, but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old, but he shows more maturity [than that], and he’s so aggressive when he’s marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he’s good, but I think he can improve.

“There is massive scope to improve potentially, it’s massive for him. In only a few months, he’s showing he’s doing a fantastic job for us. [He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique.

“We need with him one and a half months or two months preseason every day, and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level. I think he’s one of the best today, but has potential to improve a lot more.

“Because he’s so clever, and he’s very humble, and he’s very open to learn, he’s a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he’s so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best center halves in the world.”

To state the completely obvious, Pochettino was wise to utilize Aldeweireld and Vertonghen as training wheels for Sanchez, if you will, upon his arrival. His athleticism and pace make him 1) the ideal complement to a pair of players who read the game so well; and, 2) perfectly positioned to operate as the last-man, emergency defender on the rare occasion either Belgian is breached.

[ MORE: Liverpool host Chelsea in massive top-four clash ]

For the first time all season, Sanchez started out wide in Alderweireld’s absence (hamstring) against Arsenal last weekend, and for the first time since his arrival, he appeared a flawed — which is to say, human — defender. To his credit, Sanchez gave a quality account of himself on the whole, and finished the game much stronger than he’d started.

No one was more aware of this than Pochettino, though, as he slid Eric Dier into Aldeweireld’s spot for Tuesday’s Champions League triumph over Borusia Dortmund, again deploying Sanchez in the middle. With Aldeweireld expected to miss a couple more weeks at minimum, the Tottenham teamsheet should routinely read Vertonghen-Sanchez-Dier from left to right until he returns.

Spurs’ Alderweireld injured in first half vs. Real Madrid

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Tottenham Hotspur center back Toby Alderweireld has left Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League visit from Real Madrid within 25 minutes of kickoff at Wembley Stadium.

Alderweireld was running alongside Casemiro in the Real 18-yard box, and looked to have injured his hamstring.

[ MORE: Projecting USMNT roster ]

Moussa Sissoko entered the fray, with Eric Dier dropping into the back three with Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez.

Spurs also count Juan Foyth amongst center back options with Crystal Palace visiting Wembley Stadium at 7 a.m. ET Sunday.

Dele Alli scored soon after the substitution to give Spurs a 1-0 lead.

APOEL Nicosia 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur: Kane nets hat trick

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Cyprus has been kind to Harry Kane.

The English striker scored thrice for Spurs, who join group mates Real Madrid on six points after a 3-0 win at APOEL Nicosia in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

The Bernabeu is next for Spurs, an Oct. 17 date with 2-0 Real Madrid, while APOEL will host Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]  

Hugo Lloris flubbed an early clearance and was fortunate to see the back-bounding ball dribble wide of his left post.

Carlao could’ve given APOEL a surprise lead close to halftime but headed wide of the net from within 10 yards.

Kane nearly added an assist to his ledger at the start of the second half, but Son Heung-min just missed his effort wide of the frame.

He scored another goal anyway, and another one. Moussa Sissoko set Kane up for the second of the night, a relatively simple finish for the striker, and Kane completed his trio of goals when he headed Kieran Trippier‘s cross home.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Spurs-Chelsea: Three stars who shone (and three who went dim)

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In a match that begged for the best, two of Spurs’ biggest characters stood out in masterful performances at White Hart Lane.

One of those was dynamite all match long, while the other made due with the rare chances allowed by the visitors as Spurs beat Chelsea 2-0 to move into third place in the Premier League and stop Chelsea’s bid for an unprecedented 14-straight PL wins.

[ MORE: Recap | Three things ]

Just missing out? Spurs backstop Hugo Lloris, who made a terrific save on Diego Costa, as well as center midfielders N'Golo Kante, Nemanja Matic, and Mousa Dembele.

Stars who shone…

  1. Christian Eriksen — The Dane was roaring from minute one, and his service on both of Dele Alli‘s goals was superb.
  2. Dele Alli — Wasn’t a standout over the course of the match, but took his pair of chances well to give him seven goals in his last four PL matches.
  3. Toby Alderweireld — Here’s your weekly reminder that Spurs are simply a much better team when the ex-Saints and Atleti back is in the middle of the back four.

 

…And those who went dim

  1. Cesar Azpilicueta — He’s been one of the best defenders in the league this season, but was the the last man with a look at the looping crosses before Dele headed them home.
  2. Victor Moses — And Moses was behind Azpilicueta on both goals. One to forget for one of the renaissance stories of Chelsea’s season.
  3. Pedro — Frittered away possession and got into a shouting match with teammate and star striker Diego Costa. Disappointing.

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Kane, Alderweireld out for Spurs; could make Arsenal game

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Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed that both Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld will miss their crucial home game in the UEFA Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen.

[ MORE: Chelsea to win the PL? ]

Spurs host the Bundesliga outfit at Wembley on Wednesday and speaking ahead of the match Pochettino confirmed that both his star striker and center back aren’t fit enough to be in the squad.

With four points from their opening three games in the UCL, Spurs know a win against Leverkusen is crucial for their hopes of advancing from Group E and into the knockout rounds.

So, with Pochettino confirming the duo were missing at his press conference, the inevitable question about Kane’s availability for the huge north London derby against Arsenal this Sunday (Watch live, 8 a.m. ET and online via NBCSports.com) then arrived

“Maybe, maybe,” Pochettino said, with a smile.

He then went into more detail, saying that Kane (who has been out since Sept. 18 with an injured ankle) trained for half of the session on Tuesday with the team and should be back in full training on Thursday.

“He [Kane] made half the training session with the team and then was a specific training session for him. For Toby it was the same, a specific training session. I would expect maybe Thursday to train, for Harry. For Toby, I am not sure,” Pochettino said. “It would be good for Harry maybe Thursday to be involved in the whole session with the group.”

If Kane is fit to play against Arsenal this Sunday then he could well be called into the England squad for their big World Cup qualifier against Scotland and the friendly against Spain. Would Pochettino welcome that given Kane has worked so hard to get back to full fitness for Spurs?

“I don’t know if he is available to play against Arsenal on Sunday,” Pochettino said. “It is difficult for us to stop the national team calling him. That is more the say of the manager of the national team to select him or not.”

So, basically, if you don’t have to call him up, then don’t. That’s the abbreviated message from Pochettino to England’s interim boss Gareth Southgate.

In the meantime, Kane’s potential return for Tottenham in the north London derby will be music to the ears of Spurs fans as their team has scored just three in their last five games in all competitions.

Kane has scored four times in his three Premier League appearances against Arsenal.