Moussa Sissoko and Jan Vertonghen have both returned to Tottenham Hotspur training ahead of their Champions League semi-final first leg tie against Ajax, per the London Evening Standard.
Vertonghen was absent from the weekend’s 1-0 defeat to West Ham United while Sissoko sustained a groin injury in the first leg of the quarter-final encounter with Manchester City.
Plan A, quite obviously, sees both Sissoko and Vertonghen restored to the XI.
Sissoko offers the engine required to take the ball from his defenders and push the play forward on the transition, and he can be trusted to play in a two-man midfield, potentially alongside Eric Dier, a player who thrives on winning the ball back and recycling it simply.
Vertonghen will surely start if he is fit and that would allow manager Mauricio Pochettino to deploy a three-man backline, with Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez alongside him.
All three players used to play for Ajax, and utilising such a defence could nullify the Dutch club’s nippy wingers and creative midfielders.
Of course, Fernando Llorente is likely to play up front in the absence of the injured Harry Kane and the suspended Son Heung-Min, but there is nothing Spurs can particularly do about that.
Pochettino may be forced into plan B if Vertonghen and Sissoko fail to prove their fitness in time for kick-off tomorrow evening.
This is far less ideal. Alderweireld and Sanchez do have an excellent partnership but the latter has been prone to lapses in recent months and could prove something of an Achilles heel for Spurs, particularly without the protection of Vertonghen. Juan Foyth is unlikely to be trusted in such a momentous game.
Dele Alli has been out of form in recent months and turned in a truly woeful performance at the weekend as West Ham United became the first away team to win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Nevertheless, the only alternative to him in midfield is the 18-year-old Oliver Skipp and, like Foyth, it is difficult to foresee him being trusted by Pochettino in a game of this magnitude.
Thus, with Alli out of form, Pochettino could instead rely on brawn instead of brains and pick both Dier and Victor Wanyama to shield a two-man central defensive partnership and potentially free up Alli, valued at £90 million by Transfermarkt, to roam forward.
He has not made any impact in that area of the pitch in recent outings, however, and he would need to turn in a season-defining performance for Spurs to have any hope of securing a first-leg lead in what is perhaps the club’s biggest game in their recent history.