Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has backed Eric Dier to shine at centre-half if he is chosen to replace the injured Toby Alderweireld against Bayer Leverkusen.
Alderweireld was carried off on a stretcher during Saturday’s draw against West Brom with what appeared to be pain in his knee, prompting fears the Belgian could face a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
The problem, however, is not as serious as first feared, and Pochettino revealed ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League tie at the BayArena that the in-form defender could be back as early as next week.
The most likely replacement in Germany is Dier, who replaced his injured team-mate against the Baggies and whose place in midfield has become less essential due to the excellent form of Victor Wanyama.
Dier, who only recently recovered from a hamstring strain, has endured an underwhelming start to the campaign and looked out of sorts when chosen in midfield for England against Slovenia as a replacement for dropped skipper Wayne Rooney.
However, the 22-year-old is set to be preferred to out-of-favour Kevin Wimmer and the inexperienced Cameron Carter-Vickers.
On Dier, Pochettino said: “The important thing is we trust in him. It’s not important the position he will play – midfield, centre back or full back – we believe and trust in him.
“We trust him as a person and his skills. For me, Eric is a player who can develop his game in different positions.”
Having bounced back from their Wembley defeat to Mopnaco with victory at CSKA Moscow, Tottenham can ill-afford a slip-up against Leverkusen, who have drawn their opening two games in Group E but can climb above their opponents with a victory.
“It’s important, we must win,” Pochettino added. “If we want to go to the next round this is key to take three points from this game and to play at Wembley the same way.
“The next two games against Leverkusen for us hold the key to the possibility of going to the next round.”
Special game for Son
Kyle Walker has not travelled with the squad as he is being rested, meaning Kieran Trippier is likely to start at right-back.
Mousa Dembele has overcome a foot problem and is available while Harry Kane is still recovering from an ankle ligament injury.
Son Heung-min was rested at the Hawthorns, but is likely to start against the club he left to join Spurs for £22million in August last year.
“It’s a special game for me because I played there for two years, I had some great times there and made so many friends also. I am very excited to be going back,” Son said.
“If I score against them I will not celebrate. I respect them too much.
“My two years there was a good time for them and also a good time for me. I am really happy for them. I want to show respect.”