Mauricio Pochettino has warned his Tottenham players fatigue will be no excuse if they flop against Anderlecht on Thursday.
The Europa League clash is Spurs’ second of three matches during a demanding six days for the club, which began with a win over Aston Villa on Monday and ends with a crunch visit on Sunday to bitter rivals Arsenal.
Pochettino may have hoped to rest players against Anderlecht with one eye on the north London derby but Tottenham need a win, given they sit level on points with the Belgians in Group J and one behind Monaco.
“We need to take the schedule and not complain about that,” Pochettino said. “We need to accept the rules, the schedule, we knew the situation before. We’re ready to compete.
“It’s true this is not the best condition but we need to be ready and we need to take the excuse away from the players – ‘Maybe they are tired because they played on Monday?’ – no.
“We need to put this idea out of our mind. We’re in a very good condition and we are fit and we need to be ready.
“It’s more mental than physical, playing every two days, and we’re in a very good run – we need to keep focused because we have a very important game.”
Andros Townsend has been dropped from the squad and banned from first-team training as punishment for his spat with club fitness coach Nathan Gardiner.
Townsend was pictured pushing Gardiner during a heated exchange at White Hart Lane on Monday, and Pochettino has come down hard on the winger.
“As a manager I am very fair but the discipline is very important. The staff need to show respect to the player and the player needs to show respect to the staff,” Pochettino said.
“He needs to learn about football, about behaviour, about discipline, about a lot of things.
“Football is not only about taking the ball in your feet and playing. You have a responsibility as a professional.”
Townsend has apologised for the altercation but is believed to be considering his future at Tottenham, where the likes of Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele, Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli have all moved ahead of him in the pecking order.
“All players have a future. It’s up to them to have a future here. Football can change quickly,” Pochettino said.
“He is in the squad because we believe in him and believe he can give us very good things, but it is up to the player when he has the chance to impress me and show I am wrong in my decision.
“Has he been fined? It’s a private matter. I think it’s obvious. Your question and my answer.”
Tottenham are boosted by the return of forward Son Heung-min, who has been sidelined for almost six weeks with a foot problem.
Pochettino is keen for his £22million summer signing to remain with the club over the international break, but South Korea want their star player to play for them in World Cup qualifiers against Burma/Myanmar and Laos.
“He wants to go, which is normal,” Pochettino said.
“You want to play for your country but we need to speak a little bit to arrive at the best deal for him, his country and for us.”
Nabil Bentaleb has also returned to training after two months out with an ankle problem but the midfielder is not yet match fit, while Clinton Njie is struggling with a hamstring injury.