Mauricio Pochettino insisted on Wednesday that he still has a good relationship with Jan Vertonghen as he prepares his Tottenham Hotspur team for Thursday's Europa League match at home to Asteras Tripolis.
Spurs, third in Group C, need a win against Tripolis after drawing their first two group matches and head coach Pochettino is likely to rotate his centre-backs again after Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Manchester City. Spurs started with Younès Kaboul and Federico Fazio that day but Vertonghen is likely to come in this evening.
Pochettino, speaking at Wednesday's press conference, denied that he had fallen out with Vertonghen, whom he overlooked for the captaincy and has not played as often as he would like.
“I never hear from Jan that he wants to leave or change something,” said Pochettino. “When we had a chat inside my office, Jan never told me he wants to leave.”
Vertonghen has two years left on his existing contract with an option for another two years to take him up to 2018, and Pochettino said he was relaxed about the situation.
“I have trust in my player,” Pochettino said. “He is happy at Tottenham. Maybe sometimes he wants to play more but my role is to take these decisions. He is happy and I’m happy with him.
“His contract talks don’t affect the situation. He has four years on his contract anyway. It’s a very long contract and we have a very good relationship.”
Asteras Tripolis are top of Group C, having beaten Partizan Belgrade 2-0 in Tripoli in the last match, and Pochettino said his players would need to have a high level of concentration. “They are a very good team, we need to be focused, all games in the Europa League are tough and difficult. They try to play from the back and have a very good philosophy on the pitch. We need to get the three points.”
Everton are top of Group H and can take a big step towards the next round with a win in Lille tonight. They produced their best performance of the season to beat Wolfsburg 4-1 at Goodison Park last month before earning a good point in Russia against Krasnodar.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez described this game as a “final within the group”, and one of their most important games this season.
More than 5,000 Evertonians have travelled across to northern France and Martinez is keen to put on the best possible display for them. “We know the fans are going to travel in great numbers and we can’t wait to see it,” he said.
Celtic host Romanian side Astra Giurgiu and manager Ronny Deila hopes his team can start to show the attacking quality they are capable of.
“I hope we can see much more, but we have proved we have a very good spirit in the games in Europe,” he said.
“We can create more but in the last two weeks we have started to do that in Scotland and I hope we can do that in the Europa League.
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