Tottenham forward Erik Lamela in fitness doubt as questions mount over when he will make a first team return

Spurs' £30m record signing has been absent with a back injury but has spent most of his time away from the club's training complex

Tottenham striker Erik Lamela was due to return to the club today from his latest spell of rehabilitation from injury, but they are yet to set a date when the Argentinian will be fit to return to action.

The club-record £30m signing suffered a back problem, and despite being put on a rehab programme to aid his recovery, Lamela has spent the bulk of his time away from the club’s Hotspur Way training base in Enfield.

The 22-year-old is said to have spent some of his time in Italy, the country that he was in before securing his move from Roma last summer, and the Evening Standard is reporting that he is still some way from being able to make a first-team return. The club also did not confirm where he has been in recent weeks.

Club sources have privately expressed doubts about whether Lamela will appear again in the first team this season, although there should be a clearer picture when the Argentina international has been assessed again by staff at Tottenham.

Whatever Lamela’s involvement in the final weeks of the campaign, it will be difficult for him to turn around an extremely disappointing first season in English football. Recruited from Roma by technical director Franco Baldini, who also brought Lamela to Italy from River Plate in the summer of 2011, Lamela has made only 11 starts – three of them in Premier League – and has scored just one goal.

He has also struggled to settle off the field and, at least in the early part of the campaign, had difficulty communicating with team-mates as he attempted to learn English. In January, there were suggestions that Spurs were willing to allow Lamela to return to Italy, but the club would be loath to cut their losses on a player with abundant potential, and who cost them so much money.

Sherwood’s immediate focus is on tomorrow’s derby at Chelsea, at the start of a month that is likely to shape Tottenham’s season. The Spurs boss is thought to be cautiously optimistic that defenders Kyle Walker and Younes Kaboul will be fit to play some part at Stamford Bridge. Both were scheduled to train today.

Kaboul has not figured since picking up a calf strain in the 4-0 win at Newcastle last month, while Walker has missed the last three matches due to a hip problem, which forced him to withdraw from the England squad for the friendly win over Denmark two days ago.

After the match at Chelsea, where Spurs have not won in the league since 1990, Sherwood’s team face Arsenal, Southampton and Liverpool in the league. They also tackle two matches against Benfica, on March 13 and 20, in the Europa League last 16.

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