Tottenham's Harry Kane scores a penalty during the English Premier League match against West Ham.
Tottenham's Harry Kane scores a penalty during the English Premier League match against West Ham. Tim Ireland

Pochettino left with big call on Kane fitness

COACH Mauricio Pochettino is facing a difficult decision over Harry Kane ahead of Tottenham Hotspur's crucial Champions League game in Monaco on Wednesday morning (5.45am AEST).

Spurs have to win to have any plausible chance of reaching the last 16. Pochettino knows that they are very unlikely to win without Kane, whose return from injury has significantly improved the team this month. But Pochettino does not want to risk another injury to his most important player, with an English Premier League trip to Chelsea this weekend.

Pochettino said he would only play Kane if he is fully fit, and will apply the same test to Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele. But Pochettino must also know that without those three, or even just without Kane, Spurs' chances of playing Europa League football next year dramatically spike.

"I think it's a game we must win, and we need to find a way to do it,” Pochettino said. "We need to be clever, follow our plan and try to win. Take risks or not take risks? Football is about balance.

"Our selection will depend on whether players like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Moussa Dembele can play 90 minutes or not. We don't want to take risks with them.”

The concern for Pochettino is that Spurs are a different team with and without Kane. They looked lost during Kane's seven weeks out with an ankle injury, with Vincent Janssen failing to give Spurs that same powerful direct threat up front.

But Kane returned for the Arsenal game, and scored Spurs' equaliser. Then, on Saturday, he played 90 minutes and scored twice as Spurs turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win in the final minutes. But if he were to aggravate his injury again then Spurs would be back to square one going into a difficult period of league games.

Pochettino also knows that Monaco played its Ligue 1 game at Lorient on Friday night (local time), winning 3-0, meaning they are better equipped for this game than Spurs, who played on Saturday and flew to Monaco on Monday.

"We've had one day less than Monaco to recover (from their weekend game),” Pochettino said. "We need to see whether players have fully recovered or not. Some players might need to start on the bench and then come on and make an impact.”