Tottenham's Harry Kane must wear mask for three more weeks
LONDON -- Harry Kane's protective face-mask is restricting his play but the Tottenham striker will have to wear it for a "minimum" of three more weeks, according to Mauricio Pochettino.
Kane broke his nose in Spurs' 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace on Feb. 21 and missed the subsequent Europa League win over Fiorentina after corrective surgery -- the first time he has been omitted from the Spurs squad this season.
The England forward returned in the mask for the games against Swansea and West Ham but he looked sluggish in the defeat at Upton Park, failing to properly connect with his only two chances.
Kane will have to wear the mask for at least five more matches, including Saturday's North London derby and both legs of the Europa League last-16 versus Borussia Dortmund but he insists it is not a problem.
"Once you start playing, you kind of forget it is on. It's all good," he said.
Pochettino, however, says it is an easier burden for less creative players, like Chelsea's Nemanja Matic, who is among the other Premier League stars to have sported similar face-wear.
"He's playing with a mask. Sometimes it can disturb you. When you are creative, maybe it's easier for Matic or different players that play behind, because it's not their problem, but you need to be sharp when you are offensive and creative. Sometimes it can disturb you a little bit. It's important. He's not a machine," the Spurs coach told a news conference.
Pochettino defended Kane's display at West Ham and says he has "full confidence" in the 22-year-old.
"If you analyse all the strikers in the Premier League, it's difficult to have 10 chances every game. Harry had two or three clear chances to score -- unlucky.
"Sometimes it happens. I have full confidence in him. Sometimes there is a period arrives that is difficult to score in. He is not a machine."
Tottenham's squad is the youngest in the Premier League -- with an average age of 24 and only one over 30 -- and Kane, the club's vice-captain, has emerged as an impressive leader since breaking into the team last season.
Pochettino is delighted with Kane's continued progress, adding: "He is still learning about that, to deal with being a leader and top scorer and one of the key players of Tottenham and the national team is not an easy job but we are happy in the way he developed his leadership and the way that he has behaved in the team."
Kane has scored four times in three league meetings with Arsenal and was the match-winner with a brilliant brace in the derby win at White Hart Lane last season.
More of the same on Saturday would see Spurs move six points above their rivals and fellow title contenders, and leave them with a golden opportunity to finish above Arsenal for the first time since the 1994-95 season.
Pochettino is motivated only by winning matches, however.
"I don't think now like that. For me it's important to finish well and try to be on the top and be ambitious. If from there we are above then it's good too," he said.
"We don't want to compare with them. I think it's not a good way to motivate our players. I think that our motivation is to be ambitious and win every game. Football is football. Sometimes it's difficult to win every game. We are not a machine. But is is true the motivation is to win every game. Not to be above Arsenal."