Tottenham winger Erik Lamela may make first-team return vs. West Brom
LONDON -- Erik Lamela could finally return to action for Tottenham this weekend, with manager Mauricio Pochettino believing the winger holds the key to unlocking defensive opponents at Wembley.
Spurs face struggling West Bromwich Albion at their temporary home on Saturday.
And for a third consecutive weekend, Pochettino will ask Lamela whether he feels ready to return to the squad for the first time since last October after a year of chronic hip problems.
If he is not, another run-out for the Spurs under-23s is likely -- but a yes could see Pochettino throw him into the mix against the Baggies.
Pochettino expects West Brom, under the interim management of Gary Megson after Tony Pulis was sacked, to defend deep.
And asked whether Spurs needed to play with more pace at home against defensive opponents, he said: "To be dynamic, or to have players with high tempo, doesn't mean that they have to run fast.
"If we wanted players to run fast, we'd sign Usain Bolt. That is different.
"We need to increase our tempo within the games, not players with more pace. If we're playing against teams like Palace, Swansea or Burnley that are playing a lot deeper, you don't need pace, you need good individual quality one vs. one.
"[You need players] that can break one vs. one, like Lamela. You need good quality and capacity to drive, and an individual like Lamela can bring that quality to the team.
"We are using it [the width of Wembley's pitch] well. But then sometimes we need players that have the capacity and ability, when players are deeper, to beat the opponent in a short space. It's difficult."
The Spurs boss said Lamela "needs to feel that he's fully recovered," adding: "At the moment he is training again. The other day he played 60 minutes [for the U23s], but he still has some doubts that make him cautious about the step up."
Pochettino is also waiting for winger Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, an £11 million signing from Marseille last summer, to be ready for first-team contention.
"Today he is not showing the condition to play," he said. "He needs to show more.
"But you know if a player is not involved too much it's because we believe that they need to show more that they deserve to play."
Pochettino did not rule out leaving Danny Rose out of his matchday squad for the second weekend running and said he did not mind how angry that might make the left-back.
Rose said he was "fuming" to have been dropped from the squad at Arsenal last weekend, and Pochettino said: "I am happy that he was angry. But in the same way I don't care, because it is my decision.
"If he is angry it means he wanted to play, but I need to take the best decision for the team.
"All players are upset when they are not involved. We need to assess him. He was tired after the [Borussia Dortmund] game -- he said that in the last 10 minutes he was tired -- but that's normal. It does not concern me."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.