Pochettino’s big decision – Tottenham star to start vs Arsenal or be on the bench?

Tottenham Hotspur have a fully fit squad to pick from for Saturday’s North London Derby against Arsenal at Wembley, which although positive news, will also create headaches for Mauricio Pochettino.

One of the main decisions that the Spurs manager must make is whether star defender Toby Alderweireld plays from the start or is resigned to a place on the bench.

Tottenham’s defence has come to rely on the giant Belgian, who is regarded as one of the best centre-halves in the world game.

After three months on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury, Alderweireld played 90 minutes in Spurs’ FA Cup fourth round replay win over Newport County in midweek and has declared himself fit to face Arsenal.

However, there is a significant difference in quality between Tottenham’s last opponents and their next, with the Lilywhites rearguard sure to be stretched at certain times on Saturday.

As such, although Alderweireld’s inclusion would be a big boost for Spurs, there may be a risk factor attached to it also.

While victory over Arsenal is essential for Tottenham to keep pace in the battle for a top-four finish, another injury blow to the Belgian defender would be a massive setback for the club.

With Juventus to play in Turin next week, Pochettino may be thinking that Alderweireld could be a starter in Italy and potentially take a place on the bench this weekend.

Reintroducing the Belgian back into first-team action gradually to reduce the risk of injury relapse is the smart option – even if the Tottenham fans would love to see Alderweireld in the starting XI this weekend.