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Spurs' Mauricio Pochettino: International duties affecting players

Mauricio Pochettino shrugged off rumours he rejected Real Madrid, indicating he's solely focused on Tottenham.
Mauricio Pochettino admits he liked hearing the fans frustration when he substituted Lucas Moura, but says the win reinforces his decision.

Mauricio Pochettino admits it is a source of frustration that some of his Tottenham players have been called up for international duty despite recent injury problems.

Christian Eriksen made his comeback from a month-long lay-off on Oct. 20, following an abdominal issue, and Dele Alli has suffered two hamstring injuries this term, so Pochettino has used the pair sparingly during a demanding fortnight featuring five matches. Eric Dier has missed the last three games with a thigh problem and only returned to training this week.

Yet all three players have been selected by their national squads.

"It's true if you [ask] me, I'd prefer all my international players stay here and rest for these two weeks without competition," said Pochettino. "But that is impossible.

"That's why we were talking before about Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, if they'll be involved in international duty. It's play, play, then move there and train in a different way and play again.

"Then if you see our schedule for the next few months, it will be so tough. How do you manage that? We understand we maybe need to sacrifice some players in some games so they can cope with the demand in the future.

"If [Eric] is fit and the national team calls him, he needs to go, and of course he can play if he's fit. If I decide not to play him -- if he's fit but I decide not to put him in the starting XI or in the squad -- and he's fit, you need to give him permission to go."

Pochettino is at least finding it easier to rotate and rest his attacking midfielders these days. The Argentinian stated in the summer of 2017 that players such as Eriksen and Alli were too comfortable in his team and lacked competition for places.

But the signing of Lucas Moura has given Spurs' manager an extra option, while Erik Lamela -- who was sidelined for 13 months between October 2016 and November 2017 due to hip injuries -- has scored six goals already this season.

As a result, Pochettino was able to omit Alli from his squad for Spurs' last Premier League match -- Saturday's 3-2 victory at Wolves -- while Eriksen was used as a second-half substitute.

"Christian and Dele were injured and, when other players like Lucas Moura, Lamela or Son [Heung-Min] get the opportunity to play and take the opportunity, you need to fight to come back," said Pochettino. "To have different alternatives is so important. Now every time I need to pick my starting XI I have more names that I feel comfortable playing.

"It's so important. Competition in football is always such an important thing that puts pressure on yourself. You don't only need the pressure from the coaching staff, the fans or the club, but from your teammates: 'If you're not ready I'll take your place.'

"That's a very good thing that happens in the teams that need to win."

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