Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed that Tottenham Hotspur striker Clinton Njie is almost ready to make his first-team comeback. The 22-year-old has endured a difficult first season in English football since sealing a £12m ($17m) switch from Lyon in August 2015, failing to score in any of his first 18 appearances across all competitions.
That sense of frustration was further exacerbated in December, when Njie underwent surgery after sustaining medial collateral ligament damage during the second half of a 4-1 Europa League group stage victory over Monaco at White Hart Lane. He eventually returned to full-time training earlier this month and, having suffered no setbacks, could feasibly be considered for the Premier League trip to Stoke City on 18 April.
Nabil Bentaleb, however, remains sidelined as the forgotten midfielder continues to recover from his own knee operation.
"Nabil is still out and Clinton, he's had a full week's training. He's nearly ready to be selected again and then it's my decision," Pochettino told Tottenham's official website. "Now we only have one competition, one game a week and big competition (for places) because nearly everyone is fit for selection."
Following their 3-0 defeat of Manchester United last weekend, second-place Spurs remain seven points adrift of Leicester City and that gap could increase to 10 before Monday night's kick-off depending on the leaders' result at home to West Ham United. The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) courted controversy earlier this week by removing Bristol City supporter and Leicestershire native Kevin Friend from his officiating duties at Stoke, due to a history of attending matches at the King Power Stadium.
Pochettino was keen to stress that the club was not complicit in that decision. "We never complain," he said. "I want to say that we trust in all the referees. I think in that moment, because we never complain, it wasn't our decision. But I think we need to trust in all the referees and the decision maybe is difficult to understand for all the people but it wasn't our decision."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had earlier declared himself "surprised and disappointed" with the episode during his latest press conference on Friday, 17 April, insisting that it questions the integrity of a referee and sets a dangerous precedent moving forward. Preston's Neil Swarbrick will now take charge of the fixture.