Erik Lamela could make his long-awaited Tottenham Hotspur return on Saturday (25 November) with Mauricio Pochettino suggesting he will need the Argentine's guile to break down a stubborn West Bromwich Albion.
It has been over a year since Lamela's last appearance in a Spurs shirt in a Premier League match against Bournemouth with a long-term hip injury putting his career on pause. The Argentina international returned to full first-team training in October but Pochettino has been wary of bringing him back too soon.
The former Roma star featured for the club's Under-23 ranks last week and with club considering the possibility of using him in Saturday's Premier League 2 match against Manchester City.
But Lamela could still earn himself a senior recall for the visit of the Baggies. "We are waiting because now it is on him to get the right feeling to say: 'I am here to be available if you want, gaffer," Pochettino said at a press conference on Thursday. "That is now all that we are waiting for. He is training, doing well and now, after one year, it is about how he is feeling."
Against more defensively-minded opposition this season, the north Londoners have had to work hard to find a way through, securing narrow victories over Crystal Palace and Burnley, while Swansea City held them to a goalless draw.
West Brom will arrive at Wembley on a run of four consecutive defeats that cost Tony Pulis his job. Now led by interim boss Gary Megson, Pochettino expects the Baggies to sit deep and believes players like Lamela who can beat a man one-on-one are essential to breaking them down.
"We need to increase our tempo within the games, not players with more pace," Pochettino continued, ESPN report. "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."