Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is waiting for Erik Lamela to inform him that he is ready to play again and believes the injury-riddled winger is "so close" to a return ahead of his side's crucial clash against Manchester United on Saturday (28 October).
Lamela, 25, has not played for Pochettino's side for a year due to troublesome hip problems that took much longer to solve than expected, but the Argentine has returned to first-team training after undergoing surgery in April.
The former Roma playmaker has been building up his fitness at Hotspur Way for a number of weeks but remains unlikely to feature in his side's clash with United at Old Trafford. Pochettino, who will be without star striker Harry Kane for the clash against United, hinted that Lamela is not mentally over his injury woes just yet, and is waiting for his compatriot to let him know when he can play again.
"Like I told you before, we are waiting for him to say 'gaffer, doctor, I am ready to compete.'" Pochettino said in his press conference. "For us it is so close. We are waiting, maybe he surprise us today or next week. I feel it is so close, but only need to wait for it to click in his mind that he is ready."
Tottenham have coped well without Lamela, who has not played for Spurs since October last year, but they may find the loss of Kane too much to bear. The England international and mooted Real Madrid target has been in blistering form this season and currently tops the Premier League scoring chart with eight goals, but Pochettino confirmed that his talismanic forward will not play against Manchester United after suffering a minor hamstring injury against Liverpool on Sunday.
The Tottenham boss admitted that Kane's absence is a "problem" for his side, but the former Southampton chief is confident the rest of his squad will step up and share to goalscoring burden against Mourinho's side. Though he would no doubt rather have Kane fit and firing against United, Pochettino may be encouraged by the fact that Tottenham have not lost a match when the 24-year-old hasn't played in over three years.
"Yes, you always want all the players available. It's a problem. Play more or play less, we want them available to play," Pochettino said.
"Like always, we believe in the collective, in the squad. During the season, sometimes some problems happen and you must trust all the players, all the squad."
Asked if the loss of Kane will force him into a change of system, Pochettino said: "Today is the second day after West Ham game so it's difficult.
"We need to wait until tomorrow to decide the formation. We can use different formations, we worked a lot on it in preseason, The players can adapt to one or another shape. We need to assess everyone and make a decision to be competitive."