Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has serious doubts whether Toby Alderweireld will be fit to face Juventus in the Champions League next week.
Spurs host the Italian champions next Wednesday with the last-16 tie level at 2-2 following their dramatic first-leg comeback in Turin earlier this month.
But key defender Alderweireld is yet to resume training after suffering a tweak in the same hamstring which kept him sidelined for four months this season.
“He is still recovering. He is still not participating with the group,” said Pochettino of the defender.
Asked when the Belgian could return, the Spurs boss was unable to give an exact answer.
“When you tear a muscle, then you are fit but fit to participate in training. And then, it’s to be fit to play, and then to compete. It’s a different process and sometimes it’s longer, depending on the injury,” he said.
“Sometimes, the people create an expectation and then we are the bad guys, when we say ‘no you cannot play’ or we start to build your fitness step by step.
“It’s our responsibility sometimes, but it’s impossible to explain everything. It’s just to be careful about the player because we want Toby 100 per cent ready to play.
“And then it’s my decision to pick him. But if you have your best player at 100 per cent, it’s sure that he increases your level and he’s going to help.
“But we don’t take our decisions based on public opinion. We are professional and when we take a decision, it’s because we have assessed and analysed, we have thought 100 times to try to take the best decision for the team and for the player.”
Alderweireld and defensive partner Jan Vertonghen will miss Wednesday night’s FA Cup replay against Rochdale, although the latter could shake off an ankle knock in time to face Huddersfield at the weekend.