Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho hopes club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele will declare himself fit to play at Norwich on Saturday.
The Spurs boss has revealed that the French midfielder asked not to be included for Thursday’s Boxing Day win over Brighton as he was concerned he might not be fit.
But he has trained since and now Mourinho is looking to help him fill a midfield gap caused by the absence of the suspended Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko, while Son Heung-min is also serving a ban and Dele Alli looked to be struggling in the latter stages against the Seagulls.
Mourinho asked if he was upset by the decision of Ndombele, whose transfer from Lyon could yet cost Spurs some 70 million euros ($79 million, £63 million), to make himself unavailable against Brighton, answered: “I think Ndombele was honest. Football players like to play football.
“For him to say, ‘I don’t feel confident, I don’t feel in the best condition due to my previous injuries’, he was just being honest.
“And we had solutions. We had (Eric) Dier, we had (Harry) Winks, we have (Oliver) Skipp who is a great kid fighting to improve, for a place.
“I hope Friday morning after training he can come back to me and say ‘I’m ready to help the team’.”
Erik Lamela, however, had no qualms about throwing back himself into the fray, even though he has been sidelined since October with a hamstring injury.
After only two sessions under Mourinho, he told the Portuguese manager he was ready to play against Brighton if needed.
“Lamela, he was fantastic,” said Mourinho. “I think it was 56 or 57 days that he didn’t train with the team.
“He came to me and said, ‘I think you need me because you are in trouble with injuries, suspensions, no Sonny. If you want me I am there. If you need me for 10 or 15 minutes I’m there’.
“That’s the kind of thing that touches me. I like players that make sacrifices for the team.”
Spurs beat Brighton 2-1 to move to within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea following the Blues shock loss to Southampton.
They could draw level on points with their London rivals if they win at Carrow Road before Chelsea’s next game on Sunday.
There was a 12-point difference between the two teams when Mourinho took over at Tottenham but the former Chelsea and Manchester United manager believes it will still be difficult for Tottenham to finish in the top four.
“I started with minus 12 here. With minus 12 you have to recover 12 points. It’s a lot of points,” he said.
“A couple of days ago we were minus three and we had a chance to go to zero. Right.
“But the problem is during the recovery process we’re not going to win all the time and the other teams aren’t going to lose all the time.”