Tuesday 23 January 2018

Focus is not a problem for Alli as he insists: 'I am my own biggest critic'

Tottenham v Apoel Nicosia, Live, BT Sport 3/eir Sport 1, 7.45

Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli. Photo: PA
Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli. Photo: PA

Declan Taylor

Dele Alli, who describes himself as his "own biggest critic", is adamant he has learnt from his mixed form in the season's opening months.

Perhaps surprisingly, the England international is set to start for Tottenham Hotspur tonight when they host Apoel Nicosia in their final fixture of Group H even though Spurs will progress to the knockout stages as group winners regardless of the result.

As such, manager Mauricio Pochettino is expected to shuffle his pack with two crucial home Premier League fixtures to come in the next seven days, before a daunting trip to runaway leaders Manchester City on December 16.

Spurs' hopes of somehow overtaking City have been damaged over the course of the past month, during which they have failed to win a Premier League game.

Apoel at home, therefore, will not be high on the manager's list of priorities.

Nevertheless, Alli will play after missing the club's first three Champions League fixtures of the campaign due to suspension and the 21-year-old insists that focus will not be a problem.

On a more personal level, the match represents a chance for Alli to move closer towards his best form, which he has produced only in patches so far this term.

He said: "I am very self-critical. In fact I think I am my own biggest critic.

"I know when I'm not playing well and if it's not going well for me, it's important that I keep working hard and trying every day to learn and improve.

"We've got to keep improving and getting better every season, and every training session."

Alli scored 18 goals in 37 Premier League games last term, emerging as one of the best midfielders of his type in Europe.

This season, however, he has just three goals in 14, with the likes of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen impressing most.

When asked to evaluate his own performances so far this season, he said: "There's always positives and negatives in every game. I have learned a lot this season and obviously in the two years previously.

"Obviously I would like to be at my highest level in every single game but I don't think that's possible.

"It has been a good opportunity for me to learn more about myself as a player and as a person. I've got to keep enjoying it."

Arguably Alli's finest performance of the season to date was Tottenham's memorable 3-1 victory over Real Madrid at Wembley on November 1.

Having missed the game at the Bernabeu through suspension, Alli marked his return to the competition with two goals against the European champions.

"I can't thank the manager enough for putting me back into the team for the first game I was back," Alli said. "I was happy to repay him with the two goals.

"Beating Madrid was a massive statement," the midfielder added. "Tottenham is a big club. With the players here, and the manager and the squad, we want to be testing ourselves against the best team in the world and the Champions League gives us an opportunity to do that."

The likes of Kane, Eriksen, Eric Dier and Kieran Trippier are all expected to be rested while fit-again Erik Lamela is unavailable because he was not registered for the Champions League.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk

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