If Hugo Lloris defended his goal as effectively as Mauricio Pochettino defended his keeper on Friday then Tottenham’s Champions League campaign would not be in such a mess.
The Spurs manager was in no mood to buy into or even entertain the criticism levelled at the Frenchman, irrespective of a season that has seen him look more vulnerable than at any other point in his six years at the club.
His game-changing red card against PSV Eindhoven in the 2-2 draw on Wednesday followed a key error against Barcelona in the 4-2 defeat at the start of the month.
Both mistakes came from mistimed surges off his line, which must serve as a concern when Pochettino’s high-line defence relies so heavily on the judgements of their sweeper-keeper.
Ordinarily, Lloris has excelled on that brief, so the club’s hope will be that the errors are a blip and not a trend, but if there are any private doubts, Pochettino was showing full public support for the 31-year-old ahead of Monday’s massive test with Manchester City at Wembley.
‘For me Hugo is one of the best keepers in the world and he was man of the match a few days before we played against PSV. Against PSV I think he’s not guilty about the result and for me it wasn’t a sending-off – it was only a yellow card.
‘But in the end we drew the game and it put us in a very difficult situation to quality for the next stage of the Champions League. But I think Hugo is an important player for us, he’s our captain and there’s no doubt about him.
‘It’s not just in my opinion, it’s the reality – he’s one of the best in the world, for sure.
‘I think in all the games we won he was very important and was one of the best players on the pitch. Then he didn’t play against Watford, Liverpool and Inter, and we lost games. I think in football we have short memories.
‘I remember after Watford (the 2-1 defeat in September) people saying, ‘Oh, we miss Hugo’. It’s like when Harry was injured or different players. Then, if we don’t win it’s, ‘Oh Harry is not in good form, or Hugo’. We have short memories and against West Ham I think the (1-0) victory, in a big percentage, was because of Hugo because he was unbelievable.
‘Hugo is so strong. That’s why he’s playing at this level and he was a world champion a few months ago.’
Tottenham’s disposition in the Premier League is somewhat sunnier than in Europe and despite sitting fifth would overtake City with a win at Wembley.
Pochettino puts City at ‘another level’ to Tottenham on the basis of the limitations currently imposed by the London club’s stadium build, which continues to drag on beyond schedule.
A complication of this fixture being at Wembley is that it comes only 28 hours after the NFL clash between Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars and the pitch could cut up, which Pochettino indicated could work in Tottenham’s favour.
Pochettino said: ‘Maybe it’s good for us because we’re going to face one of the best teams in Europe or in the world. We hope that the weather will be good and not kill the pitch and we can play in a very good condition.’
A benefit for Tottenham will be the return of Dele Alli, who resumed training this week after a hamstring injury. He has not played since the Carabao Cup win over Watford last month but is now available for selection.