REUTERS - Defender Toby Alderweireld is taking longer than expected to recover from his knee injury, Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino said ahead of Saturday's London derby against West Ham United.
Alderweireld, who last featured in the Premier League draw at West Bromwich Albion in October, was in commanding form alongside compatriot Jan Vertonghen at the heart of a Spurs defence that conceded just 35 league goals last season.
"From the beginning we believed it would be a very short process and period before Toby was available, but the recovery was very slow," Pochettino told reporters on Thursday.
Tottenham have, however, coped well since Alderweireld's absence, conceding four goals in their last six games.
"The knock he got affected the nerve, but today he has started to join the group and that is very good news. It is maybe a few weeks or 10 days for him to be available if all is going well," Pochettino added.
Defender Ben Davies and midfielder Eric Dier will miss Saturday's match through injury while creative midfielder Dele Alli remains a doubt.
Harry Kane was sent back from international duty with England but Pochettino confirmed the striker was in "good condition".
Captain Hugo Lloris and Kane are stalling on new contracts at the club as they seek improved terms that will require Tottenham to break their strict wage structure, with no player earning more than 100,000 pounds-a-week, British media reported.
Pochettino, however, is not concerned.
"They are very happy here, and we are very happy too. That's the most important thing... the players want to be here in the long-term," he said.
"I think they are talking maybe about improving and extending the contract and I think in the future it won't be a problem to do."
Spurs, unbeaten in the league but on a seven-game winless run in all competitions, are fifth in the table with 21 points, 10 ahead of 17th-placed West Ham after 11 games.
(Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)