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Vertonghen eyes Tottenham return after international break

Football Soccer - Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Premier League - Selhurst Park - 15/16 - 23/1/16 Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge/Files
Football Soccer - Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Premier League - Selhurst Park - 15/16 - 23/1/16Tottenham's Jan VertonghenAction Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge/Files

London (Reuters) - Tottenham's Belgium international defender Jan Vertonghen is targeting a return to the Premier League club's title battle in about six weeks as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury.

The 28-year-old, whose strong central-defensive partnership with fellow countryman Toby Alderweireld has contributed significantly to Spurs' rise to second in the standings behind unexpected leaders Leicester City, damaged knee ligaments against Crystal Palace on Jan. 23.

"They (the medical team) always give you a time frame to come back, and the target of the injured player coming back is always to beat that time," he told the Spurs website (www.tottenhamhotspur.com).

"I’m out of the brace now and I can walk again, so I am improving every day. It’s hard work and it will take time. I’m aiming to be back around the international break (at the end of March) and I want to be part of the team and help however I can."

Spurs' first match after that break is at Liverpool on April 2.

Vertonghen, who joined Spurs from Ajax in 2012, has played more than 150 games for the club, including 27 in all competitions this season before his injury. He and Alderweireld have helped their team to the best defensive record in the Premier League -- with 20 goals conceded in 26 games.

Vertonghen's replacement, Austrian Kevin Wimmer, has kept up that form since coming on for Vertonghen during the Crystal Palace game.

Vertonghen said he was impressed by Wimmer's contribution and said the competition for places was helping drive his comeback.

"I always knew Kevin was a very good player and that’s what pushes me to improve, as well," he said. "There is competition for places all over the pitch and that’s what makes the squad so strong."

He added that he was also motivated by being in the mix of a winning team.

"I want to be involved in those celebrations too," he said of the club's victory over Manchester City last Sunday.

"I see them cheering in front of the away fans at City... and it’s hard because, especially at times like this, you want to be a part of the team. That motivates me to come back as soon as possible."

(Reporting by Neville Dalton, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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