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Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino 'never doubted' Dele Alli

The ESPN FC panel engage in a heated debate about whether 2017 belonged to Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah or Harry Kane.
The FC crew react to the 2017 Premier League team of the year, as selected by ESPN FC's Mark Ogden.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has told Gazzetta dello Sport that he "never doubted" midfielder Dele Alli.

Alli finished Spurs' festive wins over Burnley and Southampton with four assists and a goal, ending a poor run of form following his two-goal performance against Real Madrid on Nov. 1.

Pochettino, who rested the 21-year-old for the 2-0 win over Brighton on Dec. 13 says he was always confident Alli would get back to his best.

"He's got enormous quality and I've never doubted him," Pochettino said. "You've got to be patient with players and sometimes they need a rest, while you've got to expect one or two mistakes too."

Mauricio Pochettino & Dele Alli
Dele Alli's form has been praised by Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino will return to the region where his great grandparents were born when Spurs face Italian champions Juventus in the Champions League round-of-16 next month.

"I thought 'at last, I'm going to go see my roots,'" he said. "I've been to Italy many times, but never to Piedmont. Given there won't be much time, I'm not going to be able to visit the area where my great-grandfather's from, but I will get to breathe the Turin air.

"I never had any real illusions about the draw -- when you're in the last 16, it's only logical that you're going to face difficult opponents. Juventus are the top -- they've been in two of the past three finals."

Asked if there is advantage to play the second leg at Wembley, he said: "I don't think so. In European games, being home or away makes little difference. These ties last 180 minutes and it's going to be a real battle against Juve.

"We're a month-and-a-half away and a lot of things can happen, but we have started to give it some thought."

Pochettino believes the tie will include two of the best strikers in the world in Harry Kane and Gonzalo Higuain, while he says he has always admired Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who is expected to retire in the summer.

"[Gonzalo] Higuain, [Sergio] Aguero and our Kane are among the best in their role," he said. "Harry's greatest strength is his determination to improve. His bond with Tottenham is also great -- it reminds me of [Francesco] Totti with Roma.

"I've always admired Buffon and I'm really sorry that Italy aren't going to be in Russia and that this will prevent him from playing in a sixth World Cup -- it's a real injustice."

Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.

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