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Mauricio Pochettino has defended Dele Alli following suggestions he may not feature prominently for England at the World Cup, calling the Tottenham star “one of the most talented players in Europe”.

Alli was given only 22 minutes of game time across England’s friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy during the international break.

Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate initially put the midfielder’s absence down to fitness, but he went on to suggest Alli’s place in England’s starting line-up at the World Cup is at risk.

The 21-year-old has received criticism for his inconsistent displays for Spurs and a couple of diving incidents this season.

But Pochettino has defended his player, insisting there should be less pressure on the youngster.

“I have full confidence in him and his talent and because I know him – he is a great kid and a very good person,” Pochettino told a press conference (via the London Evening Standard).

“But he is young. He is 21. If you compare with normal people on the street who are 21, they are still living at home with their parents, they are still at university doing stupid things.

“Sometimes we expect too much and we put too much pressure on 21-year-old players. Sometimes we forget and treat them like 40-year-old men.

“It’s not like this. We need to be focused on him being still a kid. It’s a lot of pressure on his shoulders and not always can he act how the people and the society expect. That is so important to understand.

“We are going to help him because he is a talented player and a great kid. And he has done a lot for us and the club.

“The problem is that in the last two seasons, he was unbelievable, amazing. Younger players always have ups and downs. Expectation was massive because he was always increasing his level and improving and improving.

“This season the expectation was massive, maybe too high. For me he is one of the most talented players in Europe.”

Alli is likely to start for Tottenham in this weekend’s trip to Chelsea in the Premier League.

He is very rarely dropped or rested by Pochettino, and doing so now could be a unnecessary knock to his confidence.

A goal or a good performance would do Alli a lot of good ahead of Spurs’ run-in and England’s World Cup campaign.

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