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Mauricio Pochettino says Harry Winks is playing through the pain of a “chronic” ankle injury but is close to returning to full fitness.

Winks first hurt his ankle towards the end of the 2016/17 season. The midfielder returned to action last term and impressed in matches against Real Madrid in the Champions League before suffering a recurrence of his injury.

After seeing specialists and undergoing surgery earlier this year, the 22-year-old is now close to making his first start of the season, according to Pochettino.

And the Tottenham manager says he is looking forward to having Winks back to his best ahead of a tricky run of fixtures for the Londoners.

“He is close [to being able to start] because I am happy with him,” Pochettino said in a press conference on Thursday (via ESPN).

“The last two weeks were fantastic for him. He has trained so hard and I am so happy with his evolution.

“It is a chronic injury. He needs to adapt and understand and accept that he needs to play with this little bit of pain.

“For a young player, it is difficult to accept that because you want to feel 100 percent and not feel anything in your body and feel free.

“In this situation he has spent a period where he was fighting with this situation, and now I think he’s accepting that and he’s going to move on and play his best, of course.

“It will be a massive impact for us for the future, and we are so happy that he is so close to being at his best.”

Winks’ importance is likely to increase throughout the season with Mousa Dembele having entered the final 12 months of his contract.

Dembele could leave in the January transfer window, which would almost certainly see Winks become one of Spurs’ first-choice central midfielders unless a replacement is recruited.

The 22-year-old will be hoping to play a part when Tottenham take on Liverpool at Wembley this weekend.

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