Pablo Zabaleta says he is available for selection after returning to full training, though doesn’t know if he will be involved in the squad travelling to Tottenham.
The Argentina star has been out for five weeks after damaging knee ligaments in training and is keen to finally start his season, though whether this weekend is just a few days too soon remains to be seen.
“This is probably the longest time I’ve been out in my career,” said Zabaleta. “All the other problems have been slight muscles strains or head wounds that didn’t take long to recover from but I damaged knee ligaments this time which obviously takes longer.
“I have been building up my fitness and I feel much better but I probably need to now play a few games to get fully match fit again.
“The medical staff have been fantastic and looked after me with a programme designed to recover at the right pace so I have them to thank for only missing a few weeks.
There was no operation needed but the doctor knew straight away what had happened and he said it was a typical knee injury sustained when somebody falls on you during a tackle
“As frustrating as it is to be out, I’ve really enjoyed watching the team from the stands and I only ever want the lads to do well – the team is far more important than individuals and they started the season started fantastically well.
“We had a couple of losses recently but we had a great reaction in midweek at Sunderland and now we go into a very difficult game at Tottenham but hopefully we can carry the momentum from Tuesday’s game and come away with a win.”
Zabaleta was a team-mate of Spurs coach Mauricio Pochettino for one season at Espanyol and he says he knew his fellow Argentine was destined for management, even back in 2005.
“It was in my first year at Espanyol and his last at the club,” he recalled. “We’ve never been close friends, but I knew he was going to become a good manager.
“He was 35 at the time and an experienced player and he spoke to the younger players and advised them as a manager would. Since then, he’s done well wherever he has gone and I think he’s shaping a good, young team at Tottenham.
“They will have been disappointed to lose the derby against Arsenal on Wednesday, but anything can happen in those games. They played a day later than we did but they have a hungry, promising squad and it should be a good game.
“Overall, it’s been a fairly good ground for us in recent seasons and we hope it proves to be the same again on Saturday.”