For the first time since October, Toby Alderweireld started a Premier League match for Tottenham Hotspur, turning in an imperious defensive display as Tottenham drew Brighton 1-1.
On the back of his flawless performance, the 29-year-old Belgian centre-half surely deserves to start in Spurs’ FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United on Saturday.
On Tuesday night, the defender was seemingly unperturbed by the contract controversies that have overshadowed his season as he confidently marshalled the Tottenham backline while barely putting a foot wrong all match.
The centre-back dealt easily with 12-goal striker Glenn Murray, snuffed out many a through ball from the Seagulls, and contributed a number of intelligent slide tackles.
Alderweireld’s immense passing range was also on show, releasing Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura down the wing with delightful clipped balls.
It was an assured display that was in stark contrast to Davinson Sanchez’s hectic match against Manchester City on the weekend. The young Colombian defender, who has started in the place of the Belgian for all of 2018, looked out of sorts and shaky against City’s robust attack.
With Tottenham’s most important match of the season approaching against United, manager Mauricio Pochettino needs to restore Alderweireld to the starting lineup to avoid a similar defensive collapse against the Red Devils.
A defender of Alderweireld’s experience is far better suited to the enormous occasion and pressure of an FA Cup semi-final than the youthful Sanchez.
The Belgian dispelled any fears of rust after months out of the first team, easily slotting back into the squad and partnering well with international teammate Jan Vertonghen.
Pochettino must put petty contract disputes out of the way and focus on Tottenham’s best defensive set-up on Saturday, which means picking Toby Alderweireld alongside Vertonghen against Manchester United at Wembley.