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Should Mauricio Pochettino start Harry Kane against Liverpool? The case for and against playing Spurs' half-fit talisman in Saturday's Champions League final

The Argentine coach has a huge decision to make over whether to start his top scorer, who has not played since April 9th, in Saturday's Champions League final. Here BTSport.com weigh up the pros and cons of playing the forward in Madrid.

Rarely has a player’s fitness been the focus ahead of a Champions League final like Harry Kane’s has in the build up to Tottenham against Liverpool.

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This is what we know: Kane clattered into Manchester City’s Fabian Delph during Tottenham’s quarter-final second leg win at the Etihad on April 9th, turning his ankle in the process.

Even if Tottenham edged a thriller to qualify for the semi-finals, the sight of Kane being escorted down the tunnel by Tottenham’s medical staff was a harrowing one for Spurs fans.

A scan two days later revealed the prolific striker had suffered a “significant lateral ligament injury” to his left ankle.

It’s the fifth time Kane has been sidelined by an ankle injury in the past three seasons; most recently he missed seven matches after a similar injury picked up in January’s defeat at Manchester United.

Now seven weeks on from the incident, Kane is back in training and pushing to play in Saturday’s Champions League final.

The England skipper declared himself fit this week, saying: “I feel good.

“There have been no problems so far… This week now is to get the fitness as high as possible.

“Then it’s down to the manager. The manager will assess it and decide whether I’m ready to go or not but, so far, I feel good and ready.”

Pochettino was cagey when asked about Kane’s fitness on Monday, saying: “I can’t say he’s 100%, whether he will be available on the bench or not.

“But we are so happy and positive about his progression. It’s so important that he feels well and we see what happens. I’m very positive about his situation. We have one week to evaluate and see how he’s progressing.”

The former Southampton coach now only has days in which to make the call for what will be the biggest game in Tottenham’s modern history. Whether he gets it right or not will go a long way to determining whether he makes the 2019 Champions League his first career trophy.

Kane is undoubtedly Tottenham’s most potent threat. In each of the last five seasons, the 25-year-old has finished as the club’s top scorer and has won the Premier League’s Golden Boot in two of those campaigns.

In the seven matches Tottenham have contested without him, they have won just twice. A 1-0 home victory against Brighton and the stunning Champions League semi-final second leg win over Ajax.

Since Kane became a regular in 2014, he’s missed 49 of Tottenham’s 226 matches. Without him in the line-up, Spurs’ win percentage drops from 56.6% to 53.1%.

But Pochettino’s decision has been made considerably more difficult given the form of Tottenham’s other forwards in Kane’s absence.

Son Heung-min has arguably been Tottenham’s most effective player this season and scored three of his side’s four goals in the away goals win over City in the quarters.

Lucas Moura then scored a sensational hat-trick against Ajax to send Tottenham through to the final as the Brazilian enjoyed a dream match in Amsterdam. Dropping either Son or Lucas Moura would be remarkably harsh given their roles in getting Tottenham to Madrid.

Even Fernando Llorente, previously written off as a flop and with his contract set to expire in June, has made an impact in Tottenham’s incredible run to the final. The towering Spaniard scored Tottenham’s winner at City and gave Ajax’s defenders a torrid time after coming on a substitute in Amsterdam.

If Kane does play, the Spurs coach may seek to shoehorn him back in. That could mean a three-pronged attack with Kane in the middle, Son on the left and Lucas Moura on the right.

If the Tottenham man is not 100% then he can act as the pivot while his strike partners make runs off him and link up with the England forward.

The alternative would be to play two up front and choose between Lucas Moura or Son to partner Kane - but whoever misses out can feel extremely hard done by.

Should Pochettino deem Kane unfit to start, Son and Lucas Moura will likely partner each other up front ahead of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli in a 4-2-2-2 formation.

A similar situation arose in the 2014 Champions League final when Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa was passed fit to play despite carrying an injury. Just nine minutes into the match he was forced off with a recurrence of the problem, ruining much of Diego Simeone’s pre-match preparations.

The Atletico coach was also forced to use up a valuable substitution in a match that eventually saw the Spaniards tire and succumb to their city rivals Real in extra time.

Naming Kane in Tottenham’s XI after just a handful of training sessions and a couple of practice matches could backfire spectacularly, particularly against a Liverpool team who specialise in fast starts.

If Jurgen Klopp’s men come out of the blocks fast at the Wanda Metropolitano there will be no room for passengers. Tottenham can’t afford to carry their talisman.

But if Kane can remain on the pitch and operate effectively, there’s the option of bringing him off for the pace of Lucas Moura or Son in the closing stages.

By naming Kane among the substitutes, the striker would only need to last the remainder of the match (plus extra time if necessary) in that case.

Yet if he comes on and must be withdrawn shortly after then Tottenham will have wasted two of their substitutions, even if there is a fourth one available to teams in extra time.

Ultimately this is all conjecture. Nobody, not even Kane, knows whether he is ready to play or not. He can be forgiven for pushing to start in what is undoubtedly the biggest match of his club career but must also consider the interests of the team.

Read more of BTSport.com's fantastic features ahead of the Champions League final.

You can watch the all-English Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool on Saturday on BT Sport, across BT Sport's digital platforms and even on YouTube. For full details on how to watch the Madrid clash read our comprehensive guide.

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