STOKE-ON-TRENT -- Jan Vertonghen says Mousa Dembele will be "ready" for Tottenham's Champions League match against AS Monaco, but believes Spurs' form without the midfielder demonstrates the strength of their squad.
Dembele has missed Spurs' first four games after he was hit with a retrospective six-match ban by the Football Association (FA) for appearing to eye-gouge Diego Costa in the bad-tempered 2-2 draw at Chelsea on May. 2, which ended their title hopes.
Although Spurs are unbeaten this season, they have not been at their best in Dembele's absence -- losing to Southampton in the penultimate game of last season before they were humiliated at Newcastle on the final day -- and manager Mauricio Pochettino has joked that his side "does not exist" without the midfielder.
Dembele is expected to return for Wednesday's Champions League opener at Wembley after playing the second half of Belgium's friendly defeat to Spain, and Vertonghen said: "Don't worry about him! They'll make sure he's fit. He played 45 minutes with the national team so he'll be ready.
"Mousa is for me one of the best midfielders in the league. It's a shame that he hasn't been there at the start of the season, but if you see how Victor did and Eric Dier and even Dele Alli, when he had to drop back into a defensive midfield role, they've done brilliantly. It's a perfect example of the strength of our squad.
"We've got loads of options and I think we need it for the Champions League. It's going to be a very tough season and not everybody's going to play 90 minutes every time. I think everyone will think about the team and everyone's heading in the right direction."
Spurs demonstrated the strength of their squad in Saturday's 4-0 rout of Stoke, where Son Heung-Min scored twice on his first appearance of the season and Dele Alli and Harry Kane both got off the mark for the season.
"Even if he doesn't score, Harry works very hard," explained Vertonghen. "I'm very pleased for him that's he's scored his first goal. Even Sonny hasn't really played this year for us and he did brilliantly and Dele scored as well so it was very important for the team.
"It shows that we need everybody and we have a very strong squad. You could see who came off the bench and those who aren't even here, like Mousa or [Georges-Kevin] N'Koudou or Danny Rose who weren't even on the bench. We've got a very strong squad.
"In the Premier League you don't get a lot of chances and we knew we had to win this one to keep up with the top three or four and we did. It was a good performance. We started very well with good focus and it was very important for the confidence."