Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli on form: I'm my own biggest critic

LONDON -- Tottenham Hotspur star Dele Alli has admitted he is struggling to play at his best consistently and says he is his "own biggest critic" when it comes to performances.

Alli has scored seven goals and added four assists in 18 appearances this season but he has struggled to consistently hit the levels that saw him named PFA Young Player of the Year in both of the last two years.

The 21-year-old, who is set to start Spurs' final Champions League group game against Apoel Nicosia on Wednesday, says he is working hard to improve.

"I'm my own biggest critic. Every time, I know when I'm not playing well, when it's not going well for me," Alli said. "There's always positives and negatives in every game. I've learnt a lot so far this season and in the two years previously.

"Obviously I would like to be at the highest level, in every game, in every single training session, but I don't think that's possible. It's been an opportunity for me to learn more about myself as a player and as a person, so I'm looking forward to it and I've got to keep enjoying it. It's important that I keep working hard to learn and improve as a player."

Alli has saved his best form for the Champions League. Having been suspended for Spurs' first three group matches, he scored twice in the 3-1 win over Real Madrid and assisted both goals in the 2-1 victory at Borussia Dortmund.

The England midfielder travelled to Madrid for last month's 1-1 draw and trained with his teammates in the Santiago Bernabeu on the night before the match.

He says the disappointment of not being able to play at the home of the European champions helped to spur him on in this month's landmark victories in Europe.

"It was very difficult," he said of the trip to the Spanish capital. "When you're not able to play, it's a horrible feeling. You just want to be out there helping your team as much as you can. To play in such a big game would have been nice. I wanted to go there, help the team show my support.

"It was nice to do that and it got me going, raring to go for the next game. Growing up as a kid you want to play in the Champions League. Missing the first three games was horrible for me.

"I can't thank the manager enough for putting me back into the team in the first game I was back and I was happy to repay him with two goals."

Mauricio Pochettino will rest Hugo Lloris, Eric Dier, Kieran Trippier, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane for Apoel's visit to Wembley, while Toby Alderweireld (hamstring), Victor Wanyama (knee) and Erik Lamela (ineligible) are unavailable.

Youngsters Kazaiah Sterling, 19, and Luke Amos, 20, have been rewarded for good behaviour with places in the squad and Pochettino has urged the fringe players to show they are worthy of his first XI.

"Some players need to rest because they are so tired and need to breathe a little bit," the manager said. "Then it is a great opportunity [for the others] to show to the gaffer and show to the fans they are available to play and can be more regular in the starting eleven."

Michel Vorm, Juan Foyth, Serge Aurier, Danny Rose, Moussa Sissoko, Fernando Llorente and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou are expected to start.

One academy player who will not be included is 19-year-old winger Marcus Edwards, who Pochettino compared to Lionel Messi ahead of his first-team debut last season.

"Maybe I made a mistake [when I said that] because I believed it was positive and he was going to take it in a positive way," Pochettino said. "It's about performance.

"When you're young, sometimes you need more time. Sometimes it looks like it's time to have the possibility to play, or sometimes you stop your evolution. We still trust in him, that he can be important. Of course it's up to him after that to show us and everyone here at Tottenham that he deserves to be in the first team and deserves to have the possibility.

"He needs to work hard and wait for the opportunity. It's never easy, the last step, to join the first team from the academy."