Nabil Bentaleb picked out as Tottenham's key man by Italian press

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Nabil Bentaleb has been picked out as the heartbeat of the side.

Many players return from the African Cup of Nations tournament and struggle to hit form. Demba Ba at Newcastle and Gervinho at Arsenal are two such players who have fallen flat after returning in previous seasons.

Nabil Bentaleb is an exception. The Algerian arrived back from the competition and slotted straight back into the Tottenham Hotspur team as if he had never been away.

He was a star performer in the Europa League first leg against Fiorentina, having more touches of the ball (96) than any player on the pitch and winning four interceptions.

Bentaleb is expected to start in the return game against the Serie A side, and he is a player whose performance did not go unnoticed.

Italian website Tuttomercatoweb write that stopping Bentaleb is key to Fiorentina's success in the last 32 tie, such is the influence he yields.

They report: "He is well built, fast, has a positional sense and has a mentaility of a true professional. He has emerged in just one season.

"In the first leg against Fiorentina his presence created many problems to the whole technique of the Viola team and tonight the feeling is that the situation could be repeated. Limiting his impact will be the main objective of and tactics of Vincenzo Montella."

That's high praise indeed for a player who would have been unheard of to most Premier League fans a year ago, let alone Serie A followers.

There is a strong chance the midfielder starts, and even if Fiorentina line up with their expected three in midfield, there is no guarantee they will be able to stop him.

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch