Harry Kane feels he is already reaping the rewards of a rare month off as Tottenham’s talisman hopes to outgun England teammate Raheem Sterling when Spurs visit Premier League champions Manchester City on Saturday.
Kane was beset by ankle injuries last season after just a three-week break between lifting the Golden Boot as the World Cup’s top scorer and the start of another gruelling Premier League season.
He returned just in time for Tottenham’s first-ever Champions League final and England’s Nations League semi-final against The Netherlands in June but looked well short of match fitness as he ended up on the losing side in both games.
Rejuvenated by a summer off, in which he got married to childhood sweetheart Kate Goodland, Kane got his and Spurs’ season off to flying start with two goals in the final five minutes to beat Aston Villa 3-1 on the opening weekend.
“I had four weeks off, the most I’ve had off in a few years now,” said the England captain.
“I’ve had a good pre-season, been here from the start, working with the team and everyone’s feeling good.
“We’ve still got work to do, I’ve still got work to do in terms of fitness and things like that, but playing games will only help.
“I feel in a good place and hopefully I can continue doing what we’ve done.”
A double still was not enough to gain an early lead in the Premier League Golden Boot race, though, as Sterling scored a hat-trick in City’s ominous 5-0 demolition of West Ham.
But for Tottenham, City could have celebrated a quadruple of trophies last season as even shorn of Kane for the majority of the tie, Mauricio Pochettino’s men edged a thrilling Champions League quarter-final on away goals.
Son Heung-min was Tottenham’s star then, scoring three of his side’s four goals, but Spurs’ lack of depth slowly caught up with them in the final few months of the season.
With 12 Premier League games of last season to go, Spurs were just five points adrift of City and had a game in hand.
However, they won only three to finish 28 points behind the champions and clinging onto fourth place.
Tottenham’s squad has been bolstered by the signings of Tanguy Ndombele, who scored on his debut last weekend, Giovani lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon.
Yet, with Son serving the last of a three-match ban, the pressure is on Kane to ensure they do not falter at just the second hurdle in the title race.
“We kept up with them for a while last year but they blew ahead after January,” said Kane on challenging City and European champions Liverpool for the title this season.
“It’s important that we stay in touch for as long as we can.
“We have full belief that we can go all the way but there’s a long road ahead and we’ve got to be fully focused.”
However, stopping the City juggernaut on home soil is a huge ask for Spurs, particularly with Sterling continuing the fine form he showed to win the football writers’ player of the year award in England last season.
Tottenham let Kieran Trippier leave for Atletico Madrid last month and did not replace the England international meaning the inexperienced Kyle Walker-Peters has the unenviable task of keeping Sterling quiet.
“Since we started this season in China and the Community Shield he’s scored one goal minimum every game,” said City boss Pep Guardiola on Sterling’s thirst for goals.
“I know the special quality of the player, the consistent physicality and the finishing.”