Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino believes Dele Alli's ultra-competitive nature means he often saves his best for top-class opposition.
Pochettino lauds Alli character
The former MK Dons midfielder has come in for regular criticism this season having largely struggled to hit the heights that saw him net 18 league goals last term.
But a brace in the crucial win at Chelsea earlier this month hinted at his sense of occasion, while the England man has also been on target in notable victories over Real Madrid and Liverpool.
Pochettino believes Alli, who is set to play a key role for England at the upcoming World Cup, feels most at home on the big stage.
"He needs strong opposition to give his best. It's his character. He is so competitive that when it's easy he's not interested," Pochettino said.
"In training sessions, when you do finishing practice without any opposition, sometimes you have to say 'come on Dele, you have the capacity to score'. But if you put opposition there, he will score an unbelievable goal.
"He is a bit special. Not just a special talent but a special character. That is why we are talking a lot during the whole season about Dele Alli.
"He has special energy and needs to feel the competition."