Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino has stressed the importance of picking up a positive result in tonight’s opening match of this season’s Champions League group stage against German giants Borussia Dortmund.
Last season’s eventual Premier League runners-up somewhat flattered to deceive in Europe, with Spurs winning just 2 of 8 matches leading to early exits in both the Champions League and the Europa League.
Despite being drawn into what was at first dubbed an ‘easy’ group alongside Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen and CSKA Moscow, Tottenham were only able to pick up their two wins against Russian champions CSKA.
Having been beaten home and away by Monaco while also failing to score a single goal against Leverkusen, Spurs settled for Europa League football, where their embarrassment was capped by a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Belgian side Gent in the round of 32.
Spurs’ struggles at Wembley have continued into this season’s domestic campaign which has only added to the intensity of tomorrow’s fixture versus German outfit Borussia Dortmund.
Tottenham gaffer Mauricio Pochettino has insisted that the game on tonight is not only the perfect platform for Tottenham to turn things around at the national stadium, but also to showcase how the side have progressed from last season.
“It was our first experience of the Champions League last season – previously 98% or 99% of the players played in the Europa League.” Pochettino was quoted as telling reporters, according to The Guardian.
“That experience is important. We know very well what the competition demands of you. It was a very painful experience but, today, there’s not an excuse.”
“The competition doesn’t wait for you. We need to be ready.”
The Argentine then uncharacteristically looked to the past, back to when he’d first joined the North-London outfit.
In Summer 2014, Tottenham were nowhere near challenging for a Champions League spot, but now, three years later, Spurs are challenging for titles.
Pochettino next implied that there is no reason as to why Tottenham cannot re-create these kinds of improvements in Europe too.
“Three years ago, I said we needed to reduce the gap with the big sides,” He added. “And after, we are fighting to win the league.”
“Why can’t we start to create the same in the Champions League and reduce the gap with these clubs?”
“They are at a completely different level and philosophy but this season will be a very good opportunity to challenge them and see our reality.”
Spurs will be without wonder-kid Dele Alli, who starts a three-game suspension in Europe following his dismissal in last season’s Wembley match against Gent.
Despite this, Pochettino however was quick to talk up the new-found depth in Tottenham’s squad in light of the club’s recent acquisitions of Davinson Sanchez, Paulo Gazzaniga, Juan Foyth, Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente.
“In the last three seasons I have listened a lot to how we need to create the competition in the squad – not only have 11-12 players with the possibility to fight for the starting eleven.” He stated.
“It’s fantastic to have different options. All the big teams have competition in all the positions.”
Given that Real Madrid are widely expected to comfortably top the group, the battle for second place will likely be fought between Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham.
Having started last season’s Champions League campaign with Wembley defeat to Monaco, Mauricio Pochettino stressed the importance of avoiding a similar fate and getting off to winning start against their rivals.
“Last season, after the first game at home to Monaco, it was difficult to change the dynamic.” He claimed.
“This game against Dortmund is so important. To start well will be key to the future. It is like a final.”