Jan Vertonghen knows Tottenham need to vastly improve for the visit of Stoke if they are to avoid another post-Europa League slip-up.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side, like so many Spurs outfits before them, have struggled to balance domestic and continental exertions.
Already this season Liverpool, West Brom and Newcastle have won at White Hart Lane in games following European ties – the joint highest number of home defeats in the Barclays Premier League.
Those struggles will buoy the Potters ahead of Sunday’s trip to north London, as will the hosts’ unconvincing performances of late.
Pochettino’s men were fortunate to scrape through 2-1 winners at Asteras Tripolis on Thursday – producing an inept second-half display which Vertonghen knows would cost them dear if repeated on Sunday.
“It was strange because we didn’t win second balls,” the Belgium defender said.
“That team can play and the most important thing was they felt they could do something against an English team.
“I have been in that position with Ajax playing bigger teams and if you can get some hope you start playing differently and that’s what we gave them ourselves.
“It is a long way [off building a winning mentality like Ajax]. It is not [a case of] pick the line-up and you win every game since then. You can have ups and downs.
“Of course, we won, but it was not that positive, so we have to analyse this game and see where it went wrong. Then we have to continue and avoid making those mistakes in the next game.
“That’s what we have to do against Stoke, because if we make these mistakes against Stoke probably we will lose this game.”
Spurs have too often looked flaky at the back and blunt going forwards, yet they enter Sunday’s match looking for a fourth straight win in all competitions.
It is something Vertonghen is obviously aiming for, although he concedes wins over Brighton, Aston Villa and Asteras are hardly a yardstick by which to measure success.
“Of course, if you win three games in a row, it’s positive,” he said.
“You have to look at the name of the opponents as well, but it is a run and we will take a run and hopefully we can continue doing that on Sunday.”
Vertonghen is likely to retain his place in the starting line-up against Stoke, although Federico Fazio may well find himself back on the bench.
The summer signing from Sevilla has had a tough start to life in north London, with his sending-off in Greece the second of his short time with Spurs.
“It is harsh for him because [on Thursday] he played a good game and defensively he is very strong,” Vertonghen said of his fellow centre-back.
“I love playing with him and if you see his red cards he has been unlucky and I think he is settling in very well.
“I started playing straight away [when I arrived from Ajax] because of injuries – Younes Kaboul with his knee and William Gallas wasn’t fit – and I ended up playing with Michael Dawson.
“This year everyone is fit and you have to take your chances whenever you play, and he shows us he is doing that.
“You can’t compare his position to mine because we have more defenders, but I love the way he is settling in.”
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