Opinion: Spurs must learn from 2016 with tough but winnable CL group draw

Champions League
(Photo by Visionhaus)

After Thursday’s Champions League group stage draw, many Tottenham fans were excited about facing an ‘easy group,’ but I implore fans to avoid the same mistake made in the 2016/17 season. 

Back in 2016, Mauricio Pochettino geared up for Tottenham’s first Champions League campaign in years. After drawing Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, and CSKA Moscow, many fans were expecting Spurs to easily top their group.

Unfortunately, those fans were gravely wrong as Pochettino’s side, distracted by their title chase and let down by their lack of depth, slumped to a disappointing third-place finish in their Champions League group.

This year, I’ve noticed a similar feel. A group containing Frankfurt, Sporting, and Marseille paints Tottenham as the clear favourites on paper with no big team present to challenge them.

The issue with this is that Spurs are not a powerhouse despite significant improvement under Conte. They’re not at the level of Bayern, PSG, City etc. Therefore, they’re definitely vulnerable to slip-ups if they don’t play with the correct intensity.

Even the experienced winner, Conte isn’t a powerhouse when it comes to the Champions League as he’s failed to replicate his domestic success in Europe (90 min).

Furthermore, there are no minnows in this group. Even Marseille, who was in pot 4, is easily one of the best teams from the final pot. Every game will be tough, so it will be up to Conte and his players to keep their feet on the ground and play with the right mentality.

Despite finishing midtable, Frankfurt won the Europa League last season and will be motivated to show Europe’s elite that this is the start of their rise. Sporting and Marseille came second in their respective leagues last season, displaying that they are no pushovers.

Typically, Tottenham are the underdogs and they like it that way, but Conte is breeding a winning mentality so on the other side of the coin, this could be the perfect opportunity to build some momentum and confidence going into the packed portion of the season.

Also, Tottenham have significantly improved the depth in their squad, which should help Conte balance the four competitions they will compete in this season.

Ultimately, Spurs have the right ingredients to finish top of their group without much fuss, but it will come down to the mental aspect of their game.

Often the gravity of these European ties either lifts Tottenham to great heights or plummets them down to new lows. Conte and his team will be hoping it’s the former rather than the latter this season.

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