“Play like Messi” – Pochettino’s solution to overcoming Ajax in return leg

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Tottenham have quite a bit of work to do against Ajax in the Champions League semifinal as they go into the second leg at Amsterdam with a 1-0 deficit, courtesy of a strike by midfielder Donny van de Beek.

Spurs now have to beat Ajax at the Johan Cruijff Arena on Wednesday in order to have a chance of progressing into the final in Madrid.

If they manage to progress to the final, it seems likely that Spurs will come up against Barcelona, after the Catalans demolished Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the other semifinal tie on Wednesday.

Lionel Messi scored a brace, including a beautifully placed free kick as Barca effectively have a foot in the final ahead of the return leg at Anfield.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was all praise for the Argentinean magician, who he described as a “football god”

Speaking to Football.London, the Spurs manager said, “What can I say about Messi more than I have or others have said? He’s one of the Gods of football.

“It’s unbelievable the desire and the capacity to fight with the ball at his feet and without the ball at his feet.

“I am so grateful to have the possibility to watch him every time I can. It’s a massive example. Today if I have 21, 22, 23, 17, 18, 14 (year olds) he must be my example.”

Pochettino further suggested that the Spurs players need to display intensity that Messi does off the ball, if they are to have a chance of overcoming Ajax.

The 47-year-old added, “Of course, but if we play like him (Messi) for sure we are going to have a chance.

“But not like him doing what he does with the ball, but like him without the ball. If we play like him without the ball, show the desire that he had yesterday, for sure we are going to have the chances to qualify for the final. If not, no chance.

“If we play like we played the first 20 minutes it’s difficult to have a chance because Ajax wasn’t better than us. In the moment they showed more desire than us, they were better.

“That is the key point, that is so important. To play at Bournemouth on Saturday we need to show the same desire, if not, impossible to win. Wednesday will be the same.

“That is a key point and it is so painful , in the other semi-final when you see Messi’s desire and motivation and say, ‘Why weren’t we motivated in the same way’.”

Spurs Web’s take

Messi proved yet again with his performance against Liverpool that he is the best the game has ever seen. Pochettino certainly makes an important point about the Argentine’s work off the ball, as it is an underrated element of his game.

Despite having won every major team and individual honor in the game, his passion and motivation to still succeed at the highest level and drag his team over the line in important games, is something to behold.

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