Pochettino issues warning to players ahead of Champions League opener

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Tottenham will begin their Champions League campaign away at Olympiacos on Wednesday evening, as they attempt to go one better than last season when they finished runners up in the competition.

Pochettino admitted that reaching the finals of the competition last season means that teams will now look at Spurs as one of the contenders for the prize.

However, the Argentine insisted that the team will suffer if the players rest on their laurels and aren’t 100 per cent focused on the occasion.

Speaking to Football.London, the Spurs manager said, “We cannot talk in different way, a few months ago we played the final of the Champions League and Olympiacos will put us in this level of favourites for the game. But I respect the opposition a lot and the history and I know the atmosphere is going to be tough here.

“In this type of game you need to show why you are favourites as soon as you start the game. If you are better than opponents then ok, you need to show you were better but before the game in the Champions League you always need to show full respect to every single team and Olympiacos are a very good team.

“Their record here in this stadium in Europe is so good and it’s going to be tough atmosphere, it’s the first game of group stage and the motivation and excitement will be high.

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take the game in our best we are going to suffer. But of course if you see last season we played in the final of Champions League so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

The Greek side come into the game in great form, having won all of their games so far this season, without conceding a single goal.

Pochettino insisted that he was expecting a really tough game and also revealed that he is looking forward to sampling the atmosphere at Karaiskakis Stadium.

He said, “Of course I love to play in this type of atmosphere. I am Argentinian and I love to play like this when the fans are tough like the atmosphere will be tomorrow.

“Tactically it will be tough. We know how they play with the quality they have, a Portuguese manager in Pedro Martins who loves to play good football from the back, moving the ball quickly and we know each other very well.

“The key is to match their motivation and try to dominate the game. Both teams have similar philosophy trying to play football.

“It will be important if we are able to dominate the game and try to stop them in the transitions, stop them to run, to force them deeper, there are a lot of things we need to do to beat a team like Olympiacos. It will be a really, really tough game.”

The 47-year-old picked out Mathieu Valbuena as the Greek side’s main danger man going into the game.

He added, “one player I think we talked about, because he’s French, with Hugo [Lloris] is Mathieu Valbuena and other different player who can be decisive tomorrow.

“But more important is the collective, their philosophy and the way they player. That’s more important than individuals.

“We always analyse the opponents, not only do you focus on the tactical point of view but individuals like Valbeuna, who is one of the key points for Olympiakos.”

Spurs Web Opinion

It is absolutely vital that Tottenham begin with a win as with Bayern Munich up next, the team could suddenly find themselves with a lot of work to do to qualify from the group after two matches. A win in this game almost assures Spurs of qualification as one would expect the Lilywhites to beat both Olympiacos and Red Star Belgrade at home.

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