Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino believes the strength of the Premier League is hampering the chances of English success in Europe.
Having seen Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal all lose their opening Champions League group matches, Pochettino sends his Spurs side out to start their Europa League campaign at home to Azerbaijan champions Qarabag on Thursday.
Only reigning Premier League champions Chelsea managed to win from the four sides in European action ahead of Tottenham’s fixture – with the threat of a drop in coefficient ranking also threatening to see the number of Champions League places doled out to English clubs cut from four to three.
With a booming television rights deal and plenty of the world’s biggest names plying their trade for its clubs, the Premier League is often praised for the competitiveness throughout the division – but it is that high standard that Pochettino feels does not help when it comes to turning attention to continental competition.
“They can rest, they can recover the week before to play in the Champions League,” he said of clubs from Spain.
“But for Manchester City it was a very tough game against Crystal Palace, for Manchester United the same. It is not an easy competition, the Premier League. It is for that, that you suffer a lot when you play in Europe.
“We know that it is difficult, to play against Sunderland, then to play against Crystal Palace, and you play in the middle against Qarabag.
“It is never easy. I think the different leagues, like Spain and Italy, the gap between the teams and the teams at the top, it is a bigger gap. In England you can lose to anyone. This is one of the reasons why it is difficult to play in Europe for English teams.”
But Pochettino insists he does not want to see the quality of football in England diminish as he joked he could lead Spurs to Champions League glory if they plied their trade in Spain’s Primera Division.
“Yes,” he quipped when asked if Tottenham would win the Champions League in La Liga.
“Maybe in Azerbaijan, no? Or Andorra, no? I think it’s good the Premier League. For me it’s perfect. It’s the toughest competition in the world. I think for our supporters the Premier League is more important than other competitions.”
Meanwhile, Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov is looking forward to taking his side into battle against an English Premier League side for the first time – even if he expected something of a continental approach from Pochettino.
“Tomorrow Qarabag will play one of our best games,” he said.
“The team is very enthusiastic and we will try to please the fans of Azerbaijan football and demonstrate we are one of the best team,
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