Mauricio Pochettino believes his Tottenham side is much changed from that which lost in Fiorentina 12 months ago and insists he is still going all-out to win the Europa League.
Spurs crashed out at the round of 32 stage of the same competition last year after a 2-0 defeat in Florence – which came just three days before their Capital One Cup final against Chelsea, a game they lost by the same scoreline.
Last February Pochettino’s side were seventh in the Barclays Premier League, this time when they run out at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Thursday night they do so as one of the favourites for the title – currently second in the division and only two points behind leaders Leicester.
And Pochettino reckons his squad has come on leaps and bounds since their disappointment in Tuscany last year – echoing Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa’s view that the Europa League tie bares all the hallmarks of a Champions League affair.
“Last season was very different, some different players and we are in a different period now,” he said.
“Fiorentina are the same because they have a different coach and different players, too. It is a very different team to last season, a different game completely.
“My attitude was to try and win the game (last year) and tomorrow it is the same. It is a very important competition for us, we have a strong squad.
“I agree with Paulo – the characteristics and the level we show in the Premier League and the level of Fiorentina in the Serie A, both teams have a lot of quality and good players.
“I agree with him, we need to work very hard to play again next season but in the Champions League against Fiorentina.”
While Europa League success last year would have been seen as a way for the club to qualify for the Champions League – a stronger domestic showing throughout this campaign not only means a top-four finish is likely, but also sees Spurs as one of the favourites for the title.
But Pochettino insists he will maintain his stance on wanting to win in Europe while keeping up with their recent domestic form which has seen them win their last seven in all competitions.
“For us it is important, too,” he said of the Europa League
“I can understand, because our position in the table it is a very big opportunity to fight for the Premier League but, for me, when you’re in a big club like Tottenham you need to fight in every competition and every game.
“I don’t think too much into the future. The most important game is tomorrow and the Premier League can wait for a few weeks. When you manage Tottenham you need to try and win every competition and every game.”
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