Fiorentina boss Paulo Sousa believes Mauricio Pochettino has turned Tottenham into one of the best teams in Europe ahead of the sides’ Europa League clash on Thursday.
Spurs have the slight advantage heading into the second leg at White Hart Lane after Nacer Chadli’s penalty ensured they took an away goal from last week’s 1-1 draw in Italy.
Fiorentina, however, are a dangerous side on the counter-attack and Pochettino’s men will be wary, having lost 3-1 on aggregate to the same opponents at the same stage of the competition last year.
Tottenham, however, are a different proposition from 12 months ago as they sit second in the Barclays Premier League. They have lost only three league games this season and boast the best goal difference in the division.
“I certainly feel and I believe a lot of us also think that Spurs are one of the very best teams in Europe at the moment,” Sousa said.
“That’s from a technical, tactical, mentality and physical point of view. They’re a young team, and they’re a very hungry team and every time they go out they want to try to impose themselves.”
Sousa added: “We need to play with a high level of physical and mental intensity and we need to play our game.
“Certainly in the first leg – despite the fact that Spurs are the team that come from this background and culture of being intense, being very strong and being physical — we more than held our own and created problems for them by the way we kept the ball moving.
“What we require is a game where we’re at our very best and at our best level of intensity.”
Pochettino confirmed on Wednesday he would not risk playing Harry Kane in the contest as the striker continues to recover from a broken nose he sustained against Crystal Palace last weekend.
Kane’s omission suggests Pochettino is prioritising victory against Swansea on Sunday, which would further his side’s push for a first league title since 1961.
“First and foremost Mauricio’s mentality and approach is one of someone who always wants to win,” Sousa said.
“I find it hard to imagine a manager going into a game thinking they don’t want to win or not being interested in winning a competition. And you can’t just focus on one competition.
“You have to bear in mind that Mauricio comes from a very competitive footballing background and certainly he will want to win.”
Fiorentina are also enjoying an excellent season in Italy, where they sit third in Serie A, six points behind league leaders Juventus.
The Viola’s form in Europe has been less convincing however. Sousa’s team finished second in Group I following defeats to both Basel and Polish side Lech Poznan.
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