Tottenham already in bonus territory, says Pochettino

The new stadium which boldly stands only a few feet away from the site of the old White Hart Lane resembles a spaceship which has landed, for some reason, halfway down the Tottenham High Road.

Tottenham already in bonus territory, says Pochettino

The new stadium which boldly stands only a few feet away from the site of the old White Hart Lane resembles a spaceship which has landed, for some reason, halfway down the Tottenham High Road.

That a display of such wealth, luxury and cutting-edge modernity sits in the middle of one of London’s most deprived areas is incongruous and, according to Tottenham’s manager Mauricio Pochettino, so is his side’s presence in the Champions League quarter-final.

“This is going to be one of the most important games of my life,” the Argentinean said. “But for us it is a bonus to even be here.

“To have the possibility to play in the quarter-final under the circumstances, I think it is a massive bonus for us. But we are going to try.”

Hardly fighting talk from Pochettino, who will tonight lead out Spurs for their first ever Champions League game at what is arguably the finest stadium in world football.

But it is easy to understand the Tottenham manager’s point of view. He has not made a signing in the last two transfer windows and has had to maintain his side’s challenge for a top-four finish in the Premier League with a relatively small squad.

On the other hand, Manchester City have coughed up more than £100m in transfer fees in the same period to add to their already glittering squad and have perhaps the greatest strength in depth of any club in Europe right now.

It is why Tottenham, despite being at home, are 3/1 underdogs tonight and why League Cup winners City are still fighting for trophies on three other fronts.

Pochettino was asked at yesterday’s press conference whether he believes Pep Guardiola’s side are capable of winning the fabled quadruple and the Tottenham manager did not even let the reporter finish the question before firing back.

“That is a question for him,” he said, referring to Guardiola. “We are going to try to do our job, to win.

“Of course Manchester City have been building over the past few years to try to win everything.

They have a very good squad and he is one of the best – or the best manager in the world. If one club is capable of winning everything, it’s Manchester City.

Pochettino knows all about his opposite number’s capability as a head coach having tangled with him during their time managing in Spain. In those days, Guardiola was in charge at Barcelona while Pochettino was making his first steps in management at the Spanish city’s second club Espanyol.

By the time Guardiola took over at City, Pochettino had already been and gone at Southampton and was starting his revolution at Spurs. The Spaniard won his first six Premier League games in charge at the Etihad but came unstuck when he took his side to White Hart Lane.

It is perhaps a testament to the budget to which Pochettino has stuck that 10 of Tottenham’s starting 11 from that Sunday afternoon remain at the club. Only Kyle Walker, who joined City in a £50m transfer in July 2017, has gone.

Pocettion and Pep Guardiola
Pocettion and Pep Guardiola

“When you remember that situation I think 99 per cent of the players are still in our squad,” he said, reflecting on the clash. “Then when you see their squad, I think only 5-10 per cent are still there.

“I think it shows the evolution of different teams and clubs. For me, that victory is in the past and I think Manchester City are doing fantastic.

“For me, they are clear favourites to win the Premier League and the Champions League and are of course in the final of the FA Cup plus they’ve already won the Carabao Cup.”

How, then, do his players attempt to stop the combined might of City, who surged to the quarter-final by virtue of a 10-2 aggregate win over Schalke in the last stage.

“The first thing you have to do is run,” Pochettino said. “Before their top players start to play, they first run, press and are aggressive.

“They fight for every single ball and today that is football. The strength of Manchester City is not their quality, before that it’s their desire and their will to fight.

“Because they have unbelievable quality they win more than they lose.

“Big players love to play this type of game and we need to be sure to match their motivation and their desire. And then match nearly everything and the thing we maybe cannot match is talent inside the pitch.

“In different situations we have to match them — it’s going to be 11 v 11 players.”

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