Mauricio Pochettino cannot wait to take charge of his maiden Champions League game as he leads Tottenham back into Europe’s elite club competition.
Spurs have been absent from the top level of Europe since Harry Redknapp’s side reached the quarter-finals in 2011.
But, having finished third in the Premier League last season after being title contenders for much of the second half of the campaign, Pochettino has guided the club back into the Champions League with the club staging their games at Wembley while White Hart Lane’s capacity is reduced due to the building of their new home.
And after being drawn in Group E alongside Russian champions CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen of Germany, and Ligue 1 outfit Monaco, Pochettino is ready for his first taste of the competition. “We are very excited because it will be my first opportunity to play Champions League football as a manager, this will be exciting for me and for the players too.
“For a lot of players it is their first time playing in the Champions League.
“To play at Wembley is another exciting possibility. To play in front of 90,000 people will be a great moment for us, a great moment for Tottenham and our supporters too.”
Pochettino has also backed his players to rise to the challenge of Champions League football but insists the lure of playing for Spurs is enough for them.
“Of course,” he said when asked if his squad will be up for this new challenge.
“They are very excited and motivated to play Champions League and for the Premier League too. They are very motivated to play for Tottenham, that is what is important.”
There could yet be further additions to Pochettino’s squad before the group stage gets under way, with Spurs linked to Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.
It is understood Zaha arranged a meeting with Palace boss Alan Pardew at the club’s training ground yesterday morning where he made clear his wish to join Spurs.
Tottenham have started negotiations with Palace and are understood to be planning an opening offer of £15m (€17.5m).
Pardew refused to agree to Zaha’s request, instead informing the player he would speak to chairman Steve Parish and only sell if the price was right for the club, with the Eagles having already lost Yannick Bolasie to Everton in this window.
As ever, Pochettino would not be drawn on any links to potential signings but did concede a pacey attacker — like Zaha — was the kind of player he wants.
“Yes, I would like a player like this,” he said.
“We have improved because now we have two strikers, and now I think we need some players in the second line of offence to help the team compete better and have more quality in the squad, because it will be a very tough season with us with the Champions League and very tough competitions.”
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