Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has claimed that his players will walk out with a smile ahead of tomorrow’s huge Champions League clash against Barcelona. The Argentine’s comments come amid suggestions that Spurs may be headed for a early exit from Europe, following their disastrous 2-1 defeat to Inter Milan two weeks ago.
It’s been an interesting start to the season for Spurs. Having began their Premier League campaign with three emphatic victories, the North London side experienced a sudden turn in fortunes when they lost consecutive matches to Watford and Liverpool. What followed was a disappointing defeat to Inter Milan, which saw Spurs concede two goals in the last 10 minutes of the match to hand the tie to their Italian counterparts.
Tottenham’s performance against Inter seemed world’s away from the side that beat the likes of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund last season, yet since that match, they appear to have refocussed their efforts, leaving them fourth in the Premier League table after seven matches.
While Spurs have managed to navigate their way through Brighton, Watford, and Huddersfield over the last two weeks, preparing for a match against Barcelona is markedly different task – one they will embark upon without many of their star players. In fact, Mauricio Pochettino – a former Espanyol man, is forced to take on his former rivals without the likes of Dele Alli, Moussa Dembele, Christian Eriksen, and Jan Vertonghen. Factor into that equation an out of sorts Harry Kane, and it’s safe to assume that Spurs will have their work cut out for them.
Despite this, Pochettino is confident that Spurs can take the game to the Spanish champions, and has suggested that the most important thing for his players to do is enjoy themselves.
“It’s about enjoying the game tomorrow and the best player in the world in Messi,” said Pochettino. “Football is not a drama but always it’s about being focused, competitive and enjoying playing against the best player in the world.
“Be optimistic and be happy and smile when you go on the pitch. Don’t be too serious.”
“It’s very clear, very simple, we need to be near him when he gets the ball,” he added.
“If we leave him space he will get away from his marker. What we need is to have players helping each other. We need to demand sacrifice and they will expend a lot of energy.”