Pochettino sees positives in Europa League

LONDON • The Europa League may sometimes be derided as a distraction. But Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino and his players have insisted that they will fight for their place in Europe's second-tier club competition.

Spurs are third in Group E of the Champions League, with no hope of progressing to the knockout stages. But a win or draw against fourth-placed CSKA today would put them into the Europa League.

Pochettino said the Europa League offered Spurs the chance to make amends for their poor showing in Europe this season and get used to the Wembley pitch, where they are set to play their Premier League home games next term.

"It's important for different reasons. First, we have the opportunity to play more games at Wembley," said the Argentinian.

"Next season, we will play a lot of games and that is a great opportunity to gain experience at Wembley. To make Wembley our home, that is very important.

"It's important to be positive. It's true that it will be tough to be involved in Europa League again.

"We didn't play well in the Champions League and you can remember the games against Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen, but it's important for us to be involved in the Europa League. Why not try to go further in that competition?"

Tottenham have played European home games at Wembley this season due to the redevelopment of White Hart Lane, but lost both Champions League matches at the national stadium.

They have yet to win at Wembley since 2008 and the players are desperate to end that run.

Midfielder Christian Eriksen told the club's official website: "We want to finish with a win and give something back to the fans."

Striker Son Heung Min added: "If we play in the Europa League, it won't stop us finishing in the top four or five (in the Premier League). Wembley is a special stadium and we need to (feel) comfortable there."

Tottenham will welcome back defender Toby Alderweireld today, but will be without injured Erik Lamela, who has returned to Argentina for personal reasons. Striker Vincent Janssen (ankle) will also miss the game.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'Pochettino sees positives in Europa League'. Print Edition | Subscribe