Football: Barca a 'different' kettle of fish

Tottenham striker Harry Kane, training at the club's Enfield Training Centre, will be relied upon to lead the line against Barcelona when the two sides play at Wembley in their Champions League game. Spurs are hoping to bounce back from their opening
Tottenham striker Harry Kane, training at the club's Enfield Training Centre, will be relied upon to lead the line against Barcelona when the two sides play at Wembley in their Champions League game. Spurs are hoping to bounce back from their opening 2-1 defeat by Inter Milan.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Having faced Real Madrid last season, Spurs coach wants team to enjoy Catalan challenge

LONDON • Tottenham's players will remember storming past Real Madrid 3-1 at home last season to top their Champions League group ahead of the European champions.

Today, another Spanish giant in Barcelona will visit Wembley but Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted defeat in replicating that same level of motivation.

The Argentinian said at a pre-match press conference yesterday: "I think we are in a different period. Plenty of our players were involved in the World Cup (this year) and Real Madrid (in November 2017) was our biggest game then.

"Then they played in the World Cup. Now you cannot motivate in the same way as you did one year ago. So it's about enjoying the game tomorrow... it's about being focused and optimistic. Be happy and smile when you go on the pitch. Don't be too serious."

But it is not because Pochettino sees Barcelona as inferior to Real, following the LaLiga champions' domestic struggles. They have not won in three games.

"When you meet teams in a negative dynamic, it's good for them to play in a different competition. Barcelona and teams like them play their best in the Champions League," the 46-year-old said.

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    Premier League goals by Harry Kane after his brace on Saturday. The tally leaves him second alongside Manchester City's Sergio Aguero and Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic, behind Chelsea's Eden Hazard on six goals.

"The ambition of course is to win. For us it's to try to win every game and see where we are at the end of the season."

He is also plotting Barca's downfall safe in the knowledge he will never manage the club, he told Spanish daily Marca.

He believes his past precludes him from ever taking charge at the Nou Camp, given that he has been both a player and manager at cross-town rivals Espanyol.

"(Facing Barca) motivates me, being an Espanyol fan and living for so many years in Barcelona," he said.

"It is more than understood (that I will never take over)... My path and that of Barcelona are different, opposite directions. Coaching there would be impossible."

Pochettino's three years in charge of Espanyol (2009-2012) came after he spent nine years with the club, in two spells as a player.

 
 
 

Given Barcelona's history and financial might in contrast to the less glamorous Espanyol, it is little surprise he found it tough to get the better of the superpower from the other side of town.

In nine local derbies against Barca, Pochettino's team managed only one win, with five defeats and three draws. But that lone success remains a touchstone moment for Pochettino and he knows that he needs another victory today, especially after Spurs lost their opener against Inter Milan.

Crucially, they go into the game with Harry Kane back among the goals after the striker shrugged off his early-season lethargy to net twice in last Saturday's 2-0 Premier League win at Huddersfield.

An injury crisis, however, could be a stumbling block for Spurs.

Goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris returned to training having recovered from a thigh injury but Belgian duo Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele, and Danish star Christian Eriksen have all been ruled out of the game because of hamstring, thigh and abdomen issues respectively.

England midfielder Dele Alli and Ivory Coast defender Serge Aurier are also unavailable because of hamstring and thigh problems.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2018, with the headline 'Barca a 'different' kettle of fish'. Print Edition | Subscribe