Big Match

Focused Spurs bank on belief

Toby Alderweireld shows his delight after Tottenham pipped Manchester City on away goals to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday. The teams meet again for the third time in 10 days today.
Toby Alderweireld shows his delight after Tottenham pipped Manchester City on away goals to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday. The teams meet again for the third time in 10 days today. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Pochettino's tired men 'to use all the tools' to derail City's title hopes and boost top-4 hopes

LONDON • Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino says his players are "still in a dream" after reaching the Champions League semi-finals in dramatic fashion, but expects his side to be ready for today's crucial Premier League clash against Manchester City.

Spurs lost 4-3 in a classic encounter against City in Wednesday's quarter-final second leg, but went through on away goals after the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate.

It was a gripping spectacle right until the final few minutes when City had a stoppage-time goal from Raheem Sterling, which would have sent them through, ruled out for offside after a VAR review.

"We are all tired after an amazing, crazy and unbelievable night," Pochettino told a news conference on Thursday. "It means a lot (to reach the semi-finals). We still haven't realised because we are still in a dream. We're still in a bubble.

"We can feel the happiness of our fans, also through the messages of family and friends.

"But, because we are so focused and busy preparing for Saturday, you do not allow yourself to live your reality. Our job is to be focused and concentrated and use all the tools to be ready for Saturday."

SELF-CONFIDENCE

To be in the position we are now is because we had the belief, the faith and trust in our quality. No one believed in November that we would be in this position in April. But we had the belief.

MAURICIO POCHETTINO, Tottenham Hotspur manager, on why his team have come this far.

Spurs, third in the league, return to the Etihad Stadium today as they hope to boost their chances of finishing in the top four for a fourth consecutive season.

"In 10 days to play three games... everybody thinks we know each other better now, but there is not much time to train or prepare," Pochettino added.

"We need to assess some players, that is the most important... to try to take the best decision and to provide the team with energy to be possible to fight for the three points."

Although the Argentinian admitted that his team were tired, there also came an insistence that all involved were "strong and with energy" and ready to go again.

That Spurs can still be spoken of in those terms at this stage of the season is remarkable, and not just because it busts the keyboard warriors' theory of this being a squad full of bottlers overseen by a fraud of a manager.

The bigger picture also comes into play, specifically the circumstances Pochettino and his men have overcome to find themselves at this captivating junction.

No new players arrived in the summer or in January and a stadium move that became so protracted it threatened to engulf everyone at the club in a fog of doom and gloom.

And, if that was not enough, star striker Harry Kane's ankle has kept giving way, striking again in the first leg against City and threatening to prove decisive in the second.

But Tottenham fought and found a way, as has been the case throughout the season, and it is this show of character Pochettino appeared almost compelled to speak about.

"To be in the position we are now is because we had the belief, the faith and trust in our quality," he said. "No one believed in November we would be in this position in April. But we had the belief.

"This is a massive example for us - how important it is never to give up, to always have faith and believe in yourself, your teammates, the club, the fans.

"This amazing history we are writing today will be a massive example for us in the future."

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2019, with the headline 'Focused Spurs bank on belief'. Print Edition | Subscribe