Spurs aim to halt Wembley woes despite EPL priority

Tottenham striker Harry Kane and his team-mates in training ahead of their Group H Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund today. Spurs will hope to reverse their Wembley fortunes with European champions Real Madrid also in their group.
Tottenham striker Harry Kane and his team-mates in training ahead of their Group H Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund today. Spurs will hope to reverse their Wembley fortunes with European champions Real Madrid also in their group.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has claimed that English clubs are struggling in the Champions League because they prioritise winning the English Premier League (EPL) title instead.

No Premier League team has won Europe's top-tier competition since Chelsea in 2012, and they were also England's last finalists.

Compared to the last decade, Liverpool were winners in 2005, Manchester United in 2008, and Arsenal, Liverpool and United were finalists in 2006, 2007 and 2009 respectively.

"When you are here (in England), the Premier League is the main competition for every player. When you are here, the players want to fight to try to win it," Pochettino said.

"In Italy, France and Spain, the Champions League is the most important competition, but in English culture, it is the Premier League.

"The Champions League and Europa League are important, but they are not at the level of the Premier League.

"Only when you are here, you understand that the Premier League is massive."

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  • Wins Tottenham managed in three Champions League group matches at Wembley last season.

Ahead of his team's Group H Champions League encounter with Borussia Dortmund at Wembley today, Pochettino has also said that group favourites Real Madrid, who face APOEL, are the team to beat.

"It is so important, to start well in the competition and get the three points. In theory, it should be Real Madrid first and the others trying for second, but football is not about theory," the Argentinian added.

"It will be tough because Dortmund are a great team, but in our minds, our mentality is to win and be aggressive from the start."

Frustrated by a series of miserable experiences at Wembley, Tottenham will be desperate to finally vanquish the ghosts that haunt them at the national stadium.

They have been forced to relocate to Wembley while White Hart Lane is being rebuilt this season.

But Spurs have now played 12 matches at Wembley since the famous old arena was revamped - winning just twice and suffering eight defeats.

Dortmund have their own Wembley pain to soothe as they return to the stadium that played host to the most painful loss in their history.

They looked destined for extra time in the 2013 Champions League final, with the score level at 1-1 against Bayern Munich, only for an 89th-minute winner from Arjen Robben to break their hearts.

Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin insisted his team were over it.

"We're really looking forward to playing at the stadium again," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2017, with the headline 'Spurs aim to halt Wembley woes despite EPL priority'. Print Edition | Subscribe