Spurs count on Wembley factor against Juventus

LONDON • Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino believes turning his side's temporary Wembley home into a fortress can ensure progress to the Champions League quarter-finals when they host Juventus on Wednesday.

Spurs hold the upper hand on the Italian champions, who have reached the final in two of the past three seasons, after drawing 2-2 in the first leg of the last-16 clash.

The Wembley factor was cited as one of the key reasons for Spurs' failure in Europe last season as they crashed out of both the Champions League and Europa League at the first time of asking. However, they have acclimatised during the course of a season at the home of English football while work on the club's new 62,000-capacity stadium is being completed.

Son Heung Min struck twice as Spurs eased past Huddersfield 2-0 on Saturday, extending their unbeaten run at Wembley in all competitions to 15 games.

That stretch has included landmark wins over Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal.

"I am so pleased. I think it is a fantastic run at home," said Pochettino. "We can say that Wembley is our home and that is so important for the team.

"Last season was a strange feeling but now I think for us it is like our home. The team feel good playing here and, when the results are positive, everything is much better."

Son has felt those home comforts more than most as 13 of his 15 goals this season have come at Wembley.

"We feel comfortable at Wembley, we know how we play here," said the South Korean. "Of course it was going to take time but now we feel like we're at home."

Juventus will also arrive at Wembley with a winning momentum. The Italian champions have won their last three games in all competitions since they allowed Spurs to come back from 2-0 down.

Argentina striker Paulo Dybala, who missed the first leg with a thigh injury, marked his comeback after a month on the sidelines by scoring a stoppage-time winner in the 1-0 victory at Lazio on Saturday.

"I didn't know if I was meant to play 90 minutes, as it was my first start and we have a big game on Wednesday," Dybala told Sky Sports Italia, after holding off a Marco Parolo challenge before driving the ball past Thomas Strakosha in the Lazio goal.

"I felt good and got the goal. But we must improve our technique in London and come out stronger in the first half."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2018, with the headline 'Spurs count on Wembley factor against Juventus'. Print Edition | Subscribe