Football: 'Maturing' Tottenham deserve respect in the Champions League, says Mauricio Pochettino

Tottenham players led by Harry Kane (second from right) and Dele Alli playing piggy in the middle at their training centre in Enfield ahead of their second leg against Juventus. Spurs hold a slender advantage over the Italian champions by virtue of t
Tottenham players led by Harry Kane (second from right) and Dele Alli playing piggy in the middle at their training centre in Enfield ahead of their second leg against Juventus. Spurs hold a slender advantage over the Italian champions by virtue of their two away goals from the first leg.PHOTO: REUTERS

Pochettino says his 'maturing' side are good enough to beat Juventus to reach the q-finals

LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham are "mature" enough to deal with the big guns in the Champions League.

The Spurs manager, speaking ahead of today's second leg of the last 16 tie against Italian champions Juventus, said: "Last season was a massive disappointment to be out in the first stage but, this year, of course the people in Europe start to respect Tottenham after the group stage when we finished first.

"We improved our reputation in Europe and they respect the philosophy we build and the football we play."

Tottenham go into the Wembley clash with the advantage of two valuable away goals following a 2-2 draw in Turin last month.

"It's been step by step, a little step every season. You can see the team is more mature," Pochettino added.

"We know very well we are playing one of the best teams in Europe but we are a brave team and very positive people. We need to think that we can win. Then what happens will be the consequence.

  • JUVE HAVE NEVER ELIMINATED AN ENGLISH CLUB IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE KNOCKOUT STAGES

  • Man United

    1998-99 Semi-finals: Aggregate 3-4 (1st leg, away: 1-1, 2nd leg: 2-3)

    Liverpool

    2004-05 Quarter-finals: 1-2 (1st leg, away: 1-2, 2nd: 0-0)

    Arsenal

    2005-06 Quarter-finals: 0-2 (1st leg, away: 0-2, 2nd: 0-0)

    Chelsea

    2008-09 Last 16: 2-3 (1st leg, away: 0-1, 2nd: 2-2)

"If we are able to play in the way we normally do then we will be close to winning. I am confident that the team is mature enough."

Tottenham goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris echoed his manager's assessment.

"I feel that the team is growing stronger every season. Most of the players have been here two, three, four years together. We arrive at one point with all the maturity we built, and confidence we built," the 31-year-old Frenchman said.

Long regarded as one of the sport's brightest young managers, Pochettino is hoping to lead Spurs to Champions League glory this season to join the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Diego Simeone as part of the managerial elite.

Like his former Argentina team-mate Simeone, Pochettino is coveted by some of Europe's biggest clubs. But while Simeone has defied the odds to lead Atletico Madrid to LaLiga and Europa League titles, as well as reaching two Champions League finals, Pochettino is still waiting for his breakthrough moment.

Despite earning plaudits throughout his nine-year managerial career with Espanyol, Southampton and now Tottenham, the 46-year-old has failed to lead any of his clubs to a major trophy.

But Tottenham's Champions League exploits over the last few months suggest any inferiority complex is being eroded at last.

That certainly seemed the case when they crushed European champions Real Madrid 3-1 at Wembley with a vibrant display that showcased the best of Pochettino's high-tempo philosophy.

That impressive result came after a draw in Madrid and recovering from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Juventus in the first leg was another step in the right direction.

Tottenham are hoping to reach the Champions League last eight for the first time since 2011.

Spurs forward Son Heung Min, who scored both goals in the 2-0 Premier League win over Huddersfield over the weekend, said that his team have nothing to fear.

"We play at home and we are not scared," the South Korean said.

"We are hungry. We deserve to play in the Champions League quarter-finals or even more. We are good enough."

Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi knows his team will have to be at their best to beat Tottenham.

"Wednesday won't be simple, Tottenham are a team who play well with the ball... they have done excellent things in the Champions League, including the first leg against us," he told Sky Italy journalist Gianluca di Marzio.

"However we are going to London to score and win. With the help of our fans, it is possible."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2018, with the headline 'Spurs 'deserve respect''. Print Edition | Subscribe