We can beat anyone, insists Pochettino

Spurs players (from far left) Eric Dier, Christian Eriksen and Serge Aurier training before facing Dortmund in their last-16 first leg in the Champions League today. The club last won a trophy - the League Cup - 11 years ago.
Spurs players (from far left) Eric Dier, Christian Eriksen and Serge Aurier training before facing Dortmund in their last-16 first leg in the Champions League today. The club last won a trophy - the League Cup - 11 years ago.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Spurs boss plays up Champions League hopes against Dortmund despite injuries to key players

LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham can win the Champions League, despite injuries ruling key players like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Danny Rose out of the last-16, first leg at Wembley today.

Speaking yesterday at a pre-match conference ahead of the clash against Borussia Dortmund, the manager said: "I really believe we can win every game we play, but we know this competition is so tough. We are facing a team at the top of the German table.

"But, with all respect to the team we're playing, we always believe we can beat anyone.

"The players are giving their best and I am so proud to be in front of this group of players.

"If you are honest with yourself with what Tottenham are doing in the last few years, I think it's fantastic from the top to the bottom. Champions League for a third year in a row is a bonus.

"If we aren't ready to compete today, we have a problem. We'll find our energy to do our best."

Despite his optimism, the Argentinian is facing a defining moment in his Tottenham reign, as he tries to keep his bid for a first major prize in almost five years at the club alive after already exiting the FA Cup and the League Cup.

Spurs have never been past the last 16 of either the Champions League or the Europa League since the manager arrived from Southampton in May 2014.

There remains a nagging feeling of unfulfilled potential about the team, who have won only three Cups in the past 28 years. The last time they won a title was their League Cup triumph in 2008.

THE 12TH MAN

It definitely helps when the stadium is full and rocking. We want one of the best crowds in the world behind us.

JAN VERTONGHEN, Spurs defender, urging the fans to give the team a lift as they bid to improve on last season's showing.

Tottenham have finished in the Premier League's top three for the past three seasons and are on track to finish third this term. But their poor record in domestic Cups under Pochettino is a significant blemish and their European exploits have been equally confounding.

His first season featured a tame Europa League last-32 defeat by Fiorentina and, the following year, they were outclassed by Dortmund in the last 16.

His maiden voyage in the Champions League was even more rocky, as Tottenham failed to qualify from the group stage.

Finally hitting their stride last season, Spurs enjoyed a memorable 3-1 win over European champions Real Madrid in the group stage and they also beat Dortmund twice.

But, as the pressure mounted, Tottenham melted, blowing their lead in the last-16 second leg against Juventus as two second-half goals sent them crashing out.

Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen, who was also present at yesterday's press conference, has called for greater fan support at Wembley today if they are to progress further than the last 16 this campaign.

He said: "It definitely helps when the stadium is full and rocking. We want one of the best crowds in the world behind us."

Dortmund captain Marco Reus, meanwhile, has been ruled out of the clash with a thigh injury.

Reus, who has 17 goals for Dortmund in all competitions and is the club's leading scorer, injured his thigh during their German Cup defeat by Werder Bremen last week and missed their draw with Hoffenheim in the league at the weekend.

Jadon Sancho, the 18-year-old English winger who has eight goals and 10 assists in all competitions, is expected to take Reus' place in the starting line-up.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2019, with the headline 'We can beat anyone, insists Pochettino'. Print Edition | Subscribe