If fans have any doubts that about Mauricio Pochettino’s views on the Europa League, he made it abundantly clear today. Pochettino, speaking in a press conference ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League match against CSKA Moscow, was emphatic in saying that now that Tottenham Hotspur’s Champions League adventure is over, it’s time to move on to the next thing. And that next thing is a result against CSKA and a spot in the knock-out rounds of the Europa League.
“I think our supporters never want us to lose a game. It’s important to be involved in the Europa League, it’s important for the club and if we will be involved in the Europa League maybe it’s a good opportunity to win some trophies. I don’t know why you’d think in a negative way. We need to be positive. Okay, we feel very disappointed that we cannot go further in the Champions League but when it’s another opportunity to be alive in another competition and try to win that trophy, why not? I am always positive, for me it’s important to be involved in the Europa League and it’s for that reason tomorrow we need a big effort to try to win the game.
“I am the manager of Tottenham and I believe that it is important for the club to involved in the Europa League. We didn’t play well in the Champions League at Wembley against Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen, but it’s important for us to be involved in the Europa League. Why not try to go further in that competition?
“It’s important to be positive. It’s true that it will be tough to be involved in the Europa League again but if we cannot cope with the pressure to play in Champions League or we don’t show that we deserve in the end to qualify, now our responsibility is to try to win tomorrow, go to the Europa League, try to do our job and try to go further in that competition.”
Meanwhile, Jan Vertonghen echoed his manager and said that he’s ready to play and that tiredness will not be an excuse.
“To be honest I love playing in Europe. Obviously I prefer to play in the Champions League but we have the squad and fitness to cope with two games a week and I prefer to play two games a week so we will do everything to win this game.
“We’re very disappointed that we’re not through in the Champions League but Tottenham is a team that wants to win trophies and wants to compete at the highest level. I think the Europa League is a good competition and it’s a perfect competition for Tottenham to compete at the highest level and hopefully to go as far as possible.”
It’s one thing to say that you’re going to try and take the Europa League seriously, but Poche will speak volumes with his team selection on Wednesday. While Spurs only need a result against CSKA to qualify, it will be interesting to see whether Pochettino plays a first choice or a rotated lineup against the Russian champions. Toby Alderweireld will be in the matchday 18, and with Vincent Janssen it’s likely that Harry Kane will start up top. But will Pochettino rest players like Mousa Dembele, Christian Eriksen, Kyle Walker, and Son Heung-Min?
Tottenham have a big match this weekend at Old Trafford against Jose Mourinho and Manchester United, always a difficult place to go and win, even with a team that is, at present, six points ahead of them in the table. Poche may talk a big talk, but that could backfire if Tottenham doesn’t put out at least a decently strong side, especially against a decent CSKA team that will be motivated to win in order to qualify for Europa in Spurs’ place.