Not long after Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-1 Champions League win over Real Madrid at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday night, Mauricio Pochettino addressed the media and praised his squad. But although this was a huge win for a Tottenham side that has been acused of underachieving, Poch implied that this victory was both the culmination of everything that Spurs have worked for over the past number of years... and just the beginning of what comes next.
“What is important for me is that we’re in the next round. After last year when we were in the Champions League and we were out of the running in the Group Stage after two games, this year we are in a very difficult group of Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and APOEL – who have shown that in their performances against Borussia that they are no pushovers.
So what’s important for us at the moment is that we’re going through a phase of consolidation, we’re growing in confidence, we’re starting to believe in our potential, our qualities.
We’re able to compete now with the biggest teams on a physical and a mental level and this is preparing us very well for what’s coming in the future and in particular in order for us to achieve the goals we have, those goals are always of course to win to win big competitions, this is what we dream of. If we get there this year whether we do or we don’t that remains to be seen, but we’re certainly moving in the right direction.”
It was a historic win, and Pochettino knew it. The win was the first time an English team had beaten Madrid since 2009, and the first Champions League group stage loss for Real in 30 matches. And Spurs didn’t just beat Madrid, they rolled them, dominating the two-time European champions and jumping out to a 3-0 second half lead behind a brace from Dele Alli and a goal from Christian Eriksen.
The win means that Spurs have now officially qualified for the next round of the Champions League, and can clinch first place in the group with either a win at Dortmund or against APOEL in the final match of the group stage. That’s a mammoth achievement for a young English club drawn into the Group of Death, and with that achievement comes additional recognition, and scrutiny, something Pochettino pointed out.
“Obviously a win brings with it certain consequences in terms of making us more visible and it's something everyone around Europe would have seen. These have been two games against Real Madrid where we've been very competitive. Now the most important thing for us is that we're through to the next round, we're where we want to be. So we'll look forward now hopefully to be well placed in the group and get a good draw for the second round.
What motivates us is to improve as a team, improve as a group to achieve our targets. You've all seen today that Tottenham is a big team. We're playing at Wembley in front of 80,000 people. These are really historic occasions. Now we belong not only among the best in England, but in Europe. Results like this help people see where we're going.”
If the 1-1 draw against Madrid at the Bernabéu was a signature result, Wednesday’s win was a statement of intent. Tottenham have shown that on their day they can beat the best clubs in the world. Spurs are not just a good team, they’re Champions League contenders and should be treated as such.