‘You can feel the energy in the eyes of the players:’ Mauricio Pochettino hails Tottenham’s unbroken spirit through tough winter ahead of Dortmund clash
- Tottenham have had tough schedule but are best team since start of December
- Mauricio Pochettino wants his side to push on to complete midwinter offensive
- Spurs face Borussia Dortmund in mouthwatering Champions League clash
- Pochettino said: ‘I think we are going to find the energy and give our best’
Mauricio Pochettino gathered his Tottenham squad on the eve of their return to the Champions League and demanded one more push to complete the midwinter offensive.
Pochettino reminded his players how they were the best team in the Premier League since the start of December despite a gruelling schedule which the manager feels has left them at a disadvantage at almost every turn.
Still, they have emerged with form strong and spirit unbroken and, when he searched the room for signs, he was pleased to detect the requisite desire ahead of this last-16 tie against Borussia Dortmund.
Mauricio Pochettino (right) and assistant Jesus Perez led Tottenham through a busy mid-winter
Spurs are the best team in the Premier League since early December and spirits are high
‘The extra charge is there,’ said Pochettino. ‘You can feel the energy in the eyes of the players. It is completely different. I don’t know why… but you can feel that it’s the Champions League.
‘You can feel that it’s going to be a massive game with, I hope, a full stadium at Wembley and the energy and motivation is going to be there.
‘If not, we are not ready to compete in this type of situation and you can start to think we have some problem but I think we are going to find the energy and give our best to try to be close to winning.’
This will be Tottenham’s 20th fixture in all competitions since the start of December. They have lost five, drawn at Barcelona and won the rest. In the last 12 Premier League games, they have collected 30 points. No team has more.
The Dortmund game is the last before a welcome breather – a 10-day break before Burnley away – and Pochettino will reward them with time off and the chance to take a short holiday, ‘First we are going to have a few days to rest and recover,’ said the Spurs boss.
‘I am going to reward the players whatever happens against Dortmund. They deserve some days off to spend time with the family and breathe a little bit because the fixtures schedule was crazy up until today.
‘I saw the other day on TV that from the beginning of December we were the best team in the Premier League. That spoke very highly of the squad, the players and they fully deserve all the credit.
‘We’re doing a fantastic job. The players are giving their best in difficult circumstances and I am so proud to be in front of these players.’
Pochettino took time out of training to sit alone and watch from the sidelines on Tuesday
Danny Rose is not fit to start against Dortmund after suffering a cut to his shin against Leicester on Sunday.
‘One more day and maybe he is able to play,’ said Pochettino, not missing the chance to reiterate his complaint about being asked to play on Sunday rather than Saturday.
Jan Vertonghen, expected to deputise at left back, revealed that injured players including Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Ben Davies will be back from injury in time for the return in Germany, in three weeks.
‘We feel good as a team, so strong,’ said Vertonghen. ‘We definitely want to win this game. We know a couple of guys will come back after the first leg as well.’
Spurs beat Dortmund home and away in the competition last season and, despite their resurgence under Lucien Favre, this might be as good a time as any to face the Bundesliga leaders, with no wins in three games and a flu-bug rampant inside the club.
Jan Vertonghen (right) believes the squad are full of confidence ahead of the game
Son Heung-min has been in sensational form for Spurs throughout the campaign
All of which stresses the importance of this particular fixture. Win it and Pochettino will be confident of avoiding defeat in the second leg having seen his team secure draws at Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus.
Pochettino understands and so do his players, and Vertonghen extended the call to arms to supporters who have cooled on the Wembley experience as the move into the new £850million stadium at White Hart Lane has been delayed.
Fewer than 30,000 turned out for the Premier League game against Watford last month but more than 75,000 are expected on Wednesday. ‘Home advantage is something big in the knock-out phase of the Champions League,’ said Vertonghen. ‘It helps when the stadium is full and rocking and we will see that.
‘It’s a great fixture. We became footballers to play in these games at Wembley, one of the best stadiums in the world.
‘We had some great games there last season and we definitely need that again. It gives you a great lift. We need everyone behind us and it might give us an extra boost.’