Saturday 17 March 2018

Mauricio Pochettino admits Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund are 'in theory' vying for runners-up spot

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

Jack Austin

Mauricio Pochettino has warned Tottenham Hotspur about getting off to a good start in this season’s Champions League against Borussia Dortmund, as “in theory” it will be the two of them battling to finish runners-up to Real Madrid.

Spurs were put in arguably the toughest group when the draw was made last month, as they were joined by back-to-back winners and favourites Madrid, as well as Dortmund and Apoel Nicosia.

Last season Tottenham finished third in their group after a slow start to make a swift exit into the Europa League, with Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen finishing above them as their Wembley troubles stunted any progression.

They lost their opening game 12 months to eventual semi-finalists Monaco at home and Pochettino knows that a similar start will set a similar tone to their campaign this season.

“Last season after the first game against Monaco it was difficult to change the dynamic,” he said. “It’s so important to try to win the game. Dortmund are a great team but in our mind our mentality is to win and be aggressive from the start.

“I think tomorrow is so important, to start well in the competition and get the three points. In theory it should be Real Madrid first and the others trying for second, but football is not about theory.”

Spurs must wait until the face the Champions League holders as they face them consecutively in Gameweek 3 and 4, where they will compete against familiar faces in Gareth Bale and Luka Modric.

Since Pochettino’s appointment, Spurs, despite their smaller and stricter budget, have nestled their way into the top four consistently, being the closest challenger to the eventual Premier League champions in each of the last two seasons.

And the Argentine has now challenged his young side to do the same again and turn themselves into contenders on the European stage, as they have done domestically.

“Now we need experience,” he added, “we need to challenge them.

“Remember me we had to reduce gap to the top four sides, now we’re fighting again to reduce the gap with these type of clubs in the Champions League. This season will be a very good season for us to challenge them and show our reality.”

Pochettino hinted that Serge Aurier could be in line for his Spurs debut at Wembley on Wednesday, with Davinson Sanchez also in contention – although Ben Davies could be rested.

Independent News Service

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