Sunday 18 August 2019

Pochettino vows to give his team talk 'from the heart' to provide inspiration before Ajax clash

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino laughes during a training session. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino laughes during a training session. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Jason Burt and Matt Law

There will be no pre-planned speech from Mauricio Pochettino before Tottenham Hotspur head out of the dressing room at the Johan Cruyff Arena to face Ajax in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final tonight.

"I am not going to prepare (anything)," the Tottenham manager said on the eve of the encounter, hoping to reverse the 1-0 deficit from last week.

"I talk from my heart and tell them what I feel in the last moment."

The rest of the preparation: tactical, technical, analytical, will all have already been done with Pochettino determined that his team will not have the same flat and "poor" approach which punctuated their performance against such a vibrant, young Ajax side.

Speaking from the heart was an interesting approach from Pochettino, who uses emotion and "energy" to propel Spurs forward as much as his strong management and coaching acumen, and there was the drama also of him suggesting that winning the Champions League this season might make him think that his work is done and his future lies elsewhere.

Pochettino arrived at Spurs in May 2014, inheriting a Europa League team in a decaying, cramped stadium and now oversees one who have - probably - reached the Champions League for four seasons in a row having finally moved into a remarkable new 62,000-seat home.

"The most important (thing) is that we are there," Pochettino said, outlining how Spurs had closed the gap to the top four, reached the Champions League, reached the last-16 - and are now in the last four with exalted company more used to such occasions, including four-time European Cup winners Ajax.

That was the case for the defence; a strong case and he has earned it with what he has achieved. "We are living the dream," he said and that phrase may be used as he speaks to the players because, more than once, he spoke of the need for them to "feel more freedom to play" which they failed to do against Ajax last week.

"The most important (thing) is to try and enjoy, to try and bring to the players that belief, as we have done to get here, but we must also dream."

Pochettino has already described the end of this season as being the culmination of a five-year chapter at Spurs and when asked whether winning the Champions League would provide the perfect sign-off to that spell, the Argentinian replied: "Winning the Champions League? It would be fantastic, no? Close the five-year chapter and go home."

When it was then put to Pochettino that he had made it sound like he would consider leaving Tottenham if they won the Champions League, he added: "To win the Champions League with Tottenham, in this circumstance, in this season, maybe I need to think a little bit to do something different in the future, for sure. Because to repeat this miracle, you know."

What hurt most last week for Spurs was not the loss, but the uninspiring manner of it and that is something Spurs must address as they continue to brush aside the adversity that has chased them this campaign.

They appeared out in the group stages, have been hit hard by injury and suspension and have coped with a thin squad that has been pushed to the limit.

The return of Son Heung-min, suspended in the first leg, should add further balm and hope to Spurs and Pochettino will surely remind the Korean that he owes his team-mates after his foolish sending-off against Bournemouth.

Pochettino will summon the energy, draw the injured players such as Harry Kane to him, and remind those who are playing that they can fulfil their dreams. That will be his team talk. That will be his emotion.

Ajax v Tottenham Hotspur, Live, VM Sport/BT Sport 2, 8.0

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