Tuesday 22 October 2019

Spurs boss Pochettino struggling to shake off the pain of Madrid final

Mauricio Pochettino. Photo: John Sibley
Mauricio Pochettino. Photo: John Sibley

John Percy

It was the lowest point of Mauricio Pochettino's career as a manager and it is only now, more than three months later, that he can start "repairing the damage" of that Champions League final defeat.

Pochettino endured a summer of desolation and introspection following Tottenham Hotspur's painful evening in Madrid, with his own future uncertain after such a chastening experience against Liverpool.

Last season's European journey included memorable, emotionally-charged victories over Manchester City and Ajax in the knockout stages, yet it was the wimpish display in June's showpiece which has stayed with the Spurs boss.

Pochettino, and Spurs, must tonight pick themselves up as they begin a new campaign in the vibrant Greek capital against Olympiacos, aiming to defy the odds again.

"Being honest, I was thinking a lot during the summer. To finish that way in the final is always so painful," Pochettino said.

"You can't put (out) the feeling of losing the last game of the season. You have to wait to repair the damage, but that will be a massive challenge.

"No one today will have us as one of the contenders to be in the final in Istanbul, but that is normal. If we are contenders or not, because we went to the final and have a possibility to fight for this title, I don't care. We know to repeat the same campaign we need to play at our best. That makes it exciting."

Spurs have been handed a difficult group, with Bayern Munich and Red Star Belgrade also in Group B. Danny Rose and Serge Aurier have not travelled, but Pochettino has warned his squad not to repeat their sluggish form from last season's group-stage games.

In December, they required a 1-1 draw in Barcelona to complete a late survival mission by finishing second in the group.

Hugo Lloris, the goalkeeper, said: "Last season was very difficult for us to come back in the group stage, but we did it in a fantastic way and the last campaign was fantastic in terms of emotion.

"Obviously, it is always painful when you lose that type of game, the final of a major trophy, it hurts. But that belongs to the past now."

Olympiacos were the Greek Super League runners-up last season and are unbeaten in their past 17 encounters in all competitions.

Pedro Martins, the head coach said: "If we finish second in the group it will be a brilliant result, but finishing third would still be an achievement as we will be in the Europa League."

Pochettino and Spurs have far loftier ambitions as they begin another European campaign. (© The Daily Telegraph)

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