Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has claimed that “no one is giving Spurs a chance” when it comes to the race for this year’s Champions League.
The north London side begin their European campaign against Olympiacos on Wednesday, having reached the final last season.
Spurs’ road to Madrid last season: Five things to know…
- Spurs gained just one point from their opening three group games…
- …but an extraordinary set of results saw them qualify as runners-up.
- They knocked out Dortmund and Manchester City to reach the semi-finals.
- A sensational Lucas Moura hat-trick completed a famous comeback win over Ajax.
- Liverpool beat them 2-0 in the final at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Speaking ahead of Spurs’ tie in Greece, Pochettino was defiant in the defence of his side, who he believes are already being written off.
He said: “No one today will give us a chance to be one of the contenders to be in the final in Istanbul but that is normal. That makes it very exciting.
“We know to repeat the same campaign we need to play in our best. It is so early to talk about the final but most important is to show our quality, our squad quality and do our best.”
Spurs seemed to be dead and buried last season after three games, but a win against Inter and a crucial point at the Camp Nou, combined with Inter’s draw with PSV, meant they scraped through their group before a memorable run to the final.
Pochettino says he ‘doesn’t care’ that critics are already saying his side are not contenders for the grand prize this time around.
He added: “I don’t care if people think 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. I am focused on starting this Champions League in a good way.”
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Are Spurs really in the running?
In many ways, it’s hard to blame the public for writing Spurs off. Their run to the final last year was nothing short of remarkable and they are not even the best side in their own country: Liverpool and Manchester City comfortably outperformed them domestically last season, while Chelsea also pipped them to fourth.
However, as we’ve seen on countless occasions, domestic form does not guarantee European success. Manchester City, despite amassing 198 points in two seasons, have failed to go further than the quarter-finals in that time. Liverpool, last year’s winners, came second in the league. The year before that, Real Madrid finished third while winning their fourth Champions League in five years.
Additionally, Spurs’ squad has certainly improved. Their attacking options include Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, Christian Eriksen and Giovani Lo Celso. Tanguy Ndombele is an excellent addition in midfield and few centre-back partnerships are better than Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen on their day.
So, although they may not seem to compare to their competitors on paper, don’t be surprised to see Spurs go far in the competition again.