Prior to tomorrow’s second leg of Tottenham’s Round of 32 tie with Gent, Mauricio Pochettino conducted his press conference, fielding questions from reporters.
With Jan Vertonghen back in the squad after completing 90 minutes last Sunday against Fulham, there should be some updates regarding Tottenham’s two other injured stars, Danny Rose and Érik Lamela, but unfortunately there isn’t.
Not only were there no questions regarding the two players, but even on Tottenham’s official website, there were no new updates.
Lamela has been spotted training on the field, per Spurs’ website. But in terms of his return date, that has not been confirmed. More or less, the Argentine winger is still out indefintely until further notice.
The same could be said for Rose. Remaining “a number of weeks away from full training” means that the left-back still has no return date either. He was pegged to miss all of February and return in March however.
As for a portion of Mauricio Pochettino’s press conference, the questions pertained to how Spurs will handle Gent this time around and whether the Belgian side surprised them in the first leg last week.
In terms of Tottenham’s performance against Gent away, it wasn’t necessarily the Belgian team surprising Spurs. Rather, it was the north London club not being prepared.
Mauricio Pochettino admitted today that his side played poorly, not necessarily how good Gent played. Gent, per the Argentine manager, are a good team. But one thing that Spurs reflected on following their 1-0 loss in the first leg is that their performance was not up to their standard.
With the return leg now shifting to Wembley Stadium, Tottenham will be ready.
“No they didn’t surprise me last week, we were poor and they were better than us – for that, they won. We watched many games about them, we knew the quality and the [levels of] performance there,” Pochettino explained.
“It didn’t surprise me, I think the thing that surprised me the most was our performance, not their performance.”
“Tomorrow we are aware of how they play and it’s up to us to try to be better and show that we deserve to go to the next round. It’s not about the opponents, it’s about us.”
Because Spurs must overcome a one goal deficit at Wembley, a stadium that hasn’t been good to Spurs over the years, what might seem doable doesn’t seem likely at first sight.
And that’s due to the fact that a strong lineup will have to play for the fourth consecutive match with minimal rotation and no rest.
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Pochettino didn’t go over who will start — no manager gives away his starting XI before a match starts — but with Tottenham wanting to win some silverware eventually, Spurs will field a strong XI that gives them the best chance to advance into the next round.
Something that isn’t surprising, except for the fact that at some point rest and rotation must be considered if Spurs wish to compete in all fronts and win something.
“We will try tomorrow to put the best team [out] to try to win like always,” Pochettino added. “For me, football is about the squad, maybe sometimes I repeat too much that it’s about the squad but tomorrow it’s a big opportunity to go to the next round.”
“It’s [like] a final, it’s a decisive game for us, we are 1-0 down and now for us it’s [about] trying to get the result and trying to win the game.
“We will try to put out the best players that we believe can win the game and bring us to the next round.”
Lastly, a slow start wouldn’t be good in an important fixture. That much is obvious, but at the same time, Mauricio Pochettino can’t rush into things to try and score the equalizer.
There has to be a fine balance between attacking and defending.
So long as Spurs can keep the ball in front of them when Gent are on offense, high-press them, win possession high up the pitch and go on the counter, Tottenham should find themselves in a good position to level things.
More than anything, being patient will be key for Spurs.
This is something that Mauricio Pochettino will look to keep in mind tomorrow.
“Tomorrow we need to be patient. It’s important to know that tomorrow is a game that we need to win, that is in our mind.”
“We need to turn the result [around] and it’s true that we need to have [a] very good balance – that is key. It’s important for us to keep the balance between attacking and defence because it’s only 1-0 from the first leg and now we have time to turn it [around].
“We need to be clever, play well, be aggressive and improve our performance from the game in Belgium. That will be key – to be aggressive and try to keep patient with how we play.”