Champions League

Pochettino faces defining moment in bid for first trophy at Spurs

2019-02-12 08:23
Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino (Getty Images)

London - Mauricio Pochettino faces a defining moment in his Tottenham reign as the in-demand Argentine tries to keep his bid for a first major prize alive against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

Pochettino has taken to defending his failure to win silverware in almost five years at Tottenham by insisting he values qualification for Europe's elite club competition more highly than success in the domestic cups.

But for all of Pochettino's protestations that reaching the Champions League is his primary goal, that claim rings a little hollow when they never make it to the business end of the tournament.

Tottenham have never been past the last 16 of either the Champions League or the Europa League since Pochettino arrived from Southampton in May 2014.

Now Bundesliga leaders Dortmund, who visit Wembley for the Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday, stand between Pochettino and his first European quarter-final in what could his last season with the north London club.

Pochettino, yet to win a trophy in his managerial career, has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester United at the end of the season.

If that mooted deal may now be less of a sure thing given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's remarkable impact as interim boss at Old Trafford, there is little doubt Pochettino will still be a man in demand, with Real Madrid also believed to be interested in his services.

Derided as serial underachievers when they struggled to break into the Premier League's top four, Pochettino has made Tottenham into Champions League mainstays capable of ruffling the feathers of Europe's aristocracy.

"We feel so proud and with all the circumstances the team is doing fantastically, the performance of the squad is unbelievable," Pochettino said.

"We are showing great character and very good quality, fighting against big sides and being in a position that's very close to the top.

"We hope to keep going in the same direction, to fight for big things."

But for all their undoubted growth in the Pochettino era, there remains a nagging feeling of unfulfilled potential about Tottenham, who have won only three cups in the past 28 years.

Failure to land a big prize with the generation of Tottenham stars he has cultivated so astutely, including Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min, would be considered a missed opportunity.

Rollercoaster ride

Tottenham have finished in the Premier League's top three for the past three seasons and they retain an outside chance of winning the title this campaign.

But their poor record in domestic cups under Pochettino is a significant blemish and Tottenham's European exploits have been equally confounding.

Pochettino's first season featured a tame Europa League last-32 defeat against Fiorentina and the following year they were outclassed by Dortmund in the last 16 of the same competition.

His maiden voyage in the Champions League was even more rocky as Tottenham failed to qualify from the group stage.

Finally hitting their stride last season, Spurs enjoyed a memorable 3-1 win over European champions Real Madrid in the group stage and they also drew in Madrid and twice beat Dortmund.

But as the pressure mounted Tottenham melted, blowing the lead in the last-16 second leg against Juventus as two second-half goals sent them crashing out.

Vexed by mounting criticism following recent exits from the FA and League Cups, Pochettino said chairman Daniel Levy told him his brief was to finish in the top four while the club build their long-delayed stadium.

Although Spurs look set for another top-four finish, it would still be a source of angst among Tottenham fans if Pochettino departs without lifting a single trophy.

 

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Fixtures
Wednesday, 18 September 2019
Club Brugge v Galatasaray, Jan Breydel Stadion 18:55
Olympiacos v Tottenham Hotspur, Karaiskakis Stadium 18:55
Bayern Munchen v Red Star Belgrade, Allianz Arena 21:00
Bayer Leverkusen v Lokomotiv Moscow, BayArena 21:00
Dinamo Zagreb v Atalanta, Maksimir Stadium 21:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City, Metalist Stadium 21:00
Paris SG v Real Madrid, Parc des Princes 21:00
Atletico Madrid v Juventus, Wanda Metropolitano 21:00
Tuesday, 01 October 2019
Atalanta v Shakhtar Donetsk, San Siro 18:55
Real Madrid v Club Brugge, Santiago Bernabeu 18:55
Juventus v Bayer Leverkusen, Allianz Stadium 21:00
Manchester City v Dinamo Zagreb, Etihad Stadium 21:00
Lokomotiv Moscow v Atletico Madrid, Lokomotiv Stadium 21:00
Red Star Belgrade v Olympiacos, Stadion Rajko Mitic 21:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Bayern Munchen, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 21:00
Galatasaray v Paris SG, Turk Telekom Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 02 October 2019
Slavia Prague v Borussia Dortmund, Eden Arena 18:55
Genk v Napoli, Luminus Arena 18:55
Liverpool v Red Bull Salzburg, Anfield 21:00
Barcelona v Inter Milan, Camp Nou 21:00
Valencia v Ajax, Mestalla 21:00
RB Leipzig v Lyon, Red Bull Arena 21:00
Zenit St. Petersburg v Benfica, Saint Petersburg Stadium 21:00
Lille v Chelsea, Stade Pierre-Mauroy 21:00
Tuesday, 22 October 2019
Shakhtar Donetsk v Dinamo Zagreb, Metalist Stadium 18:55
Atletico Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen, Wanda Metropolitano 18:55
Juventus v Lokomotiv Moscow, Allianz Stadium 21:00
Manchester City v Atalanta, Etihad Stadium 21:00
Club Brugge v Paris SG, Jan Breydel Stadion 21:00
Olympiacos v Bayern Munchen, Karaiskakis Stadium 21:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Red Star Belgrade, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 21:00
Galatasaray v Real Madrid, Turk Telekom Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 23 October 2019
Ajax v Chelsea, Amsterdam ArenA 18:55
RB Leipzig v Zenit St. Petersburg, Red Bull Arena 18:55
Benfica v Lyon, da Luz 21:00
Slavia Prague v Barcelona, Eden Arena 21:00
Genk v Liverpool, Luminus Arena 21:00
Red Bull Salzburg v Napoli, Red Bull Arena 21:00
Inter Milan v Borussia Dortmund, San Siro 21:00
Lille v Valencia, Stade Pierre-Mauroy 21:00
Tuesday, 05 November 2019
Barcelona v Slavia Prague, Camp Nou 19:55
Zenit St. Petersburg v RB Leipzig, Saint Petersburg Stadium 19:55
Liverpool v Genk, Anfield 22:00
Lyon v Benfica, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Valencia v Lille, Mestalla 22:00
Napoli v Red Bull Salzburg, San Paolo 22:00
Borussia Dortmund v Inter Milan, Signal Iduna Park 22:00
Chelsea v Ajax, Stamford Bridge 22:00
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