Pochettino buoyed by Spurs’ stylish finish
Mauricio Pochettino said Tottenham’s 3-1 win over CSKA Moscow was more than an upbeat farewell to the Champions League because the performance showed his team has its swagger back.
Spurs were already eliminated from the Champions League before their last Group E match on Wednesday, but they rounded off a frustrating campaign with a dominant display against the Russian champion.
After a difficult period in which Tottenham dealt with injuries to key players and lost its momentum as a result, Pochettino believes his men are back in the groove at a critical point of the season.
“We struggled in the last six weeks. We had some problems, but now we have nearly all the squad fit and we recovered that feeling we lost,” Pochettino said.
“It’s true it was a struggle to compete for a while. We crossed that period that was difficult for us.
“The team has full confi- dence and trust again. It’s lucky that moment arrived in a very busy time for us.
“Now we have an important period and we are arriving in good form.”
Pochettino conceded it was frustrating to be the only English club knocked out of the Champions League group stage.
However, the Argentine took heart from Tottenham booking a place in the Europa League knockout stages by finishing third in its group.
Dele Alli got the equalizer after Alan Dzagoev’s opener and Harry Kane put Tottenham ahead before an owngoal by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev sealed its second European win this term.
Despite the potential for problems arising from the Europa League’s grueling itinerary and far-flung destinations, Pochettino is adamant Tottenham will treat the competition seriously because of the prize of Champions League qualification.
“The Europa League is not a consolation, it is an important competition. It is a trophy that is important in Europe,” he said.
“You can qualify for the Champions League if you win it. The Europa league is a very good competition and why not believe we can win it.”
Pochettino was also relieved Tottenham got its first win at Wembley since February 2008, ending a run of six games without a victory at the stadium that has been its temporary European home.
Wembley is likely to be Spurs’ ground for the whole of next season while White Hart Lane is redeveloped.
“It’s important to get a good feeling at Wembley. Now we need to look ahead. We have the opportunity to play more games here,” Pochettino said.
“Yes we are disappointed we didn’t get through, but we were in a similar situation at this stage last season and finished strongly.
“In the Premier League we fight to go to the top and we are in a good position. The gap is not too much.”
Tottenham striker Harry Kane shakes hands with manager Mauricio Pochettino after being substituted in Wednesday’s Champions League match against CSKA Moscow at Wembley Stadium in London.