Po­chet­tino buoyed by Spurs’ stylish fin­ish

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Lon­don

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.”

DY­LAN MARTINEZ / REUTERS

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.

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