New Straits Times
SPURS BANKING ON HOME COMFORTS
Unbeaten run at Wembley a huge incentive for Tottenham against Juventus
TOTTENHAM Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino believes turning his side’s temporary Wembley home into a fortress can ensure progress to the Champions League quarterfinals when they host Juventus on Wednesday.
Spurs hold the upper hand on the Italian champions, who have reached the final in two of the past three seasons, after battling back from 2-0 down in Turin in the first leg to salvage a 2-2 draw.
The Wembley factor was cited as one of the key reasons for Spurs’ failure in Europe last season as they crashed out of both the Champions League and Europa League at the first time of asking.
However, Pochettino’s men have acclimatised during the course of a season at the home of English football whilst work on the club’s new 62,000 capacity stadium is completed.
Son Heung Min struck twice as Tottenham eased past Huddersfield 2-0 on Saturday, extending their unbeaten run at Wembley in all competitions to 15 games.
That stretch has included landmark wins over Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal.
“I am so pleased. I think it is a fantastic run at home,” said Pochettino. “We can say that Wembley is our home and that is so important for the team.
“Last season was a strange feeling but now I think for us it is like our home. The team feel good playing here and when the results are positive everything is much better.”
Heung Min has felt those home comforts more than most as 13 of his 15 goals this season have come at Wembley.
“We feel comfortable at Wembley, we know how we play here,” said the South Korean.
“Of course it was going to take time but now we feel like we’re at home. We enjoy playing here.”
Victory over Huddersfield kept Spurs in the driving seat for a return to the Champions League next season as they opened up a five-point lead on fifth-placed Chelsea.
And despite the contrasting levels of European experience between his side and Juventus, Pochettino believes Spurs have worked too hard in recent seasons to establish themselves in the Champions League to freeze on the big stage.
“In the end is a football game and we are going to enjoy it,” he continued. “It is an amazing competition the Champions League, but I think we fight a lot the last few years to be there and get to play this type of games.”
Spurs have already shown they have the ability to outplay Juventus in the first leg as they shrugged off the blow of conceding twice to Gonzalo Higuain inside the first 10 minutes.
The visitors went on to dominate possession and were more than worthy of their two away goals through Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen.
“Our approach will be the same that we played in Turin,” added Pochettino. “You need to feel free feel, happy and enjoy the game.”