Pochettino: Spurs would play Europa League home games at Wembley
PUBLISHED: 14:37 24 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:44 24 November 2016
Mauricio Pochettino has stated that Tottenham would continue to play their home games at Wembley if they drop into the Europa League in the new year.
Spurs have lost their last six competitive matches at the national stadium, including their Champions League clashes against Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen this season, and they will now be unable to progress to the group stage of the competition.
A return to the Europa League looks likely – a draw in the final group game against CSKA Moscow would book the Lilywhites’ place in the last 32 of the continent’s second-tier tournament – and it has been suggested that the club have been considering a return to White Hart Lane in that event.
Midfielder Moussa Sissoko said this week: “Going home would make it easier for us - we know the stadium and it would be better for us.”
However, Pochettino feels it is important that his team get more opportunities to play at Wembley, which will be hosting all of Tottenham’s home matches in every competition next season while their new stadium is constructed.
“The players need to be focused on playing and do their talking on the pitch,” said the manager, in response to Sissoko’s comment. “That is the most important thing.
“The decision of the club is with the chairman and the board and us in that case – and we are sure that if we are in the Europa League it will be at Wembley. Then we have to make Wembley our home.
“It is a good opportunity to play our next game at Wembley [against CSKA Moscow] and then if we have the possibility to play in the Europa League there, because next season if we have to play 19 league games and cups matches and European competition there, we need to make it our home. I don’t know where that rumour started [about returning to White Hart Lane]. Never - we will play at Wembley.
“For me it’s a big motivation. In football you always look forward, you cannot stop to complain or blame. You stop to analyse and be calm when you assess the team and the players to take good decisions for the future and to improve.
“I’m looking forward to trying to get more possibilities to play at Wembley, and that it starts to feel like home for the players and the team. That is the most important thing because the new stadium is coming and we need to move to Wembley next season.
“We cannot complain next season. We need to starting thinking of Wembley as our home and avoid all of the negative things about Wembley. I don’t think it will help us today or in the future.”
Pochettino appeared to criticise the strength of his squad in the aftermath of Tuesday’s terminal Champions League defeat to Monaco, stating: “Maybe we need to add more quality in the squad.”
But, today, he backtracked on those comments and insisted he had no plans to bring in new players.
“After the game, with different headlines, different comments, maybe I didn’t talk about having enough quality,” he said. “[I meant] it was difficult for us to show our quality in both competitions. We’re unbeaten in the Premier League and to show the same quality in the Champions League I think was the problem for us.
“We have a very good squad. From the beginning I’ve always told you that we have very good players but we struggled to show we have enough quality to share in both competitions. That’s all I said after Monaco.”
Pochettino angered supporters by resting both Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Walker on Tuesday night, leaving him with just one member of his first-choice back four against the French side – but he alluded to the fact that both players were involved in the home defeats against Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen, and that Kieran Trippier played in Spurs’ sole victory in the competition in Moscow.
“Football is about the quality of the squad,” he said. “We’ve played five games in the Champions League. In the first game against Monaco we lost at Wembley and we played with a different team than we played in Monaco, with different names, different players. We won at CSKA with a different team. We lost against Bayer Leverkusen with a different team.
“It’s not about names. It’s too easy to analyse in this way the performance and the results. All players are important and sometimes you need to rest players for different reasons that we cannot explain. We failed, we feel disappointed, we all failed – but it’s not about one player in or one player out.”
Tottenham have defensive issues again as they prepare to visit Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday. Centre-back Toby Alderweireld is still out of action with a knee problem and both left-backs, Danny Rose and his deputy Ben Davies, are unavailable due to suspension and injury respectively.
“We played at Sunderland with Jan Vertonghen as full-back or we can play Trippier on the left or we can play with Kevin Wimmer,” said Pochettino. “We have different options.
“After Monaco we need to assess the players. Tomorrow we have another training session to decide which players are available to play.
“It’s true that our expectation was that [Toby] would recover earlier, and it’s true we miss him a lot - but we’re happy.
“Today he was involved with the squad to do some boxes and with the ball. I don’t want to be wrong again – sorry - but we hope he will be available as soon as possible.
“We will see tomorrow if he can do the whole training session and next week will be key to see at the end of the week if he will be available for Swansea. But for Saturday it’s sure he’s out.”
Erik Lamela will also miss the weekend’s fixture as Spurs target their first league win at Stamford Bridge since 1990.
“It’s a big motivation for me personally and must be for the players too,” said Pochettino. “It’s a good challenge for us to go and play in this moment.
“They are in very good form. They have a great manager that I know very well and they have great players too. It’s an advantage [for them] not being involved in European competition or the cups now. They have time to train and develop their philosophy. They are, not only in England but in Europe, one of the teams most in form today.”
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