Spurs v CSKA - Mauricio and Jan's press conference
Tue 06 December 2016, 15:50|Tottenham Hotspur
Mauricio Pochettino and Jan Vertonghen both stressed the importance of Wednesday night’s UEFA Champions League game against CSKA Moscow when they spoke at the official pre-match press conference this afternoon (Tuesday, December 6).
Here’s a run-down of what they had to say…
Can you update us on the injuries to Toby Alderweireld, Ben Davies and Erik Lamela?
Mauricio: “Toby will be involved in the squad for tomorrow and I’m happy (about that). He is recovering well and he will be in the squad. Ben Davies maybe on Thursday will be available to be selected again – his recovery is very good. Erik Lamela is still out and it’s important to send our support because he has a problem with his family in Argentina and he travelled to Argentina last night. We want to send our big support to him and his family. He has a problem with his brother, we hope that it’s not too serious but it’s an issue where he needed to go to Argentina. He is still out.”
Is Toby in line to start tomorrow?
Mauricio: “First of all I think it’s important for him, after two months, to be involved in the squad. Tomorrow maybe he will be on the bench and it’s important for him to start to recover that feeling. Then we’ll see if we decide that he will be in the starting XI or on the bench against Manchester United but that is about performance, about feeling and how we assess him.”
Will you be keeping one eye on the game at Old Trafford when you select your team against CSKA?
Mauricio: “Like always we need to be focused on the game that we have ahead and the most important game is against CSKA. We must win, we need to make Wembley our home. I think it’s not fair to blame Wembley, we didn’t play well in both games against Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen and it’s for that reason we are out of the Champions League. We don’t need to find excuses from another side. We didn’t play well, it’s for that reason we are out and it’s a good opportunity to win the game tomorrow, to take the three points and start in another competition like the Europa League, which is important for the club.”
Some supporters might not look upon the Europa League favourably. Do you understand that viewpoint?
Mauricio: “I think our supporters never want us to lose a game. It’s important to be involved in the Europa League, it’s important for the club and if we will be involved in the Europa League maybe it’s a good opportunity to win some trophies. I don’t know why you’d think in a negative way. We need to be positive. Okay, we feel very disappointed that we cannot go further in the Champions League but when it’s another opportunity to be alive in another competition and try to win that trophy, why not? I am always positive, for me it’s important to be involved in the Europa League and it’s for that reason tomorrow we need a big effort to try to win the game.”
Certain managers have stated how difficult it is to play in the Europa League alongside the Premier League. What’s your take on that?
Mauricio: “I am the manager of Tottenham and I believe that it is important for the club to involved in the Europa League. We didn’t play well in the Champions League at Wembley against Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen, but it’s important for us to be involved in the Europa League. Why not try to go further in that competition?”
Why is it important when some people believe the Europa League can hurt your Premier League form?
Mauricio: “Last season we lost against Borussia Dortmund and tried to go further but now is not a moment to say (we want to compete in) only the Premier League or FA Cup or Europa League. We need to believe that every competition that we are in, we can win.”
The Europa League winners also qualify for the Champions League…
Mauricio: “Exactly. It’s important to be positive. It’s true that it will be tough to be involved in the Europa League again but if we cannot cope with the pressure to play in Champions League or we don’t show that we deserve in the end to qualify, now our responsibility is to try to win tomorrow, go to the Europa League, try to do our job and try to go further in that competition.”
Is there something to be said for teams gaining an advantage in the Premier League through not playing European football?
Mauricio: “I don’t know. You never know if it’s better or not. Maybe it’s an advantage, but next season I want to be involved in the Champions League again. If you say to me you will be fighting for the Premier League next season but only playing Premier League I say I want to be involved in the Champions League and for that we will fight. For big sides like us, Liverpool or Chelsea, if you’re not involved in European competition it’s always difficult.”
How important has Toby Alderweireld been to the squad since he arrived?
Mauricio: “I think that when we signed him we found different qualities in him and I think he adds to the team and the squad. Like Victor Wanyama today, he fits very well too and he has become a very important player for the team. I cannot say anything negative. I think he’s one of the best central defenders in the Premier League and he showed his quality last season.”
You only have to win five or six matches to win the Europa League and qualify for the Champions League. Do you think that’s an easier route than the Premier League for Champions League qualification?
Mauricio: “I agree, but at the same time to win five or six games will be difficult because you compete with very good clubs in Europe. It’s true that in the short term it’s one possibility more to go to the Champions League.”
How pleased are you that your fellow centre-half Toby Alderweireld is on the verge of a return?
Jan: “I’m very happy that Toby is back in training. Obviously he’s a great player, he’s a friend but I don’t decide when he’s going to play or not. I think Eric Dier has done brilliantly. I’m happy to see Toby back like I’m happy to see all the guys.”
Do you understand the viewpoint that the Europa League could be construed as a distraction to your Premier League efforts?
Jan: “To be honest I love playing in Europe. Obviously I prefer to play in the Champions League but we have the squad and fitness to cope with two games a week and I prefer to play two games a week so we will do everything to win this game.”
Where did it go wrong in the Champions League this season?
Jan: “Obviously the opponents are a bit different with a different style but I think we didn’t play well. We should have done better, we all know that but we’ll try to turn it around tomorrow.”
How important is it to finally get a win at Wembley tomorrow?
Jan: “Obviously we want to show everyone that it’s not Wembley that is bothering us. It’s a big pitch and a good pitch that should suit the style we play. We know it’s not a Wembley thing and we want to show that to the world.”
How is the atmosphere at Wembley different to that of White Hart Lane?
Jan: “The stadium is a lot bigger, it is different than White Hart Lane but not in a bad way. Always when there are more supporters the atmosphere will be different but it hasn’t influenced our game in a negative way.”
How will you approach the Europa League if you qualify?
Jan: “We’re very disappointed that we’re not through in the Champions League but Tottenham is a team that wants to win trophies and wants to compete at the highest level. I think the Europa League is a good competition and it’s a perfect competition for Tottenham to compete at the highest level and hopefully to go as far as possible.”