Since Mauricio Pochettino became manager of Tottenham in 2014, the club’s results in European competition have been mixed. Successive runs to the knock – out stages of UEFA’s Europa League involved hard – fought away draws with Fiorentina, Monaco and Partizan Belgrade. In contrast to those positive results, Tottenham did experience disappointment, losing to Anderlecht, Besiktas and Borussia Dortmund.
Just as there were successes and failures in the two UEFA Europa League campaigns overseen by Pochettino, his fortunes have varied in the Champions League. The first encounter which he had with the competition lasted only briefly because Tottenham lost twice to Monaco and were also beaten by Bayer Leverkusen. They had more joy during Pochettino’s second attempt at European football’s elite club competition.
From a group which featured APOEL, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, his team emerged unbeaten. The only points which they dropped were because of a 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Capable of competing with the heavyweights of European football, Tottenham were narrowly defeated 4-3 on aggregate by Juventus. Their foray to playing that game earned them not only many plaudits but also valuable experience of the Champions League, and has pushed many to use their bet365 sports bonus to back Spurs in this years’ competition.
For a third consecutive year under the guidance of Pochettino, Tottenham qualified for the competition. It was embarked upon by the same group of players, with the addition of Lucas Moura, that got them to the last 16 the previous year. To match that achievement, Tottenham were required to wield their powers of recovery.
By losing their first two games, to Inter Milan [2 – 1] and Barcelona [4 – 2], they significantly reduced the margin of error available to them. The concession of a late goal, scored by Luuk de Jong, denied them an important win against PSV Eindhoven. The game ended 2 – 2 to leave Tottenham with only one point from their first three group games. They were not on course to improve that record with just over 10 minutes remaining of their second match with PSV Eindhoven.
A late brace from Harry Kane helped them to overturn a 1 – 0 deficit to win. The result enhanced Tottenham’s prospects of qualifying from their group. They got better because of a 1 – 0 victory over Inter Milan, which appeased any concerns among supporters that some of the ‘White Hart Lane’ atmosphere would be lost at Wembley. It is there that Tottenham play their home games while their own ground is rebuilt. Their adopted home reverberated, roared and rocked in response to Christian Eriksen’s goal which broke stubborn Italian resistance.
The win left Tottenham’s fate in their own hands with one game to play. To qualify for the last 16, they needed to record a result against Barcelona which either equalled or bettered Inter Milan’s with PSV Eindhoven. The pair drew 1 – 1. Not for the first time in the 2018 – 2019 UEFA Champions League, the odds were stacked against Tottenham.
For almost the entire game because of Ousmane Dembele’s superb goal, they trailed Barcelona. In search of the equaliser which his team desperately needed, Pochettino sent on Erik Lamela, Fernando Llorente and Moura. He rounded off a wonderfully brave, courageous and spirited team performance, by scoring a late goal to help create a highly memorable European result for Tottenham. Of their starting line – up, four players – Kyle Walker – Peters, Danny Rose, Harry Winks and Harry Kane – graduated from the club’s youth academy. The quartet’s involvement at the Nou Camp made Tottenham’s achievement there more special.
Of all their European campaigns under Pochettino, of which there have been five, the one in progress is likely to give him the most satisfaction. An unbeaten run of four games, against strong opposition, is a fine indication of the strength of Tottenham’s team. The next challenge for them is to win a trophy with Pochettino. Four opportunities – the EFL Cup, F.A Cup, Champions League and Premier League – have presented themselves to a highly talented Tottenham team.