By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min hopes Manchester City’s players have underestimated the beneficial effect the club’s new stadium will have on his team mates in the Champions League quarter-final, first leg on Tuesday.
The long-delayed new 62,000-seater arena finally hosted a Premier League game last week when Tottenham beat Crystal Palace 2-0 on an historic night for the club.
South Korean Son scored the opening goal that evening and expects the noise-levels to be cranked up a notch on Tuesday when Pep Guardiola’s quadruple-chasing side arrive for the first of three clashes in 10 days between the teams.
City’s Kevin de Bruyne poured cold water over any concerns his team mates might have over visiting what is now London’s biggest club stadium — complete with a 17,500 capacity single-tier South Stand that promises to be a wall of sound.
De Bruyne said it would be just like playing at Tottenham’s adopted home Wembley — where City won earlier this season.
But Son says it will be an advantage for Spurs.
“Of course, of course,” the South Korean told reporters, when asked if playing at the new ground would help Tottenham achieve a result to give them hope of a semi-final berth.
“We’ll take these plus points. I don’t think maybe the City players realise, because they have always been playing at home, but we’ve been nearly two years away from our home stadium.
“What we have done in the two years is very positive but we missed home a lot and maybe we can show them tomorrow night.”
With City in relentless form, winning 21 of their last 23 matches in all competitions, they are firm favourites to avoid a repeat of last year’s quarter-final defeat by Liverpool.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, who will almost certainly be without midfielders Eric Dier and Erik Lamela on Tuesday, described the game as one of the biggest matches of his managerial career.
He is all too aware of the quality in City’s ranks.
“The first thing we need to do tomorrow is to run, because Davis Silva, Kevin de Bruyne), Raheem Sterling, (Gabriel) Jesus and Sergio Aguero, the first thing they do before they start to play is to run, to press, they fight for every single ball,” Pochettino told reporters.
“Manchester City’s strength is not the quality, of course they have the quality, but first of all they have the desire, the will to fight, and to match every opponent.
“Then because they have unbelievable quality they can win more games.”
Tottenham will be playing in only their second Champions League quarter-final, having lost 5-0 on aggregate to Real Madrid in 2011.
“It’s a massive bonus for us,” Pochettino, whose side looked down and out after earning only one point from their opening three group games, told reporters.
“I think its going to be a very tough game. We’ll start the game very aggressively. We want to be aggressive.
“We can’t guess what the atmosphere will be like, it’s only our second game there. But we hope and wish that the atmosphere is going to be amazing and tough for our opposition.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)