(Reuters) – Beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday will help Tottenham Hotspur avoid a repeat of last season’s late scramble to qualify for the knockout rounds, manager Mauricio Pochettino said.
Tottenham finished runners-up to Liverpool in Europe’s elite club competition last season but only narrowly made it into the last 16 after losing their first two group games against Inter Milan and Barcelona.
Spurs kicked off this season’s Group B campaign with a draw at Olympiakos and Pochettino wants his team to register their first win against leaders Bayern, whom they visit in the reverse fixture in their final group game in December.
“Last season we would have all signed up for the same campaign in the Champions League,” the Argentine told reporters on Monday. “I hope to win tomorrow to be in a better position than last season. Last season we only had one point after three games.
“Nobody believed in us, but we went on to reach the final of the Champions League. That is why in football it’s important how you start, but it’s more important how you finish. In a long season you need to be calm and strong in your mentality.”
Pochettino pointed out that he had turned Spurs into Champions League regulars, with the club in their fourth consecutive season in the competition despite operating on a smaller budget than their main rivals in England and Europe.
Their straitened circumstances, he added, had forced him to come up with innovative solutions on the pitch — like deploying midfielder Moussa Sissoko as an emergency right back when Serge Aurier was sent off against Southampton at the weekend.
“It’s not going to change this season… This is not new for us,” he said. “What is new for the club is… seven years ago, we were playing… in the Europa League but now, for the fourth season in a row, we are playing Champions League.
“(We’re) playing Barcelona, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid or Manchester City. That changed a lot. This type of circumstances changes a lot for the club but my circumstances, poor circumstances, didn’t change from five years ago to today.”
Bayern, he added, were always one of the favourites for the title.
“They are a club that every season, they prepare themselves to try to win the competition because the history says that,” he said.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)