Mauricio Pochettino calm over lack of Spurs silverware ahead of Dortmund Champions League clash

Tottenham Hotspur played Borussia Dortmund twice in the group stages of the Champions League in 2017, winning on both occasions. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2019

Mauricio Pochettino calm over lack of Spurs silverware ahead of Dortmund Champions League clash

LONDON: Mauricio Pochettino is staying calm as he faces a defining moment in his reign as Tottenham manager when he tries to keep his bid for a first major prize alive against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League tonight.
The in-demand Argentine has taken to defending his failure to win any trophies in almost five years at the north-London club by insisting he values qualification for Europe’s elite club competition more highly than success in domestic cups.
But for all of Pochettino’s protestations that reaching the Champions League is his primary goal, that claim rings a little hollow when they never make it to the business end of the tournament.
Tottenham have never been past the last-16 of either the Champions League or the Europa League since Pochettino arrived from Southampton in May 2014.
Derided as serial underachievers when they struggled to break into the Premier League’s top four, Pochettino has made Tottenham into Champions League mainstays capable of ruffling the feathers of Europe’s aristocracy.
“We feel so proud and with all the circumstances the team is doing fantastically, the performance of the squad is unbelievable,” Pochettino said.
“We are showing great character and very good quality, fighting against big sides and being in a position that’s very close to the top.
“We hope to keep going in the same direction, to fight for big things.”
But for all their undoubted growth in the Pochettino era, there remains a nagging feeling of unfulfilled potential about Tottenham, who have won only three cups in the past 28 years.
Failure to claim a trophy with a golden generation of Tottenham stars he has cultivated so astutely, including Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min, has led many to believe he has missed a once-in-a-career opportunity.
While angered by mounting criticism following recent exits from the FA and League Cups, Pochettino confirmed chairman Daniel Levy told him his brief was to finish in the top four while the club build their long-delayed stadium.
For Tottenham’s opponents, Germany legend Lothar Matthaeus believes the German giants will be playing the game without their best player.
Marco Reus, who has scored 17 goals and created 11 more for the Bundesliga leaders this season, has a thigh strain which will keep him out of the first leg.
“Now he’s also going to be missing for the important game against Tottenham — that won’t make it any easier,” said the former Germany captain.
“The third-best team in the Premier League against the best in the Bundesliga. I see the chances as 50/50.
“In Marco Reus, Dortmund are missing their best player.”
However, it is not just Reus who will be missing against Spurs.
Right-back Lukasz Piszczek is out with a heel injury, stand-in center-back Julian Weigl has flu and striker Paco Alcacer is sidelined by a shoulder injury.
Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre is struggling with the effects of flu and England winger Jadon Sancho forgot his passport, forcing a red-faced dash home to retreive the document before making the flight to London.
“Yes, we have a few dropped out, but we won’t be going there just to wave,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc.
Matthaeus says Dortmund’s 3-3 draw at home to Hoffenheim on Saturday showed how much they miss Reus’ influence and organization.
In his absence, Sancho, 18, already a full England international, has taken over playmaking duties and was outstanding in scoring a goal, setting up two more and hitting the post against Hoffenheim before Dortmund leaked three late goals.
“He (Reus) is the one who instills respect until the very end and has a controlling hand on the whole Dortmund game,” added Matthaeus.
“They have also won games without him and were 3-0 ahead on Saturday.”
Matthaeus said Saturday’s draw will have given hope to defending champions Bayern Munich, who closed the gap in the Bundesliga table to five points behind Dortmund with a 3-1 home win against Schalke on Saturday.
“The points Dortmund lost will have given Bayern a push, they’d have been inspired.”


Vardy hits double in Leicester’s 8th straight victory

Updated 09 December 2019

Vardy hits double in Leicester’s 8th straight victory

  • Leicester takes the second-place team within eight points of Liverpool

BIRMINGHAM: Jamie Vardy scored for an eighth straight game for Premier League high-flyer Leicester on Sunday with a double in a 4-1 dismantling of Aston Villa.

Kelechi Iheanacho and Jonny Evans also scored to help Leicester set a new club record of eight consecutive top-flight wins and take the second-place team within eight points of Liverpool.

Jack Grealish did make it 2-1 just before the break but the Foxes were rarely in danger.

Brendan Rodgers’ side are 14 points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United in the pursuit of Champions League qualification.

“We are up there, we are challenging and playing well,” Evans told broadcaster Sky Sports. “Probably now, today, I think people are starting to talk more about that.

“Coming away from Villa with a really good performance, I think that’s the best Villa team we have played against for quite a while and we had to grind it out and it shows we are capable of getting good results.”

By contrast, Villa is only out of the relegation zone on goal difference after slipping to a fifth defeat in seven games.

Villa was wide open and Leicester should have taken the lead after 10 minutes.

Caglar Soyuncu knocked James Maddison’s deep free-kick back for Evans, who could only shoot straight at goalkeeper Tom Heaton.

Immediately, Villa broke to spurn their own golden chance when Matt Targett crossed for Anwar El Ghazi to hit the bar from six yards. With the chance went Villa’s early hopes and they swiftly lost any grip of the game when Vardy continued his scoring streak in the 20th minute.

Wesley lost the ball and the lively Iheanacho slipped the striker in to race clear and round Heaton. Vardy miscued his kick when preparing to shoot but recovered to tap in, despite Konsa’s efforts on the line.

Vardy is now just three games away from equalling his own Premier League record of scoring in 11 consecutive games.

Villa’s problems were partly of their own making with center back Tyrone Mings unable to cover having already suffered a hamstring injury and the defender was immediately replaced by Bjorn Engels.

Villa could not handle Vardy’s pace and Iheanacho’s movement.

There was a touch of fortune but Leicester deserved to double its lead in the 41st when Maddison crossed and Iheanacho diverted in at the near post.

The Foxes were cruising but Grealish pulled a goal back in first-half injury time when he curled in from 16 yards after the visitors failed to clear a corner.

Leicester, though, wasted no time in restoring their two-goal lead four minutes after the break.