London (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino insists Tottenham won’t be allowed to use their temporary move to Wembley as an excuse for failure in their Champions League opener against Monaco on Wednesday.
Pochettino’s side return to the Champions League for the first time in five years in unfamiliar surroundings after deciding to stage their European matches at Wembley rather than White Hart Lane.
The prospect of bigger crowds at the English national stadium convinced Tottenham to make the short move across north London and the crowd is expected to set a new record for the largest attendance for a home Champions League game in Britain.
Fans of Tottenham’s bitter rivals Arsenal can testify to the struggles of a Wembley relocation after they won just two of their six fixtures in Europe when temporarily playing there in the late 1990s.
Tottenham have won only once at the redeveloped Wembley since it opened in 2007 and Pochettino’s demand for a high-intensity pressing style may prove more demanding for his players on the stadium’s big pitch.
But the Argentine coach has drilled his players on a pitch of the same size at their Enfield training ground and he expects them to thrive in their new surroundings.
“We need to go to Wembley and play, behave naturally and not try to find an excuse, that’s never good,” Pochettino said on Tuesday.
“We trust in us. We believe in the way we play and it’s a good chance to play on a big pitch.
“You have more space to play, it’s more difficult for the opponent to press you when there are more metres to run, but the same for both.
“We feel good at White Hart Lane because it’s our home and we need to feel good at Wembley. With two pitches at the training ground we designed the same dimensions as Wembley.”
– English core –
Tottenham striker Harry Kane agrees with Pochettino and claims a strong English core that includes internationals Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and himself, can help them settle in the venue where they play for their country.
“If there are 85-90,000 Tottenham fans in there it’s only going to make you play better,” Kane said.
“A lot of us have played there already, so it feels like even more of a home. Everyone knows how iconic Wembley is, but that’s what we’ve got to be careful of.
“Monaco are going to come here and it’s a big occasion for them as well. We have to make sure we’re ready for that.”
Unlike his English colleagues, South Korea midfielder Son Heung-min got his first taste of the most famous stadium in England when Spurs trained there recently.
“For every player, it’s a dream to play in the Champions League,” Son said.
“For me also, it’s two years since I played in the Champions League. I can’t wait for this night.
“My first time I went training at Wembley, the stadium was unbelievable. I’m excited to play there, so many fans will be there and we have to win this game.”
Tottenham head into the Monaco clash on a high after winning 4-0 at Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday.
But Monaco will also be in confident mood after climbing to the top of Ligue 1 with a 4-1 win at Lille.
Leonardo Jardim’s team are unbeaten in four league matches, including an upset of French champions Paris Saint Germain, and survived two tough rounds of qualifying against Fenerbahce and Villarreal to reach the Champions League group stages.
According to former France and Arsenal star Emmanuel Petit, Jardim’s men should not be underestimated.
“Monaco will not be intimidated. They are in good form and they beat PSG just before the international break,” he said.
“They are organised and are playing well. Spurs need to be careful of them.”
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