Tuesday January 2 2018
Pochettino: ‘Juventus will be a battle’

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino expects “a battle” against Juventus in the Champions League Last 16.

The English side will face the Bianconeri next month, and their manager has roots in Italy, and Piedmont specifically.

“I thought: ‘finally, I get to see the land of my origins’,” Pochettino told Gazzetta dello Sport of his reaction to the draw.

“I’ve been to Italy several times, but I’ve never been to Piedmont. The tight schedule won’t allow me to visit the places my grandfather went, but I’ll be able to breathe the air of Turin.

“I’m under no illusions about the draw, when you reach this stage you’re going to face difficult opponents.

“Juventus represent the top, they’ve reached two finals in three years.

“In a European tie home or away doesn’t change much, the matches really do last 180 minutes and it’ll be a real battle with Juventus.

“There’s still a month and a half to go, so many things can happen but we’ve started moving.”

Spurs beat Juve at Wembley last summer…

“That was a summer friendly, the parameters are very different.”

The second leg of the Last 16 tie will be played at Wembley, where Tottenham initially struggled this season.

“We had some problems at the beginning, I don’t deny that,” Pochettino admitted.

“White Hart Lane is more than a stadium, it’s Tottenham’s home. Wembley is a temple of world football, and it’s 90,000 seating capacity is striking.

“Against Southampton we had 55,000 fans but a third of the stadium was empty.

“The Juventus Stadium? Juve are strong anyway, but a stadium like that isn’t just a detail.

“As for Max Allegri, we only shook hands at the August friendly. It seems to me though that we have a common characteristic: flexibility. We’re not tied to one formation.

“I think everyone is going that way. For example, Tottenham can play a three or a four man defence. But then there are other aspects which the media underestimate.

“There’s a way of playing with the ball and without it, and you have to take the characteristics of the players into account. Flexibility is a natural product of that.”

Pochettino is an Argentine, and he was also asked about his compatriots Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain.

“From what I’ve seen [of Dybala] so far he’s a forward with huge potential, but I share the sense behind what Allegri said.

“I work with young people and I know you have to be careful. Newspaper headlines, sudden fame and important comparisons can lead to confusion.

“Pipita? Higuain, [Sergio] Aguero and our own [Harry] Kane are among the absolute best in that role.

“Harry’s most important feature is his desire to improve. His ties with Tottenham are also important, I see him like [Francesco] Totti with Roma.”

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