As the stars shine bright down on the lush turf at England’s hallowed Wembley stadium, the thoughts of Mauricio Pochettino will be firmly fixed on cementing his enduring love for Tottenham Hotspur and its legion of fans with a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 win over Borussia Dortmund, coincidentally on the 14th of February.
This May will mark five years since the unflustered Argentine took over the reins at the North London club. Under his tutelage, Spurs have achieved a distinct style of play, set club records for highest ever finishes and the club has also seen nascent talent grow up to take centre stage.
Yet, Pochettino’s time at Spurs is also surely to be measured by his teams’ impact on the continental stage where unfortunately, the 47-year-old has faced limited success. Of 20 games played in Europe’s premier competition, the gaffer has only picked up 9 wins – over three years.
His team have made it out of the group stage just once, losing immediately to Juventus in the Round of 16 last season. This year, after riding through the group of death, Tottenham and their avant-garde coach will feel they’re in prime position to finally break a jinx around the London-based club.
Pochettino really has to ensure their presence in Europe’s premier competition is little more than just customary. The heavy press, followed by a slick, assured build-up alongside a set of players that could light up a football pitch, the ingredients for success are well dispersed for the four-time Premier League manager of the month. However, he has a headache given the injuries suffered by Harry Kane and Dele Alli.
Yet, short-comings in tactics or poor all-round play has seen the Tottenham struggle for success in Europe. The upcoming knock-out stages presents the perfect opportunity for the coveted manager to display his gamut of managerial skill and get Spurs to within a sphere of recognition within Europe’s elite.
The match against BVB will be seen as a litmus test of sorts for the Argentine – a club in revival versus one seeking its own standing. Throw the latter’s uncertain future into the mix and you have a Molotov cocktail. Pochettino has too much grit to let circumstances shape his legacy.
A win against Lucian Favre’s team and progression will no doubt be hailed as another significant achievement for the man from Newell’s Old boys. Yet the former Espanyol coach can seldom hold taking Tottenham to the quarter-finals of the Champions League on his Curriculum Vitae (CV) as a major achievement, despite the limitations and hurdles placed on him.
The time has therefore come for the virtuoso in Pochettino to finally enchant Europe with a revelling performance from his team.