Champions League – Group B: Tottenham Hotspur v PSV Eindhoven, Wembley Stadium, Tuesday, 8.0pm (Live on RTÉ 2/BT Sport)
It has been a tortuous wait for Mauricio Pochettino, scarred by delays and problems with personnel but, at last, it has been delivered. The Tottenham manager could barely disguise his delight. Finally he has been able to binge on House of Cards season six.
Pochettino loves the US presidential drama. The Netflix show features intrigue, deceit, ruthlessness and broken promises, with a fair few PR disasters thrown in. How could Pochettino possibly relate to that?
"It's similar, eh?" Pochettino said with a smile, when asked whether House of Cards mirrored life at Spurs, where the new stadium project has become an all-consuming sideshow. "It represents very well sometimes how we are. Football is so political and it's going in this direction. It's fiction but you can translate it in many businesses – [things] that happen.
"We're having a weird season but I look so happy because I've started the new season of House of Cards. I watched three episodes on Monday. I've learned a lot from this series. I recommend it."
Pochettino has been bogged down by problems since the beginning of pre-season, with many of them linked to the delays in moving back to the rebuilt ground on the site of White Hart Lane. It is strange to think the club maintained for the whole of last season that the stadium would be ready in August. It will now be mid-January at the earliest.
Spurs face PSV Eindhoven at Wembley on Tuesday night in an important Champions League Group B tie and it is vexing the pitch is in such poor condition, although Pochettino said it looked better than it did against Manchester City last Monday.
Pochettino was reminded of the advertising slogan the club used at the start of the season. They had boasted the new ground would be "the only place to watch Champions League in London" – a dig at their rivals Arsenal and Chelsea, who reached only the Europa League. Spurs know that, in all probability, they will have to beat PSV and Inter Milan at Wembley and then Barcelona at the Camp Nou to keep their Champions League campaign alive.
“We’re all disappointed that we’re not playing Champions League in the new stadium but it wasn’t in our hands to deliver it,” Pochettino said. “When you build a house or an extension, it’s always difficult to say when it will be finished. We’ve had problems and it’s been delayed, delayed, delayed.
“We feel sorry and pain for our fans, and for ourselves, too. Every day that goes on it’s more expensive for the club but the person who is most worried and sorry is the chairman [Daniel Levy]. It’s so painful for him. All we can do is help by winning games. If we can win against PSV and have the possibility of going to the next stage, then maybe we can play in March in the Champions League in London.”
It was noticeable Pochettino did not say “in the new stadium”. He had previously expressed the belief the club would be in situ by Christmas time. He is no longer making any predictions.
Pochettino's squad have been sapped by a gruelling run of fixtures – the PSV game will be their fourth in nine days – and the injuries have mounted. Pochettino said he was down to "18, 19 players", with the problems most pronounced in midfield where Eric Dier, Mousa Dembélé and Victor Wanyama are out. Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose are also injured. Hugo Lloris is suspended. Dele Alli, who returned last week from hamstring trouble, is not 100 per cent.
Pochettino reported Dembélé, who injured an ankle at Wolves on Saturday, had avoided bone damage but may have a problem with the ligament. “We will know better after the scan,” Pochettino said.
Wanyama got a knock at West Ham in the League Cup last Wednesday to his good knee rather than the bad one. He trained on Monday and could be available at Crystal Palace on Saturday.