Tottenham braced for tricky opening test at Rennes

Espirito Santo urges players to forget past Champions League exploits

Tottenham manager Nuno Espirito Santo has told his players to forget their past Champions League exploits as they enter the unknown this week.

Spurs begin the group stage of the inaugural Europa Conference League with a trip to Rennes on Thursday, a little over two years after competing in the biggest game in club football.

That Champions League defeat to Liverpool in 2019 signalled the beginning of a slide that now sees them competing in Europe's third-tier competition, with some real minnows of the game.

Rennes are not one of them – with the French club appearing in the Champions League – and this match represents the toughest of the group stage.


And the Portuguese says now is not the time to remember previous achievements.

“We looked at Rennes and analysed them as a team from the previous game and the game before,” Nuno said.

“We know we are going to find a tough match, a tough team, one that is very aggressive on the pressing, playing at home, we know it is going to be harder.

“We also have a lot of experience in Europe. The past doesn’t mean big things now, this is the present and we have to deal with the situation now and Rennes represent a tough, tough challenge for us and we have to raise up our standards.

“It is a realisation that this is the truth. The past doesn’t mean anything for us. What you did in football doesn’t mean anything. You have to challenge yourself every day – this is a message for life.”

Nuno confirmed Son Heung-min and Eric Dier have not travelled to France.

Son has a calf injury that he sustained on international duty and Dier suffered a dead leg in the 3-0 Premier League defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Neither travelled ahead of the opening Group G game, along with Ryan Sessegnon, but Steven Bergwijn did following a recent ankle injury.

Promising start

Nuno was unsure whether Son and Dier would be fit for Sunday's game against Chelsea.

“I cannot say. They are improving, day by day they are better, but alongside the South American players, we still have to assess,” he said.

“Bergwijn is better, he travelled with us, he trained yesterday and today. He is much better.”

A promising start to the Premier League season came to an abrupt end on Saturday in a woeful loss at Selhurst Park.

“Everybody realises we didn’t perform as we wanted, and the first ones who realise this are ourselves,” he said.

“I think the best way to improve is when you arrive, analyse personally and are able to identify the things you need to do well. This is the first step to improvement.

“Training, training, spending as much time as we can on the training ground. Preparing the players, trying to find solutions and then give them the support and the confidence to compete and try to improve their performances.

“I don’t know any other recipes for success. It’s hard work. Hard work and the boys are doing it. They are realising that in football there are ups and downs and what’s important is how you react to it.”