Tottenham get chance to show they mean business
Visit to vibrant Borussia Dortmund will test progress of Pochettino’s side
Manager Mauricio Pochettino with striker Harry Kane during a training session ahead of Tottenham’s Europa League clash with Borussia Dortmund. Photograph: Bernd Thissen/EPA
For Tottenham a trip to Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion offers a tantalising glimpse into the future and, at the same time, represents arguably Mauricio Pochettino’s toughest assignment as he celebrates 100 games in charge. Thomas Tuchel’s team have racked up 61 goals in 19 home fixtures this season and as the Spurs manager started to reel off the talented list of individuals lining up against his side, the size of the task was laid bare.
The Argentinian spoke of his belief that he has lifted Tottenham to another level since taking over at White Hart Lane in the summer of 2014, and pointed to the acute sense of disappointment in their dressing room on Saturday, after the 2-2 draw with Arsenal, to illustrate how far they have come and make the claim that “we are stronger than before”.
Toe to toe
Yet Dortmund are a different proposition and will provide a yardstick for just how much Spurs have improved and whether Pochettino’s team are capable of going toe to toe with the sort of high-class opponents they may come up against in the Champions League next season.
With Dele Alli suspended, and Eric Dier and Danny Rose rested, Spurs will not be at full strength and it will be fascinating to see how they cope with a dynamic Dortmund side. Second in the Bundesliga and only five points behind Bayern Munich – exactly the same position Spurs find themselves in when it comes to the Premier League and their pursuit of Leicester – Tuchel’s team are full of confidence.
“I like the way they play but I think that it’s a good challenge for us,” Pochettino said. “I think we play against one of the best teams in Europe, the strikers they have – [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan – [Ilkay] Gundogan in midfield, [Mats] Hummels, they’re big players. They can stay here or go to Real Madrid or Barcelona. I think that Dortmund have a very good team and it’s a very good challenge for us. But we’re excited to play in an unbelievable stadium and a great atmosphere, and I think all is positive.”
This will be the 43rd game of Tottenham’s season and their 11th in the space of 40 days. As well as bringing together two clubs with aspirations of winning domestic titles and designs on returning to the Champions League, it is a meeting of two of the brightest young managers in European football.
Both men share a similar philosophy on how the game should be played – Dortmund press aggressively but place a greater emphasis on possession football than they did when Jürgen Klopp was in charge – and on paper it promises to be a thrilling contest. “We will try to find free spaces by pressing,” Tuchel said. “It will be a fast and attractive match. Spurs are a complete team. We must prepare our attack and try to dominate.”
Announced last April as Klopp’s replacement, Tuchel has re-energised Dortmund. Some of their football has been exhilarating to watch, with the prolific and pacy Aubameyang a real threat up front – he has scored 22 times in 24 league games – and their record at Westfalenstadion, where they have won 16 of their 19 matches and lost only once, is formidable. Guardian Service