After the first leg of their Europa League tie against Borussia Dortmund, Pochettino defended the seven changes he made to his Tottenham saying that he had “no regrets” after his saw his side lose 3-0.
Seven changes is one thing but it would be unfair to take anything away from the Dortmund performance on the night. Tottenham weren’t awful by any stretch of the imagination, just Dortmund – particularly in the final third of the field – were just devastating, with speed, movement and efficiency. It really wasn’t hard to see why the German side under Thomas Tuchel currently sit second in the league and only 5pts behind Pep’s Bayern.
The fact that Spurs might start to prioritise other achievements this years is perfectly understandable. Since the Europa League now offers a Champions League place for any winner means that for a club like Tottenham, at the start of the season the Europa League offered up a great chance to dine at Europe’s top table once more. Yet this hasn’t been a normal season, with the Premier League’s Top 4 hegemony well truly blown apart, Tottenham at the very least this season have Champions League football in the bag, let alone the prospect of a first title since 1961.
A change in priorities for Tottenham’s season ambitions has even gained traction in Germany. When asked to reflect on the first leg victory over Spurs, Marco Reus understood that Tottenham might have altered their priorities as the season has progressed. No accusations of fielding a weakened team, Reus felt that even with Tottenham’s best side on the field Dortmund would have at least won the first leg, let alone one with changes.
It’s refreshing to see that Pochettino’s team choice in the first leg wasn’t derided for taking the competition lightly, and it was even more refreshing to see an English domestic competition taken more seriously than its European cousins. Pochettino knows that the first leg was the first real blip in the mightily impressive season he is currently presiding over.
Tonight’s game at White Hart Lane is hardly to see a 4 goal swing and Tottenham going marching into the Quarter Finals, but Pochettino is a manager who doesn’t like losing and takes every competition as seriously as circumstances dictate. The Argentine has spoken how this game is one more about pride but that rotation will also persist as belief in the squad is as important as a core nucleus. A far cry from Mourinho’s mentality who relies on 15 or 16 key players.
Unfortunately, for the neutral in all this, we may well have been robbed of one of the best two legged ties in European football this season but the match in North London as an isolated 90 minutes will certainly still be interesting as Pochettino once more uses Dortmund as the barometer for next season. Will Tottenham overturn all 3 goals? No way but they definitely could win this game and such a result could be the momentum shot in the arm with just 8 games left of the Premier League season. Watch this game with interest guys.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog