Pochettino: Spurs must play like Messi against Ajax

Lionel Messi reached 600 club goals as Barcelona beat Liverpool, with Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino hailing the Argentina attacker.

Lionel Messi's brace helped Barcelona to a 3-0 win against Liverpool.   -  Getty Images

Mauricio Pochettino says Tottenham must play like Lionel Messi in the second leg of its Champions League semifinal against Ajax. 

Donny van de Beek's first-half goal earned the Dutch side a 1-0 advantage in the opening leg ahead of next week's return in Amsterdam. 

Spurs will welcome Son Heung-min back from suspension, although Pochettino has ruled striker Harry Kane out of making a rapid recovery from an ankle injury.

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Messi offered a blueprint for how to stamp authority upon a knockout match on Wednesday, completing a brace with a stunning 30-yard free-kick as Barca beat Liverpool 3-0 at Camp Nou. 

And Pochettino hailed his compatriot as Spurs begins to consider overturning a first-leg deficit, with a likely final against Barcelona in Madrid on the line. 

"What can I say about Messi more than I have or others have said? He's one of the gods of football," Pochettino said. 

"It's unbelievable, the desire and the capacity to fight with the ball at his feet and without the ball at his feet. 

"Of course, if we play like him, for sure we are going to have a chance. But not like him doing what he does with the ball, but like him without the ball. 

"If we play like him without the ball, show the desire that he had yesterday, for sure we are going to have the chances to qualify for the final. If not, no chance. 

"That is a key point and it is so painful, in the other semi-final when you see Messi’s desire and motivation and say, 'Why weren't we motivated in the same way?’"

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Spurs has lost four of its past five games in all competitions and must get back on track away at Bournemouth on Saturday, or it risks being caught by rival Arsenal in the race for Champions League qualification.

"The problem now is it's a decisive period for us. It's a key moment," Pochettino explained at a pre-match news conference. "Playing the second leg of the semifinal and playing Saturday against Bournemouth. 

"Now it's not [time] to talk too much; [it is time] to focus on our job and deliver. Finishing in the top four is our priority too. Maybe we're in circumstances that aren't the best but now it's a moment to be all together. 

"Being together is the best. Try not to think too much, go there and try to do what we want in the end. Try to forget the circumstances and deliver our best. How we prepare for the games is so easy. Not too much time to prepare but it's about being together and being strong.

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"To be right and win and be in the top four at the end of the season is the most important thing for us. We need to be tough, all together because we know the Premier League is always difficult. We need to be ready, it's the only way. 

"We cannot talk too much, just be there and be ready to compete at our best, starting from the beginning like that. Not waiting and conceding a goal, like [against] Ajax, and then start competing after." 

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