Champions League: Spurs faces make-or-break Barcelona clash

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham Hotspur takes on Barcelona in a must-win encounter at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Champions League: Spurs faces make-or-break Barcelona clash

Tottenham Hotspur is sitting pretty in the Premier League but faces a potentially season-defining match against Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Mauricio Pochettino's men have amassed 36 points from 16 Premier League matches, with 12 wins, leaving them in third place behind Liverpool and Manchester City.

That Spurs has managed that despite playing in its temporary home of Wembley and after a World Cup in which so many of its players featured until the final weekend, makes its achievement all the more impressive.

However, with City and Liverpool in such rampant form, few expect the side to win the Premier League, putting increased emphasis on its match against the Spanish league leader in Group B.

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Pochettino must somehow find a way past Lionel Messi's Barcelona to reach the knockout stages but he remains positive ahead of the daunting trip to the Camp Nou to face the five-time European champion.

“It will be a massive game. They have qualified for the next stage but in the Champions League no one is going to give a present,” said the Argentine, who left Harry Kane out of the starting line-up for the 2-0 win away to Leicester on Saturday.

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Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino adresses the press ahead of his side's Champions League clash against Barcelona.   -  Reuters

 

“We need to win and deserve to win. The mentality is going to be 200 percent to try to win. We are going to arrive in the best condition, Barcelona are one of the best teams in Europe,” he said.

Spurs took just one point from its first three games in Group B, losing to Inter Milan and Barcelona and drawing with PSV. But it beat PSV at home and then scored late through Christian Eriksen to beat Inter 1-0 at Wembley, leaving the side in second place on seven points, the same as the Italians.

With Barcelona already guaranteed to top the group, Spurs must match Inter's result to guarantee progress.

- 'Next level' -

Mauricio Pochettino has in the past talked about how only the Premier League or Champions League title will take the club to the “next level”, even though the trophy cabinet has been empty since 2008.

Spurs has played in the Champions League for the past three seasons but it cannot boast the pedigree or history of Manchester United or Liverpool in Europe's top club competition.

The club has only progressed beyond the Champions League group stage twice, reaching the quarterfinals in 2011. Barcelona, which beat Spurs 4-2 at Wembley, has already made sure of winning its Champions League group for a record 12th successive season.

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is in fine form going into the clash against Tottenham.   -  Getty Images

 

Dauntingly for Spurs, Barca is unbeaten in 28 Champions League home matches and the Londoners will not be encouraged by the fact that the Spaniards have only lost two home matches in 33 against English opponents.

But Spurs itself, with a vibrant collection of attacking players including Kane, Eriksen, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, has won eight out of its past nine fixtures in all competitions and will be hoping that Ernesto Valverde's men take their foot off the gas.

Beating the Catalan club would be particularly sweet for Pochettino, a former player and coach at Barcelona's city rival Espanyol. The Argentine earned his first win as a manager in a derby at the Camp Nou in 2009.

“Espanyol were bottom and Barcelona were top,” Ernesto Valverde recalled. “All the people were saying Espanyol were dead and had no chance. It was a special victory and an unbelievable memory.”