Eric Dier: This is the strongest squad I’ve played with since joining Tottenham Hotspur
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Spurs travel to Turin with competition for places and confidence at an all-time high according to their utility man
Eric Dier says Tottenham Hotspur are travelling to face Juventus with the strongest squad he has known during his time at the club.
With a fully-fit group to choose from, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino had to omit Toby Alderweireld, Harry Winks and Fernando Llorente from his 18-man matchday roster against Arsenal on Saturday.
“Of course [this is the strongest squad I’ve known here], because we’ve constantly added since I’ve arrived,” said Dier. “It’s getting stronger and stronger and that’s what we need - competition for places, and people pushing each other, and everyone needs to be at their best.
“That’s what you need, a competitive environment like that. You look at all the top teams - they have big squads and it makes it difficult for the manager. That’s what the players have to do – make it difficult for the manager to choose an 11, an 18, and who he leaves out as well.”
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Pochettino’s plethora of options has given him tactical flexibility, and Spurs have become comfortable in a range of formations, while they are similarly happy dominating possession or playing on the counter-attack.
“That’s something that happens over time when you’re with the same manager for a long period of time,” said Dier. “It’s our fourth year together now and the core group of players is the same.
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“We’ve been working together on lots of different things and they’ve all come together, which gives us opportunities to adapt to many different systems. Over those four years we’ve learned all of them.
“The manager’s been fantastic for us as a team and individuals since he’s arrived here so I think he’s on that path [to being one of the greats].”
Tottenham’s opponents in the last 16 of the Champions League, Juventus, have rich pedigree in Europe’s elite club competition and reached the final last season.
But Spurs have every reason to be confident themselves, having topped a group including Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund before Christmas.
“We learned a lot from the Champions League last season,” said Dier. “We were very disappointed [to go out in the group stage] but that was our first experience of it so it was difficult - but I think we learned a lot about it.
“We proved that this season with the way we’ve played in the Champions League, and hopefully we can continue that on Tuesday.”
The return fixture will be played on March 7 at Wembley, which has become something of a fortress for Spurs.
Having initially struggled to find their feet at the national stadium at the start of this campaign, Tottenham have now won nine of their last 10 games at Wembley, including victories over Manchester United and Arsenal in the last fortnight.
Asked if the Lilywhites now feel as strong at Wembley as at White Hart Lane, Dier said: “It feels that way. We took our time but we’ve really made it home.
“The fans have made it home and that’s the feeling we have at the moment. The supporters were fantastic on Saturday.
“I think [it clicked] against Madrid at home – and Dortmund before that to be fair, but definitely in those two Champions League games, the atmosphere was fantastic.
“The fans and the players have to work with each other, as we did in those games, and from then forward we’ve been really strong.
“We’re really happy with the last few results, and the performances have been good in every single game.
“The start of the Liverpool game was a bit frustrating but from then on, to play the way we did - to control the game as we did at Anfield - was really positive, and to win again against Arsenal was massive.
“Now we have another big game on Tuesday and we need to be ready for that.”
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