Mauricio Pochettino and Hugo Lloris call for Spurs to play with freedom against Juventus in last 16 of the Champions League
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The Tottenham Hotspur captain is excited to play against Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon, but is looking to get the better of him
Mauricio Pochettino has encouraged his players to “not think too much about the consequences of the result” against Juventus tomorrow and to instead “feel free and enjoy the game”.
Tottenham Hotspur go into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with a narrow advantage, having scored two away goals to secure a 2-2 draw in Turin.
Harry Kane has admitted that Spurs have become marginal favourites against last season’s finalists, which comes with a new pressure.
But Pochettino said: “We must not think too much about the consequences of the result. We need to feel free. If we do that and enjoy the game we will perform nearly at our best or at our best, and if we do then we will have the chance to win.
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“We know very well that we are going to play one of the best teams in Europe, but we are a brave team, very positive people that love the challenge, and tomorrow is a massive challenge.
“We are going to compete, and at the same time try to enjoy, because it’s a game to enjoy. We need to think we can win – we always think in this way – and then what happens will be a consequence of our performance.”
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Captain Hugo Lloris echoed Pochettino’s message, saying: “We know exactly the expectation of the manager and the way he wants us to go out and play, and now we just have to try to enjoy ourselves.
“We are in the most important part of the season. We can win or lose everything we have worked for since the beginning of the season. We must enjoy the competition.
“Our target is to win the game and enjoy our football, use our energy with the help of the crowd, and it is the best way to progress in this competition.
“If we start to think too much about playing for a draw, especially against an experienced team like Juve, you can be in trouble.
“We are in a good shape – strong mentally and physically – but we need to show it every time we have the opportunity. Tomorrow is the highest level we can play at in football – the Champions League against one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
“They have played in two of the last three finals in this competition, so it is a great moment to show the real face of Tottenham. This is the state of the team today and the whole club – a chance to show the quality and strength we have here.”
Spurs qualified for the last 16 by finishing top of a group including the reigning European champions Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, and Pochettino feels the club have earned respect across the continent.
“After the group stage – it was a fantastic group stage - we built a good reputation and improved our reputation in Europe,” he said.
“Last season was a massive disappointment for us, to be out in the first stage, but after our victories against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, and winning the group, of course in Europe people start to respect Tottenham more.
“We respect our football, our philosophy. We try to develop good football, the football that we love and that we feel. We have to respect the brand of football that we show, and I think in Europe, they respect us.”
Juventus must be taken very seriously as well, even though they squandered their two-goal lead in Turin, and Pochettino is full of admiration for striker Gonzalo Higuain, who scored both of the Old Lady’s goals in the first leg.
“Higuain is one of the greatest strikers in the world,” he said. “For me he’s one of the best, with Harry Kane. We know very well his talent, and sometimes it’s not easy to stop him, like [Paulo] Dybala or Messi, this type of player.”
Lloris also hailed his opposite number Gianluigi Buffon, who will captain Juventus tomorrow at the age of 40.
“He is one of the greatest in history and has put his stamp on history, and you can only have respect and admiration for his whole career,” said Spurs’ skipper.
“When I was at the academy there were two goalkeepers who were my kind of inspiration – Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon - so it’s always special when you meet them and play against them.
“But when they game starts, you are very focused on your own situation and your motivation to win the game.”
Meanwhile, Lloris and Pochettino have both expressed their sadness at the death of Italian defender Davide Astori, who passed away at the age of 31 at the weekend.
There will be a minute’s silence before all of Uefa’s matches this week, and Lloris said: “We’ve been very affected by this tragic news. It’s not only Italian football, it’s the world of football that is affected.
“It’s important in this moment to show solidarity, and I think all our thoughts go to the family and friends of Astori.”
Pochettino said: “I want to send all my condolences to Davide Astori and all the people that love him, and I think it’s a massive tragedy.
“I had the possibility to meet him five years ago because it was my idea to sign him when we were at Southampton. I took three hours to have lunch with him and he was a great kid, great person, great professional, great player.
“It was very sad news on Saturday. We’re devastated to hear the news and we share the pain with all the people in Italy and Florence, and I send all my energy to his family.
“It repeated everything in my mind with what happened with Dani [Jarque] when I was manager of Espanyol.
“I know it’s so difficult, impossible to take away that pain and find an explanation. It’s so difficult, it’s so difficult to understand what happens in these type of things.”
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