Pochettino predicts it will be tough for Tottenham to reach knock-out stage
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The Lilywhites are joint-bottom with no points while Barcelona and Inter Milan both have six each after two games in Group B
Mauricio Pochettino conceded it will be tough for Tottenham Hotspur to reach the knock-out stage of the Champions League after last night’s 4-2 defeat at home to Barcelona, but insisted everything is still possible.
Spurs produced a spirited display at Wembley Stadium, but had to contend with an inspired Lionel Messi.
The Argentinean scored twice in the second half, after first-45 efforts from Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic, to ensure Harry Kane and Erik Lamela’s goals, after the restart, were mere consolations.
With Inter Milan winning 2-1 in PSV, both the Serie A club and Barcelona have six points in Group B compared to Tottenham’s tally of zero.
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But Pochettino said: “We still need to play four games and we are going to have it in our hands to be or not to be in the next stage.
“Of course it will be tough because now we’ve got must-win games against PSV, Inter and Barcelona again in Barcelona, so it will be tough, but we are still thinking the same that all is possible.”
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What made Tottenham’s task even more difficult at the national stadium was the fact they conceded after two minutes.
Messi was given too much space in midfield and he clipped a through ball between Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld.
It forced Hugo Lloris to come out of his goal, but Jordi Alba gained possession first, cut back for Coutinho and he drilled into the corner despite the best efforts of Spurs defenders Davinson Sanchez and Alderweireld.
Pochettino added: “I think if you watch football, you understand that to be 1-0 down at the start of the game against a team that needed to win; to concede all of the plan was destroyed.
“It’s so difficult after to assess. The first half was difficult for the team to start to play and feel confident in the way that we planned to play because a few mistakes before the action we conceded made it so tough.
“Those who play football understand completely that when you start this type of game, in the Champions League, against a team like Barcelona you cannot concede these types of chances.
“How we are going to assess after the first half was so tough for my players. We conceded another goal in the second chance with Rakitic scoring an unbelievable goal.
“But for me the most important thing was in the second half we played, we showed character and we were competitive.
“I think always we were in the game and for me we did everything to try to come back and I feel proud for the effort of the players.”
The true star of the show was Messi, who mesmerised time and time again under the Wembley arch.
He could have scored at least four in the second half after he struck the same post on two occasions in the exactly same spot before grabbing his first against Tottenham.
Spurs boss Pochettino felt the 2-0 scoreline allowed the Barcelona captain more space than they would have ideally given away, however, when reflecting on the display of his compatriot.
“After 45 minutes, I think Lionel Messi didn’t have one chance. We didn’t concede one chance,” the Argentinean manager said.
“Of course, in the second half when you are 2-0 down you are going to give more space. We were more attacking and it’s so difficult to stop this kind of player.
“He’s the best player in the world, but I think we need to watch the game. Of course in the second half, with a lot of space it is unbelievable how much he ran and dribble and the possibilities he had to score, but come on.
“We need to talk about reality and reality with the handicap to play against a team like Barcelona and conceding after one minute.
“I think our players were heroes to chase the game, playing against Messi, Suarez and Coutinho, and be in the game and competitive in the second half.
“We need to start to watch the game, judge it and analyse it because of what happened there, not the result.
“Of course 4-2 for Barcelona, but I think the team did everything and I feel so proud about their performance.”