Spurs captain Hugo Lloris warns: Monaco are the best team in France at the moment
Captain Hugo Lloris has warned his Tottenham team-mates that they will be facing the best team in France tonight when they kick off their Champions League campaign against Monaco at Wembley.
Spurs faced Monaco in the Europa League group stage last season, drawing 1-1 away in the principality before triumphing 4-1 at home courtesy of an Erik Lamela hat-trick – and both sides have now both taken a step up into the continent’s elite club competition.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Lilywhites achieved their highest ever Premier League finish last season, coming third to quality for the tournament, while Monaco have also progressed and currently top their domestic table after taking 10 points from their first four fixtures.
Lloris, who skippers the French national team and led his country to the Euro 2016 final in the summer, said: “Monaco is probably the best team in Ligue 1 at the moment because PSG is not ready yet.
“They beat PSG just before the international break – they’re in good form. They are very defensive and they play well on the counter-attack.
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“They know each other well because they are used to playing together, and they have good experience of the Champions League because they had a good run two years ago (when they beat Arsenal in the last 16 en route to the quarter-finals).
“I think they will be, like us, very excited to start the competition. For us, it’s true that to start at Wembley will be a bit different to White Hart Lane, but we have to deal with that.
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“I think we have to be positive, especially after a good game like Saturday’s [4-0 win at Stoke]. We need to carry on and focus on ourselves.
“In the last few seasons we were fighting to get into the Champions League. Now the club is back in the Champions League and we need to enjoy it. We need to show our quality.
“We’re going to face some of the best teams in Europe and that’s a big pleasure. As a footballer, there is no competition like the Champions League.”
Lloris continued: “I played in it for four years [with Lyon]. It’s difficult to know what will happen but this is our responsibility.
“We’ve got some experienced players in the squad and we need to show the right way to our young players. Afterwards, it’s about football. The way we play football demands a lot of focus and we try to manage the ball, have control of the game.
“It’s different to the Europa League. It’s true that when you start to go far in the Europa League, you start to feel the same atmosphere as in the Champions League.
“From tonight - and for the longest possible time, I hope - the Champions League will bring a new experience for most of our players, and it’s important to start the competition well, and get some confidence.
“We have a good chance to go through [to the knockouts] but we have to make sure we do everything and make sure we have no regrets at the end of the group stage.”
Spurs were slow to get off the start line at the beginning of the season. Lloris suffered a hamstring injury in the opening game at Everton, while the final days of the transfer window affected squad selection and provided distractions.
But the Lilywhites’ goalkeeper returned at Stoke on Saturday as Pochettino’s side showed their true ability with a resounding 4-0 victory – and Lloris admits it feels like the season only really got started at the weekend.
“It was important for all the players and all the teams in Europe that the transfer market closed,” he said. “It’s true that we are now only focused on this first part of the season.
“It was important to get back to the winning way and we had a good performance. It’s true that we can improve but it was a good score and good for confidence.
“Is this the strongest squad we’ve had in my time at the club? Maybe, maybe - but in football you always need to show your quality on the pitch. In terms of performances and results, we need to go one step higher than previous seasons. This is the direction the club tries to take.
“The most important thing is to feel that everyone is involved, everyone is ready to help the team. We’ll see in the next few months where we’ll be.
“We know what the gaffer expects from us on the pitch - manage the ball, get possession of the ball, keep the ball on the floor.
“We’ll always do the same against every team and afterwards the judgement is about results and only results. We need to do the job on the pitch.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs