Mauricio Pochettino has described the Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City as the biggest game of his managerial career. The Argentinian, who sends his Tottenham team out for the first leg at the club’s new stadium on Tuesday night, has never made it this far in the competition. Indeed, Spurs have reached the last eight of Europe’s elite tournament on only two previous occasions – in 1962 and 2011.
“Maybe as a coach, yes. I think yes,” Pochettino said. “It’s going to be one of the most important games. For us it’s a massive bonus to have the opportunity to play in the quarter-finals with all of the circumstances we have been through this season.
“The objective is to be in the semi-final, although we know very well it’s going to be tough. If one club is capable of winning everything today, it’s Manchester City.”
City have won 22 of their last 23 matches in all competitions while Spurs enter in stickier form, with two wins and four losses in seven fixtures. Pochettino has yet to win a trophy as a manager while his counterpart, Pep Guardiola, is a serial accumulator of them. The game is the first of three between the clubs in 11 days, with the second leg followed by a Premier League meeting at the Etihad Stadium.
“We need to make sure we match City’s motivation and desire,” Pochettino said. “The first strength of City is not their quality. It’s their will to fight for every single ball. De Bruyne, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Sterling, Jesus, Agüero – before they start to play, they run and press and are aggressive. And then, because they have unbelievable quality, they can win more games than they lose.
“If we were not capable of matching Southampton and Burnley in terms of desire [in the recent league defeats], we were always going to struggle. You need massive talent if you are not able to run and fight.”
Pochettino is without the injured Serge Aurier, Eric Dier and Érik Lamela. Guardiola has doubts over Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Sergio Agüero but each of them trained on Monday.