Manchester, United Kingdom | AFP | Mauricio Pochettino has labelled Manchester City as Champions League favourites, but the Tottenham manager insists his side can end their challenge even without Harry Kane.
Pochettino’s team will defend a slender 1-0 advantage at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
City are chasing an unprecedented quadruple and many have tipped them to win the Champions League for the first time this season.
Although Tottenham have the lead in the tie, the absence of star striker Kane with his latest ankle ligament injury could tip the scales in City’s favour.
Pochettino agrees that Pep Guardiola’s formidable squad are worthy of the favourites’ tag.
But he is convinced Tottenham are capable of upsetting the odds.
“Of course it is going to be tough, Manchester City is one of the best teams in the world and a clear favourite to win the Premier League and Champions League,” Pochettino told reporters on Tuesday.
“It is difficult when Manchester City plays a final like they will play tomorrow.
“For us to beat them in the first leg was an amazing result, but the tie is still open. What we have is the belief.
“We are going to fight and hope for a very good performance. You need a bit of luck in important moments in the game.
“It will be an amazing challenge. I’m so motivated and excited to play the game. At 8 o’clock tomorrow it will be a battle.”
Tottenham’s chances of completing a famous victory would be improved if England midfielder Dele Alli can start after suffering a fractured hand in the first leg.
Alli missed Saturday’s win over Huddersfield, but has travelled with the team to Manchester.
Pochettino will decide whether to start Alli against City after his squad’s training session on Tuesday.
“We need to assess him. We are going to have the last training session today and then to decide if it’s possible he can be in the starting 11 or on the bench,” Pochettino said.
With Kane sidelined, the pressure will be on South Korea forward Son Heung-min to fill the void.
– Belief and fight –
Son has thrived without Kane this term and the Argentine coach is confident he will rise to the challenge again.
“Of course, he is doing a fantastic job this season. After November I am so happy with him,” he said.
“It is not only Son. We have other offensive players. Now we need the quality, effort and the belief to go and fight.”
Pochettino has a friendly rivalry with Guardiola dating back to the pair’s time as managers of Espanyol and Barcelona respectively.
But Pochettino, still waiting to win his first major trophy as a coach, doesn’t put himself on the same level as Guardiola, who has won every top prize in his glittering career.
“I think he won 25 trophies. He is the most successful manager in the last 10 years for sure. For me, to win a title with Tottenham is a massive dream,” Pochettino said.
“What he is doing is unbelievable. It shows his quality. But at Espanyol, Southampton and now Tottenham, they are different projects than Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.”
Brazil legend Ronaldinho, Pochettino’s former team-mate at Paris Saint-Germain, has tipped Tottenham to win the Champions League and the Spurs boss urged his players to take confidence from that bold prediction.
“In football all can happen. It’s good that people like Ronaldinho say we can win,” he said.
“Why not? The players need to listen to that. Maybe it can increase our belief to beat an amazing team like Manchester City.”
Pochettino looked confident enough when he faced the media, joking that he wanted the press conference to go on longer so he could soak up his progress to the latter stages of the Champions League for the first time.
“I’m comfortable. It’s the quarter-finals of the Champions League, let me enjoy it a little bit! I only won three Catalonia Cups, this is a bit different,” he grinned.