Tottenham faced with fresh Champions League rescue mission

LONDON (AFP) – Tottenham’s miserable start to the season shows little sign of improving quickly, but prior to Red Star Belgrade’s visit tomorrow (3am Brunei time), Spurs can take some solace from the fact they are in a better position in the Champions League than they were 12 months ago.

Defeats to Inter Milan and Barcelona saw them travel to PSV Eindhoven for what manager Mauricio Pochettino described as a “must-win”. After a 2-2 draw in the Netherlands, Pochettino admitted his side’s Champions League campaign was “nearly over”.

Yet, eight months later, the Argentine had led Tottenham to their first ever Champions League final.

The hangover from the defeat to Liverpool in that final in Madrid has been long and sobering. Spurs have won just three of their opening 12 games in all competitions this season.

Chances of a first trophy under Pochettino in the League Cup have already gone after an embarrassing exit on penalties to fourth-tier Colchester and they are already five points off the pace just for a place in the Premier League’s top four.

However, Pochettino admitted that the most damaging defeat of all came last time out in the Champions League, when Bayern Munich ran riot in the second-half to leave London 7-2 winners.

“After the Bayern Munich match, our confidence was on the floor,” said Pochettino after a 1-1 draw at home to the Premier League’s bottom club Watford last Saturday.

The heaviest defeat ever suffered at home by an English side in European competition may have had a lasting effect, but it is not terminal to Tottenham’s chances of again pulling themselves off the canvas and into the Champions League last 16.

Beat the Serbian champions at home tomorrow and they will move into second place in Group B, as long as Olympiakos don’t shock Bayern in Greece. Doubt has been cast over Pochettino’s capability to rouse another response from largely the same group of players into his sixth season in charge.

He certainly does not have troubles to seek. Captain Hugo Lloris is sidelined until 2020, leaving substitute goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga to hold the fort at the back.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino attends a team training session at Tottenham Hotspur’s Enfield Training Centre, in north London. PHOTO: AFP