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Tottenham faced with fresh Champions League rescue mission


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London (AFP) – Tottenham’s miserable start to the season shows little sign of improving quickly, but prior to Red Star Belgrade’s visit on Tuesday, 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 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 Bayern Munich our confidence was on the floor,” said Pochettino after a 1-1 draw at home to the Premier League’s bottom club Watford on 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 on Tuesday and they will move into second place in Group B, as long as Olympiakos don’t shock Bayern in Greece.

– Spent force? –

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.

Centre-back pairing Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld look to heading towards the end of their Tottenham careers with both the Belgians’ contracts expiring at the end of the season.

Christian Eriksen has also been in and out of the team with the Dane also likely to leave next summer if not before in January.



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