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From Catalonia to the Champions League: Pochettino hails old rival Guardiola

Mauricio Pochettino believes most coaches in football dream of being “one per cent” as successful as his long-time sparring partner Pep Guardiola.

The former Espanyol and Barcelona rivals meet in the second leg of Manchester City and Tottenham’s Champions League quarter-final clash on Wednesday, with Spurs taking a slender 1-0 advantage to the Etihad Stadium.

With City’s bid for an unprecedented quadruple on the line and Tottenham looking to breach new ground in Europe’s premier competition, the stakes are high, but Pochettino was keen to reflect beforehand on the journey both men have taken from entering elite coaching in Catalonia a decade ago to where they now sit at the summit of English football.

Guardiola’s off-the-cuff reference to Spurs as “the Harry Kane team” last season appeared to cause some bad blood on Pochettino’s part, but the Argentine tactician was in relaxed mood in Manchester as he noted the common history enjoyed by staff on both benches.

“It’s not more motivation or a bigger challenge [because of Barcelona and Espanyol],” he told a pre-match news conference.

“The challenge is that Guardiola is one of the best managers in the world.

“Of course, I am an Espanyol fan, I am going to support Espanyol. I played more than 10 years and I coached Espanyol for nearly five years.

“He was at Barcelona nearly all his career as a player and we started our coaching careers at the same time.

“It makes it special, the situation, because we have a good feeling between us. It is a good feeling that he has in his coaching team. Mikel Arteta or [club doctor] Eduardo Mauri or [fitness coach] Lorenzo Buenaventura are all good friends.

“All these people are all good friends. It is the challenge, it is the motivation, but at the same time it is nice to see them because we met in Barcelona playing a lot.

Now we are in England, in Manchester and London, playing in the quarter-final of the Champions League. For me it’s a massive dream – for them maybe not too much – but for me it is a massive thing.”

Pochettino went on to be effusive in his praise of Guardiola’s prolific career at the top level, while noting they have largely operated in very different realities on their way to a finely poised clash.

“I don’t remember and sorry if I am wrong but I think he won 24 or 25 or 26 trophies in his career,” he grinned. “I think he is the most successful manager in the last 10 years, for sure. There is not another like him, of course.

“But for me, winning a title with Tottenham is a massive dream. To win 24 or 25 or 26 – I’m not sure – is more than a dream for any manager in the world. What he did in Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now with Manchester City is unbelievable. It shows his quality and how good he is.”

Pochettino added: “Of course, for us it is not easy. I think we measure our success, different coaches earning different things.

“I think Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham are different projects to Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. We need to settle our objectives at a different level.

“But, of course, any coach can dream to be maybe one per cent as successful as Guardiola is.”

Tottenham must be ambitious at City – Lloris

Hugo Lloris wants Tottenham to show attacking ambition as they aim to complete an upset triumph against Manchester City in the Champions League.

Spurs take a 1-0 first-leg advantage to the Etihad Stadium after Son Heung-min’s 78th-minute goal gave them a slender quarter-final lead last week.

City have frequently scored early on in games this season and Pep Guardiola’s team are expected to revert to type with a high-intensity start, after their more cautious approach in north London came in for plenty of scrutiny.

Lloris, who saved a first-half penalty from Sergio Aguero in the initial encounter, does not think this is a reason for Mauricio Pochettino’s team to approach the game in a negative fashion.

“I don’t think it’s the only reason because we made such an effort to win this game, but it was a key moment obviously,” he told a pre-match news conference, reflecting upon the importance of denying Aguero.

“[Wednesday] is going to be a different game. We have a small advantage but everything can turn very quickly.

“It is important to come here with ambition, stick with our basics. If we come here with the mentality to score goals it is going to make thigs tough for Man City.

“We know we will suffer but it is important we are ambitious.”

Having denied Aguero to help preserve a clean sheet, Lloris knows the opportunity is there for Spurs to alter the entire complexion of a finely poised tie by scoring an away goal.

“We know in the Champions League it is important not to concede a goal at home. It can help you for the return game away,” he said.

“But we know we are facing one of the best teams in Europe, they have a lot of quality in the squad and can score a lot of goals if the opponent shows weaknesses.

“One-nil was a good result but we have to forget about that and use it the best way we can.

“We need to run as much as we can and finish the game with the impression we gave everything.”

That maximum effort will be put in without star striker Harry Kane, who suffered his latest ankle injury setback in a challenge with England team-mate Fabian Delph seven days ago.

Nevertheless, Son’s strike came after Kane had left the fray and Lucas Moura showed his own goalscoring instincts with a hat-trick as Huddersfield Town were swept away 4-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.

“[Kane] is very difficult to replace. The good thing is everyone is ready to help the team,” Lloris added.

“We have a different profile up front and they are ready to fight. In football it is all about team performance, even if there is an individual performance that can make the difference.

“It is important to be strong together. It’s important not go too fast. Step by step.”

Guardiola challenges Man City fans to embrace Champions League

Manchester City’s fans must match the players’ desire to reach a Champions League semi-final, according to manager Pep Guardiola.

City host Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, nursing a 1-0 deficit from last week’s encounter in north London.

Despite contesting their eighth consecutive campaign in Europe’s premier competition, City have only reached the last four once – losing 1-0 on aggregate to eventual winners Real Madrid in 2016.

An element in the club’s uneasy relationship with the Champions League is rooted in a standoffishness from a significant section a fanbase that followed City with unswerving loyalty when they languished in English football’s third tier 20 years ago.

Reasons for this are numerous – from dissatisfaction over UEFA punishments handed to opposition clubs when Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure suffered racist abuse while playing for City in Europe, to a distrust of the scrutiny Financial Fair Play laws have placed upon the three-time Premier League champions.

City supporters’ antipathy towards the Champions League has been demonstrated by those who boo the competition anthem at the Etihad Stadium, something Guardiola has previously urged them to stop.

As a member of the team that ended Barcelona’s long quest for glory in the tournament, Guardiola holds it in contrasting reverence and, with the City website still showing tickets to be available for the Spurs showdown, he implored fans to get behind his team’s bid for glory.

“The Liverpool game would be enough for me,” he said, referring to the raucous atmosphere that accompanied City’s 2-1 win over their Premier League title rivals in January. “[I would like] a little bit better. We need it.

“I am sorry, guys, I am a failure but many times I played in the semi-finals and quarter-finals, and every time I played away the atmosphere was really incredible. They support their local teams. We need it. Really, we need it.

“I want to see if [the fans] want to get to the semi-finals. Not just the players, the players I don’t doubt after the last 20 months. I want to see my fans, our fans, that they really want the semi-finals.”

Guardiola added: “Do it for the [players]. After 20 months, I think [the fans] are so proud of what they have done and they deserve it.

“There will be bad moments in the game and in those moments we need our supporters. At this stage, without supporters you cannot go through.

“I am expecting. I am really curious about how our fans are going to react, really curious.”

Guardiola sarcastically referring to himself as “a failure” was in keeping with a sometimes tetchy pre-match news conference, and alluded to a succession of defeats in the Champions League knockout rounds since he led Barca to a second triumph in three seasons back in 2010-11.

“I know the people say I came here to win the Champions League. I did not come here to win the Champions League, honestly,” he said.

“I came here to play with my team the way we are playing in the last 20 months. To play the way we want to play.

“Of course I want to win the Champions League. I know at Bayern Munich, we won absolutely everything except the Champions League and it was a big failure.

“What can I say? I have to accept that. I have to live with that, but it is not a big, big problem. It pushes me to be better.

“It is important how you handle 11 months. That’s why I said many times the Premier League, for me is the most important title. Every three days, being there, it is a good message for ourselves – being there every time.

“Just put everything on the pitch tomorrow. Our hearts, our desire and then we will see.”

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