Mauricio Pochettino aims for repeat of his European debut
Mauricio Pochettino's first experience of European football was in Cyprus and, 18 years later, Tottenham's manager returns to the Mediterranean island tonight to make his managerial bow on the continent.
It was September 1996 when a 24-year-old Pochettino was part of an Espanyol side that drew 2-2 with Apoel Nicosia in the first round of the Uefa Cup. Pochettino's Espanyol won the return leg 1-0 and, ahead of Tottenham's Europa League game against AEL Limassol tonight, he can still recall his first taste of European football.
"I do not remember too much about the games but I remember it was very hot," said the head coach. "We drew the first leg in Cyprus before winning the second leg back in Barcelona. I would certainly settle for the same outcome this time."
The winners of this season's Europa League will qualify for the Champions League group stages and Pochettino, who last season said he had "no interest" in the competition because "it kills you", has no intention of taking it lightly.
"The Europa League is now a different competition," he said. "Why? Well, if you won it last year you basically got nothing. Just a trophy. But now the Europa League gives you the opportunity to play in the Champions League."
The prospect of playing 16 games, which is what it would take to reach the final in Warsaw, does not put Pochettino off. He feels Spurs have enough to cope with the demands of domestic and European football this season.
"We have a very strong squad with plenty of quality," he said. "But we need to manage the players and be clever in our analysis and management, so we are working closely with the medical department and sports science team.
"It is the same situation as teams playing in the Champions League. Playing Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, and then at the weekend, it is the same. We will put in place the best team to try to win the game."
Pochettino will make changes from the 1-0 win over West Ham. Emmanuel Adebayor, Christian Eriksen, Aaron Lennon, Younes Kaboul and Étienne Capoue have not made the trip.