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Poch shrugs off Barca link as Spurs step up Euro bid

KAA Gent v Tottenham, Europa League Round of 32, Ghelamco Arena, tonight, 6.00pm

By Tom Allnutt

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has sidestepped suggestions he could be next in line to take over at Barcelona.

Barca's season is on the brink of collapse after they were thrashed 4-0 by Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday night.

They also trail table-topping Real Madrid by a point in La Liga, having played two games more than the league leaders.

Their crushing loss at the Parc des Princes has intensified speculation about the future of Barcelona boss Luis Enrique and Pochettino is well-known in Spain after his three years in charge at Espanyol.

Asked yesterday if he would be interested in taking over at the Nou Camp, Pochettino said: "It's important to be focused on the game tomorrow.

"I can't say anything about that. I'm at Tottenham. I am very happy, I have four more years on my contract, I'm enjoying an exciting project.

"It's true it's not an easy project, but I'm very happy here."

Tottenham take on Belgian side Gent tonight in the first leg of the Europa League last 32, looking to bounce back from a damaging defeat of their own to Liverpool on Saturday.

The 2-0 loss leaves Spurs 10 points behind leaders Chelsea in the Premier League table.

Pochettino said he has taken a soft approach with his disappointed players, who want the chance to put right their miserable display at Anfield.

"I tried to give love," Pochettino said. "We all felt disappointed that they suffered a lot.

"Sometimes, when your performance is not good and that game touched your pride, you don't need to kill them. The first man to kill is myself because I am responsible."

Pochettino added: "What happened against Liverpool, all the players want the chance to play again and try and change the feeling.

"Maybe we will make some changes, but not too many."

Tottenham travel to Fulham on Sunday in the FA Cup fifth round and Pochettino may opt to pick a strong side at the Ghelamco Arena tonight, in the hope of putting the tie to bed.

Their second leg at Wembley comes three days before a league game against Stoke.

Danny Rose and Erik Lamela are still out with knee and hip injuries respectively while Jan Vertonghen is close to overcoming an ankle problem, but has also stayed at home. Hugo Lloris is expected to keep his place in goal.

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