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Eriksen proud Spurs can now mix it with the best

 

By Tom Allnutt

Christian Eriksen admits the old Tottenham would have crumbled after falling two goals behind to Juventus and believes their comeback demonstrates their progress under Mauricio Pochettino.

Spurs have a place in the Champions League quarter-finals within reach after they snatched a 2-2 draw and a pair of precious away goals from the first leg in Turin on Tuesday.

The outlook was bleak when Gonzalo Higuain scored twice for Juve in the first nine minutes but Tottenham dug in, with Harry Kane and an Eriksen free-kick salvaging what felt like a victory at the final whistle.

When Pochettino first arrived in 2014, he took over a team that had regularly been thrashed by the big sides, their mental fragility exposed whenever the pressure mounted.

But Eriksen, who was at his sparkling best at the Allianz Stadium, believes those days are now long gone.

"Of course we are building on every season compared to when I arrived here four or five years ago now," Eriksen said.

"The games against the top teams when you are 2-0 down after nine minutes you lose 6-0. That's the thing we've changed with the manager coming in, with the players we have here.

"Everyone has grown up and they are not going to lie down if they are 2-0 down anyway.

"Tottenham, compared to what it was when I came to what it is now, is completely different. That's up to the manager, up to the players and the quality we have in the squad really."

Pochettino's reputation continues to grow, particularly given Tottenham had already beaten Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in this year's competition.

Eriksen insists the players are not worried about the future of their manager.

"No, the players are happy with him, the club is very happy with him," Eriksen said.

"Of course, it's his decision but I think what's he's building here he would like to be part of it. I think that's what he showed when he signed the new deal, a long-term deal.

"Of course there will be interest from other clubs because he's doing really well but hopefully he'll stay. We don't really think about that."

Juve striker Higuain - who passed up the chance of a hat-trick when he missed from the penalty spot just before half-time - has responded to the "armchair" critics who turned on the Bianconeri after Tuesday's result.

Yesterday, the Argentine wrote - in Italian and Spanish - on his Instagram account: "Good morning everyone... how easy it is to talk after the match from your sofa or armchair.

"At 2-0 up everything was perfect, then at 2-2 the judgements changed quickly... we're not interested in those voices.

"We're going to London to qualify for the next round... best wishes to all those who really want the best for Juventus."

Boss Massimiliano Allegri believes the Bianconeri have what it takes to win at Wembley next month.

He said: "We will have (Paulo) Dybala and (Blaise) Matuidi back. Notwithstanding their returns from injury, I think that we have what it takes to make a real fist of this tie."

Belfast Telegraph

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