Mauricio Pochettino was not a happy man after Tottenham Hotspur’s 2016-17 UEFA Champions League-opening defeat to Monaco at Wembley Stadium in September, and he was again fuming as he left England’s national stadium on Wednesday, following Tottenham’s home defeat to Bayer Leverkusen.
Pochettino opined ahead of Wednesday’s clash that by virtue of playing their Champions League home games at Wembley, Spurs were at something of a disadvantage, as opponents relish the opportunity to play at the famous stadium and are perhaps more up for the occasion than they would be if the games were played at White Hart Lane.
After the game, though, Pochettino wasn’t in the excuse-making mood. He called his team’s performance “embarrassing” and called upon his players to look at themselves ahead of their final two group games — quotes from the Telegraph:
“There is no better place to play than Wembley. Losing in front of 85,000 people, it’s embarrassing for me, it’s a shame. We have to look at ourselves.
“You cannot blame Wembley. Wembley for me was fantastic, but we need to show more. We were poor again, we need to find answers in ourselves. We need to be critical. We were the problem, not Wembley.
“We were very disappointed we didn’t show quality. Stop blaming Wembley, it’s not Wembley.”
“We must win in Monaco. If not, forget the Champions League.
“We need to improve and we don’t have too much time. We need to be critical and put ourselves in front of the mirror and say, ‘Come on we need to improve.’ To find the answer is inside us and that is very important. We were poor today and in both games at Wembley, we didn’t show our real quality.”
More than anything, Spurs seem to struggle to cope with the absences of Harry Kane (ankle) and Toby Aldeweireld (knee), who have been out injured the last eight weeks and three weeks, respectively. While Kane returned to full training this week, his status for Sunday’s north London derby (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) is unknown, with Aldeweireld, who last season anchored the joint-stingiest defense in the Premier League, almost certainly unavailable himself.