Tottenham Hotspur eager to erase Anfield misery at Gent’s expense

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Tottenham Hotspur eager to erase Anfield misery at Gent’s expense” was written by Dominic Fifield in Ghent, for The Guardian on Wednesday 15th February 2017 20.17 UTC

Mauricio Pochettino is to grant his Tottenham Hotspur players an immediate chance to make amends for their uncharacteristically feeble performance at Liverpool by selecting a strong lineup for Thursnight’s Europa League tie against Gent.

The Anfield defeat was Spurs’ third in the Premier League all season but the manner of it, with Tottenham’s timid start handing Liverpool the initiative, shocked Pochettino and his players. The manager has spoken to his squad and has had indications that players such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris are eager to play at the Ghelamco Arena to get the setback out of their system, with those players likely to be rested for the FA Cup fifth‑round tie at Fulham on Sunday.

“After what happened against Liverpool all the players want the chance to play again and try to change the feeling,” Pochettino said. “We dropped our performance, our energy, our desire maybe … we showed that lack of competitiveness as a team and that surprised us. So maybe we will make some changes but not too many.

“I’m happy to be involved in different competitions, the Europa League and the FA Cup. It’s true, it’s not easy, and we need to be fresh in our minds, to take better decisions for the team. You need all the squad involved and feeling important, but I like to compete. Some teams, like Chelsea or Liverpool, have three or four days’ holidays now to try and prepare for a week and a half for a Premier League game. But I prefer to be busy and try and win some titles. That, for me, is the best way to be.”

His side’s credentials were damaged on Merseyside, for all that Spurs remain third, and the squad’s debriefing centred on learning from their mistakes. “I tried to give them ‘love’,” said Pochettino, who could have Jan Vertonghen available at Fulham after an ankle ligament injury. “We all felt disappointed that they suffered a lot. Sometimes, when the team’s performance is not good and it touched the players’ pride, you don’t need to kill them … because I am responsible. But we tried to talk a lot, to understand why we lost and learn from what happened at the beginning of the game.”

Lloris said: “The most important thing is to show a response. This is a chance to do that. This season is a good opportunity for every player in this squad to create history for this club but for that you need to put in a lot of effort, be committed with the team and your club and show your abilities and skills all together. Football is always about basics. Look at the Liverpool game: it’s not about tactics or technique. It’s more about the spirit. We can’t win with one or two players. It’s about the team, all together.

“In your mind this competition has to be like the Champions League. The Europa League is still good to win and we’re all ambitious. We want to go as far as possible. But, for that, we have to be focused, to switch on our minds and be ready for a fight.”

Their opponents in the last 32, Gent, are eighth in the Belgian top flight, 12 points off the top, and have won only once in 10 league matches.

Pochettino distanced himself from any vacancy that may emerge at Barcelona in the summer, when Luis Enrique’s contract is due to expire. He said: “I’m at Tottenham, I am very happy [with] four more years of contract, enjoying an exciting project. It’s true it’s not an easy project but I’m very happy here.”

Gent (3-4-3; probable): Kalinic; Gigot, Gershon, Mitrovic; Kalu, Renato Neto, Verstraete, Asare; Milicevic, Coulibaly, Simon.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1, probable): Lloris; Walker, Dier, Wimmer, Davies; Winks, Wanyama; Sissoko, Alli, Son; Kane.

Referee B Bastien (Fr).

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