Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said on Monday he is an “optimist” as his team bid to stun Barcelona at the Camp Nou and snatch a place in the Champions League last 16.
The Premier League outfit have kept their hopes of qualification alive with dramatic back-to-back wins over PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan, and they will reach the knockout stages on Tuesday if they can better the Italians’ result at the San Siro.
But Barcelona have already wrapped up top spot in Group B and are also three points clear in La Liga after a 4-0 derby thrashing of Espanyol at the weekend.
“I am an optimist and if we want to achieve something important at the Camp Nou then we will have to be excellent both physically and tactically,” said Pochettino.
“Barcelona have one of the best teams in the world. We must be very strong in every way in order to have a chance against Barca.”
Pochettino saw his side tumble to a 4-2 loss in the reverse fixture at Wembley in October as Lionel Messi produced an individual masterclass.
But Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Leicester saw Spurs stay third in the Premier League, only six points adrift of leaders Liverpool after a strong start to the season.
The Argentinian may have to give youngster Kyle Walker-Peters a full Champions League debut at right-back, with Kieran Trippier and Serge Aurier both serious injury doubts.
“Peters is an option to play,” he said. “Being in a difficult stadium like the Camp Nou will help him and make him stronger. He could play tomorrow (Tuesday).”
– Valverde to ring the changes –
Barca boss Ernesto Valverde hinted at a possible boost for Spurs by admitting that he could make wholesale changes from the team which beat Espanyol, with nothing at stake for the Catalans.
Valverde said that Luis Suarez “will not play” in order to avoid a second game in just three days, and added that he will give other players “respite”.
Spurs will be keen to see Messi’s name left off the teamsheet, after the five-time Ballon d’Or winner scored twice past them in his mesmerising display earlier in the group stage.
The 31-year-old also netted a double against Espanyol, scoring two direct free-kicks in a La Liga match for the first time in his illustrious career.
“We are infinitely lucky to have Messi with us,” admitted Valverde. “He unlocks any match and we are in a one-off era with a player like him.”