Tottenham Hotspur will be without five key players for at least two weeks due to injury, but manager Mauricio Pochettino was in upbeat mood ahead of the Champions League clash with Barcelona on Wednesday.
Dele Alli (hamstring), Serge Aurier (thigh), Mousa Dembele (thigh), Christian Eriksen (abdomen) and Jan Vertonghen (hamstring) will all be out until after this month’s international break.
Spurs conceded two late goals to lose 2-1 to Inter Milan in their first group B match, but Pochettino demanded a positive approach against the La Liga champions.
“It is a period when we are not in good luck with injuries… We are not victims, though. We must feel strong,” Pochettino told a news conference on Tuesday.
“Every player must feel they can win and achieve what we want. It’s about enjoying the game tomorrow and the best player in the world in (Lionel) Messi. Football is not a drama but always it’s about being focused, competitive and enjoying playing against the best player in the world.”
With memories of beating European champions Real Madrid 3-1 at Wembley Stadium in the group stage last season, Pochettino was urging his side to enjoy the glamour of Wednesday’s showdown.
Spurs captain Hugo Lloris, who has not played since August due to a thigh injury, resumed full training on Tuesday and will start against Barca.
Pochettino’s famous demands on his players will be put to the test again at Wembley with the Argentine expecting maximum effort to stop his compatriot Messi, who scored a hat-trick in Barca’s 4-0 win over PSV last month.
“It’s very clear, very simple, we need to be near him when he gets the ball. If we leave him space he will get away from his marker. What we need is to have players helping each other. We need to demand sacrifice and they will expend a lot of energy,” Pochettino said.
The positivity of the Argentine coach, who managed Spanish side Espanyol from 2009-12, has filtered down to his squad.
Striker Harry Kane, who scored seven goals in last season’s Champions League campaign, did not seem daunted by the prospect of facing five-times Ballon d’Or winner Messi.
“He’s set the standard. I think him and (Cristiano) Ronaldo have gone above the normal standard set by people in years gone past,” Kane said. “50-60 goals a season, as a striker I want to try to match that and do the same.
“He’s still scoring goals as well and it motivates me as well to score as many and if not more than him one day.”
Spurs go into the match after three successive wins in all competitions while Barca are without a victory in their last three games.