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UCL Preview: Spurs can cause Barca upset

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde said that he would make a number of changes to his team with Barcelona already qualified in top spot from Group B but Mauricio Pochettino is taking nothing for granted.

Tottenham Hotspur can defeat group winners Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Tuesday to join them in the Champions League knockout stage, their upbeat coach Mauricio Pochettino has said.

Spurs must equal or better Inter Milan’s result at home to already-eliminated PSV Eindhoven to clinch a last-16 spot that looked improbable after just one point from their opening three group games before consecutive home wins over PSV and Inter.

“If we don’t get through it’s because we won’t have deserved it,” Pochettino told a news conference on Monday.

“Perhaps we deserved more in Eindhoven (a 2-2 draw) and Milan (a 2-1 loss) but we’ve got to this game with things in our own hands and we know that we need to win and that’s that.”

Pochettino’s opposite number Ernesto Valverde said earlier on Monday that he would make a number of changes to his team with Barca already qualified in top spot from Group B but Tottenham’s coach is taking nothing for granted.

“We’re going to be ready to compete in the best condition that we can,” added Pochettino. “I’m optimistic, I think we come here at our best and we need to prepare and think about the game we are going to play, not what Barca will do.

“Barcelona have a great team of 24 players with great quality. To be one of the best teams in the world you need a squad who can show their quality, and they are all here because they deserve to be.”

Having beaten Leicester City 2-0 away in the Premier League on Saturday with a rotated XI, Pochettino is expected to recall talismanic striker Harry Kane, who was rested.

He indicated that he will make changes given the gruelling schedule English sides face over the Christmas period.

“We’re playing 12 games in 40 days and have no pause in December,” said the Spurs boss. “If you don’t rotate it’s difficult, but what Tottenham offers players is the opportunity to grow and play well in the same way no matter who is playing.”

Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris said Barcelona would give his team a tough game, no matter what changes they make. “It’s always a special game to play against Barca in the Nou Camp, it’s a special place, one of the best,” the French keeper said.

“The context is different for us and them, but they know that when you wear a Barca shirt you’re obliged to win whatever the context, and they’ll want to do that.

“It won’t be easy but the most important thing is that we believe in our chances of getting through and play with 100 percent belief that we can do it.

“It’s very difficult to stop a player like Lionel Messi, and if we can do that we will need to as a team and have to put in a big performance.”

Barca top the group with 13 points ahead of Spurs and Inter on seven and PSV with one. Tottenham are above Inter on their head-to-head record having lost 2-1 away and won 1-0 at home.

Barca’s Valverde promises changes but wants to beat Spurs

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has insisted his side will “respect the competition” when they host Tottenham Hotspur in their final Champions League group stage game on Tuesday.

Barca have already qualified for the round of 16 as Group B winners, however Spurs, who sit joint second above Inter Milan on head-to-head, must better the Italian side’s result against the already-eliminated PSV Eindhoven if they are to join Barca in the knockout stage.

Valverde admits he will make changes, but that Inter can rest assured his side will remain competitive.

“I’ll make a change or two tomorrow, there’ll be players with knocks like Luis Suarez who I wasn’t planning on asking to play two games in a row to give him a rest,” Valverde told a news conference on Monday.

“You’ll see tomorrow when the lineup is announced if Lionel Messi plays, but the important thing is that whoever is selected goes out onto the pitch motivated because they’ll come up against a side playing for their future.

“We respect Inter and Spurs, but we have done our main job. We like this competition and we will go out with the idea of winning, which is what we always do.”

Valverde, who also hinted that Thomas Vermaelen and reserve goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen could be given rare outings, played down any issues with French forward Ousmane Dembele’s behaviour, after media reports emerged saying the 21-year-old arrived two hours late for training on Sunday.

“I don’t have any sort of feeling about it — we’ll deal with it internally and in the best way possible helping the player,” he said. “It’s true that when you win a derby 4-0 you hope for a nice quiet day the next day, but as I said we’re going to sort it out internally.

“He is a player who gives us a lot, but we have certain rules of behavior that are the same for everyone. We want to help him because we know when he’s on it he is really important for us and gives us a lot.”

Tottenham, who lost 4-2 when the sides met at Wembley earlier this season, rested talisman Harry Kane in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Leicester City, a result that put Mauricio Pochettino’s side third in the Premier League.

Valverde was effusive in his praise for the England captain who was on target in the first match.


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