LONDON – Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham's 4-0 demolition of Huddersfield could be a key moment in their battle to finish in the Premier League's top four as Lucas Moura's hat-trick filled the void left by Harry Kane.
Despite the absence of injured stars Kane and Dele Alli, Pochettino's much-changed side made it three victories from their first three games at the impressive Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Pochettino's understudies filled in nicely as Kenya midfielder Victor Wanyama rolled in the opener before Brazilian forward Lucas took centre-stage with an eye-catching treble.
Tottenham have settled well in their new £1 billion north London home and already relegated Huddersfield provided the ideal warm-up for Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg at Manchester City.
Bidding to qualify for next season's Champions League, Tottenham are one point clear of fourth-placed Chelsea and have the best goal difference of the three teams directly below them.
"It is going to be a very tough race. To score several goals is important. The goal difference can be decisive to achieve the top four at the end," Pochettino said.
"We have a very tough period. If we approach this period with confidence then we can achieve all the targets we have."
It was a reassuring afternoon for Tottenham, whose 1-0 quarter-final first leg win against City on Tuesday came at a heavy cost.
Kane is likely to miss the rest of the season after suffering yet another ankle ligament injury, this time in a tackle on City's Fabian Delph, while Alli sustained a fractured hand that left him unable to face Huddersfield.
Adding to Pochettino's problems, England midfielder Harry Winks was ruled out of Saturday's game with a groin injury.
Pochettino admitted Alli is far from certain to return for the City clash.
"We will see. Today it is difficult to say. He needs to be comfortable to play," he said.
"Of course it is a little bit painful because he broke two parts of his hand."
But for all the panic about Kane's injury potentially ruining Tottenham's hopes of a successful end to the season, they have won all five of their league games without the England striker this season.
Much sterner tests than Huddersfield lie ahead, including successive Champions League and Premier League matches at City next week, so Pochettino made seven changes, leaving Son Heung-min, Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld and Kieran Trippier on the bench.
Huddersfield were so limited in all areas, that Tottenham's make-shift line-up were able to play their way into rhythm.
Showing their strength in depth, Tottenham deservedly took the lead thanks to two of their understudies in the 24th minute.
Ben Davies passed towards Fernando Llorente and the Spaniard used his strength to hold off Jon Gorenc Stankovic, allowing the ball to run to Wanyama,
Bursting into the space behind the Huddersfield defence, Wanyama cleverly rounded goalkeeper Ben Hamer before slotting into the empty net for his first goal since February 2018.
Three minutes later, Tottenham struck again. Moussa Sissoko dinked a pass into Lucas's path and the Brazilian took a touch before drilling a fierce shot across Hamer into the far corner.
The often maligned Llorente has quietly had a hand in 15 goals in 18 starts for Tottenham, scoring 11 and setting up four.
He almost got another with a volley that cannoned back off the crossbar.
Lucas, a candidate to start against City, stole the show in the second half, controlling Eriksen's pass to smash home the third goal in the 87th minute.
Lucas wasn't content with that as he ran through to drive another fine finish past Hamer for the first hat-trick at Tottenham's new stadium.
The former Paris Saint Germain star was cheered off as he celebrated his man of the match performance with a kickabout with his 1-year-old son on the pitch after the final whistle.
"I saw him with his son. It's amazing, very emotional, so nice for him. So happy for him and his family," Pochettino said.
"Players need to play to show their quality. The hat-trick is going to build his confidence."AFP