LONDON – Tottenham Hotspur must do what no English club has done in 11 years and win in Barcelona in the Champions League next month, if they are to be guaranteed an unlikely place in the last-16.
Christian Eriksen’s 80th-minute winner gave Tottenham a deserved 1-0 victory over Inter Milan on Wednesday – a result that lifted them above the Italians into second place in Group B by virtue of their better head-to-head record.
But they must match Inter’s result in the final round of group games, and with Luciano Spalletti’s side hosting bottom club PSV Eindhoven, that means victory in Spain will almost certainly be required by Spurs on their first visit to the Nou Camp since losing 1-0 in the 1982 Cup Winners Cup semi-final.
“All is possible. I never say it is mission impossible, in football all can happen, you need to believe,” Pochettino said after a nervy night at Wembley.
“It will be tough (to win at Barcelona), but the belief is so important. To arrive in Barcelona and compete at our best, we need to have fresh legs, fresh minds, no injuries.
“We have big respect for Barcelona. Barcelona is one of the best teams in Europe, and of course they have unbelievable players. It will be tough. But we have belief we can win.”
Barcelona’s last three games at home to English clubs resulted in 3-0, 4-0 and 3-1 wins against Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal respectively.
Liverpool were the last English team to win there in the Champions League last-16 in 2007.
Inter coach Spalletti can only hope that Barca, who have already won the group, maintain their dominant home form in Europe.
Bayern Munich were the last side to win away in the Champions League against Barcelona, in April 2013, since when they are 28 matches unbeaten at home in the competition.
“I’m sure Barcelona will not give anything easy to Tottenham, even if they are already qualified,” Spalletti, whose side would have qualified for the last-16 if they had held out for a draw, told reporters.
“Players like Messi, like Pique. I don’t even dare have a shadow of a doubt. I’m sure they always give their best, and play to win every game they play.”
Tottenham had the better chances on a tense night at Wembley. Harry Winks curled against the crossbar in the first half, and Jan Vertonghen headed wastefully wide late on, before Eriksen blasted home to seal three vital points.
“The performance was very good. We fully deserved the victory,” Pochettino said. “Inter Milan showed a great level. They’re a team that are so difficult to beat. The players deserve credit because the performance was very good.
“We dominated and created the best chances. Now we are in a position that depends on us.”