LONDON – With Tottenham teetering on the brink of Champions League elimination, the Wembley pitch under scrutiny and injuries stacking up, Mauricio Pochettino sought consolation in his favourite political drama.
“Yes, it is a weird season,” said Pochettino as he prepared for tonight’s European showdown with PSV Eindhoven.
“But I am so happy because I’ve started the new season of House of Cards. I have watched three episodes, and I can recommend it.”
He was even prepared to concede there were similarities in the tangled tales of intrigue and power snatches on Netflix and his life as manager of Spurs.
“It’s similar, eh?” said Pochettino. “I learn a lot from this series. It represents very well how we sometimes are. Sometimes football is so political, and it’s going in this direction.”
Perhaps he had been reading the leaks about five Premier League rivals accused of plotting a breakaway European Super League.
Tottenham have already encountered unfamiliar complications in this campaign, including a driving ban for captain Hugo Lloris, a rare failure to sign anyone in the transfer market and nagging delays to the new stadium.
Nine key players missed pre-season because of success at the World Cup, and an injury-ravaged squad is also without Lloris as the goalkeeper serves a ban for a red card in the 2-2 draw at PSV two weeks ago.
Spurs have taken only one point from three games in Group B, and will go out if they fail to win at Wembley tonight and Inter beat Barcelona.
At least Lionel Messi’s return ahead of schedule from injury may help part of the equation. “We need to do our job,” said Pochettino. “We know we need to win to be alive. We still have the possibility.”
The search for a miracle escape is a far cry from last summer and an advertising campaign which boasted how the £850million stadium at White Hart Lane would be the only place to watch Champions League football in London.
Tottenham should have been installed in their fabulous new home by mid-September, but are now looking at next year, by which time they may be in the Europa League alongside Chelsea and Arsenal.
“We are all disappointed we’re not playing Champions League in the new stadium,” said Pochettino. “It wasn’t in our hands to deliver it. It was complicated because of many things we couldn’t manage.
“When you build a house or an extension, it’s always difficult to say when it will be finished. We’ve had problems and it’s been delayed, delayed, delayed.
“We feel sorry and painful for our fans, but for us too. Every day that goes on it is more expensive for the club, but the person who is most worried and feels most sorry for not delivering on time is the chairman.
“It’s very painful for him.
“All we can do is help by winning games. If we can win against PSV Eindhoven and have the possibility of going to the next stage, then maybe we can play in March in the Champions League in London.”
They continue to lodge at Wembley, where the pitch has been damaged by boxing and NFL games, but an inspection before PSV’s training session on Monday confirmed the surface was playing fine.
“I think the pitch has improved a little bit,” said Pochettino. “They are working so hard to improve it. I’ve seen a few pictures and it looks better, but the condition will be the same for both teams, so we cannot complain.”
Mousa Dembele suffered ankle-ligament damage in the 3-2 win at Wolves on Saturday.
Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Victor Wanyama are also out.