Tottenham Hotspur’s progress into the last 16 of the Champions League is in their own hands but they must solve their Wembley jitters, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino, whose side drew 0-0 in Leverkusen on Tuesday.
Several tremendous saves by keeper Hugo Lloris earned Tottenham the draw in Germany that left them second in a tight Group E on four points and they have two of their remaining three matches at home at their adopted Wembley Stadium.
While home ties with third-placed Leverkusen in two weeks and against CSKA Moscow in December look enticing, Tottenham can ill afford a repeat of the home sickness they suffered when losing to Monaco in their opening fixture.
“It’s in our hands now at Wembley. We need to turn around the feeling of that first game against Monaco, to feel that it’s our home and try to show that we deserve to win,” Pochettino told the club’s website.
“It’s tough to recover the points after losing the first game at home but the good win at CSKA and now this draw means it’s all open and in our hands to try to go through.”
Tottenham have elected to use Wembley rather than their White Hart Lane ground for Champions League home ties this season because of building work cutting capacity.
While the larger stadium guarantees crowds of roughly 80,000, the key will be on the pitch where Spurs must replicate the high-pressing game that has made them such a tough proposition at White Hart Lane.
Wembley’s bigger pitch dimensions clearly upset their rhythm in the 2-1 home defeat by Monaco — their only loss this season – and some have suggested the move to cash-in on Champions League football with bigger attendances could yet backfire.
Former Tottenham midfielder Steve Sidwell says the unfamiliarity of Wembley could have a similar effect to when Arsenal struggled while playing Champions League games there in the late 1990s — winning only two of six ‘home’ games.
“I remember as a trainee at Arsenal there was a real negative vibe about it from the first team and I think that it could hinder Tottenham’s progress,” Sidwell told Sky Sports.
“No player likes to break the routine. When you go to Wembley the opposition raise their game and it doesn’t have the same atmosphere, the same buzz.”