Try as he might, Mauricio Pochettino just couldn’t keep it in. He may have only been speaking English in front of the media since the start of this season, but his grasp of the footballing cliche system belied his inexperience.
“Tomorrow is our first final,” the Argentine said prior to the Europa League round-of-32 second leg against Fiorentina, which precedes the Capital One Cup final by three days.
It may seem like just another throwaway line from a manager’s pre-match press conference, but there is a modicum of sense to the sentiment.
The Viola’s goal in the 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane gives the Italians the advantage, meaning Spurs must at least score if they want to prolong their involvement in the competition. There are reasons to be hopeful of that though, with three of them identified below:
Fiorentina are unconvincing at home
The Serie A side may have only lost three times at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, but their wins of late have always given the opposition a sniff of victory of their own.
The Viola’s last home clean sheet came at the start of December and there have been seven consecutive matches played at the stadium since then where the visiting side have netted.
In fact, only once in the last ten matches in front of their own fans have Vincenzo Montella’s men shut out the opposition, a run that includes two Europa League fixtures.
Neto is back from the cold
Since the 25-year-old Brazilian goalkeeper rejected Fiorentina’s offer of a new contract Neto has been restricted to a watching brief.
Injury to new number one Ciprian Tatarusanu thrusts the often Liverpool-linked stopper back onto the pitch for the first time in two months.
Rustiness is an obvious worry while his motivation to perform for a club he is hell-bent on leaving is another positive for the Lilywhites.
The Capital One Cup carrot
Many believe that Pochettino will field two altered lineups against Fiorentina here, then Chelsea at Wembley, but that isn’t a guarantee.
A strong performance from the side in Florence could influence the Argentine’s thinking. That was the case recently when the same XI that toppled Arsenal in the league were picked for an equally vital encounter against Liverpool three days later.
Tottenham are 27/10 to win at Artemio Franchi, with the hosts are just 21/20 and the draw a 5/2 shot.
However, the more pragmatic wager might be to back the Lilywhites to qualify at 27/20.