LONDON (Reuters) - Mauricio Pochettino says his brave Tottenham Hotspur team must play with freedom against Juventus on Wednesday as they seek to book their place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Tottenham battled back from 2-0 down with goals from Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen to earn them a 2-2 draw in Turin last month - a result that means they are favourites to progress.
“We need to feel free. If we do that and enjoy the game we will perform nearly at our best or at our best and if we do then we will have the chance to win,” the Argentine told a news conference on Tuesday.
Tottenham’s progression since former Espanyol coach Pochettino arrived in 2014 has been impressive.
They finished third in the Premier League in 2015-16 and second last season, although they are yet to win any silverware and flopped in last season’s Champions League.
Pochettino resents the suggestion that success can only be measured in trophies, saying he is part of a project to establish Tottenham as one of the strongest clubs in Europe.
They have beaten European champions Real Madrid and former winners Borussia Dortmund home and away this season and the clash with an experienced Juve side offers another chance to move the club a step closer to that goal.
Asked what he could ultimately achieve at the north London club, Pochettino refused to be drawn.
“We can’t set a limit. I don’t do that. I am a dreamer. I don’t set minimums,” the 46-year-old said.
“We improved a lot from two seasons ago. You can see that the team is more mature and more competitive every season.”
Tottenham are on a 17-match unbeaten run in all competitions, sit fourth in the Premier League, have an FA Cup quarter-final ahead and are within touching distance of the business end of the Champions League.
There is a feeling that Pochettino is on the cusp of something special, but he urges caution, preferring to concentrate solely on the job in hand against a club who have reached two of the last three Champions League finals.
“I think we have a very good opportunity but in football you need to earn things,” he said. “Tomorrow we are going to face one of the best teams in the world and in history.
“But we are a brave team, very positive people that love the challenge, and tomorrow is a massive challenge.
“We are going to compete, and at the same time try to enjoy, because it’s a game to enjoy. We need to think we can win, then what happens will be a consequence of our performance.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond