April 2, 2019 / 3:59 PM / 4 months ago

Soccer: Spurs must play Champions League in new stadium next season: Pochettino

(Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino said it would be a shame if the London club did not qualify for next season’s Champions League after they finally moved into their new 62,062-seat stadium.

Soccer Football - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Test Event - Under 18 Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, Britain - March 24, 2019 Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino applauds fans REUTERS/David Klein

Tottenham’s White Hart Lane Stadium had been undergoing renovation since 2016 and the new arena will officially open its doors when they host Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Built at a cost of around one billion pounds ($1.30 billion), Spurs have had to put aside plans to invest in new players and became the first club in the Premier League era not to sign a player in consecutive transfer windows.

“The best stadium in the world should have the Champions League,” Pochettino told reporters on Tuesday. “It would be a shame to not be in the next (season’s) Champions League. That was true when that project started and now you realise the magnitude.

“Everyone involved in the club was doing an amazing effort to try to keep the level and compete with different clubs... Clubs that only focused on trying to invest on the pitch, trying to fight with the same objective to us but with different tools.

“Sometimes people thought when I was talking in the past it sounded like an excuse but now you realise I was only describing the reality... of building this stadium and playing for the last three years in the Champions League.”

Tottenham are in the quarter-finals of the competition and take on Manchester City next week but their qualification for next season’s tournament is under threat after picking up only a point from their last five games.

Pochettino’s side dropped to fourth after Arsenal beat Newcastle on Monday to leapfrog their arch rivals but he is confident they can still finish in the top four with Spurs, Manchester United (fifth) and Chelsea (sixth) separated by one point.

“It’s in our hands. It’s a mini-league,” Pochettino added. “Seven games with five in our new stadium. That will be a big boost for our players and for our fans, it’s up to us to achieve that.”

Tottenham lost ground in the top four race when goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’ late error allowed Liverpool to win 2-1 at Anfield on Sunday but Pochettino has chosen to retain his faith in the Frenchman who has been at the club since 2012.

“He’s my captain, there’s no doubt that Hugo is one of the best and he’s going to be in goal tomorrow,” Pochettino said.

“He was so important in the process in five years, and for sure he’s going to be one of the most important players for the future of the club too.”

($1 = 0.7673 pounds)

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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