Mauricio Pochettino welcomed Tottenham’s Champions League round-of-16 draw with Juventus, calling it a “massive challenge” against a club he has always wanted to face.
Pochettino is from Argentina, but he told Spurs’ website that his family has roots in Turin, and he was enthusiastic to make the trip to the Serie A leaders on Feb. 13 before the return back at Wembley on March 7.
“It’s fantastic because my family came from Italy, from Turin — unbelievable!” he said. “My name Pochettino is from Italy. It will be fantastic to go there for the first time.
“It’s a city and a club I’ve always wanted to play and it’s now fantastic to be going to the city of Turin to play against Juventus.”
Pochettino’s side have already come through a difficult group stage that included Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, and he said the pressure against Juventus would be no different.
“That is the mentality we need to use,” he said. “It’s so important to be competitive and we’ve shown we can do that, we’ve shown we can deal with the pressure of the Champions League. This will be a different game to Real Madrid and it’s so exciting to play Juventus.
“I think it’s great excitement for our club to face one of the biggest clubs in the world. They were twice in the final in the last three years so they’re a real contender for the Champions League. They use their mentality to win and it’s going to be a big test for us.
“It’s a massive challenge for us and you play in the Champions League to play this kind of game. There is a real sense of excitement from our side and we will try our best to make our fans very proud of us — we will give 100 percent to go through.”
Though Pochettino may never have faced Juventus before, the tie is a return to a former club for forward Fernando Llorente, who played for the Bianconeri from 2013-2015.
“I’m very excited about this draw. I played there for two years and won five titles. I wanted this team,” he said. “I have great memories and I enjoyed my time at the club a lot.
“It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world. I have a lot of friends there. It will be an amazing game. They are a very good team with very, very good players.”
Tottenham will only be playing in the Champions League knockout stage for the second time in its current format, after reaching the quarterfinals in 2011, having defeated other Italian competition in AC Milan in the round of 16.
“This is what the Champions League is all about,” striker Harry Kane said. “We all watched the draw together in the gym and it’s exciting for us — it’s the first time for a lot of us in this stage of the competition. To go far you have to beat the best and we’ve done that in the group stage, now it’s the next step.”
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