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2018/2019 Season

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 By PA Sport

Seven missing Tottenham players 'not an excuse' - Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino insists he will not be crying over Tottenham's long list of absentees ahead of their Champions League game against Apoel Nicosia on Tuesday.

Christian Eriksen made it seven players unavailable for the match in Cyprus after the Dane fell ill on Sunday and was unable even to travel with the Spurs squad.

He joins the suspended Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli in missing out, along with Mousa Dembele, Danny Rose, Victor Wanyama and Erik Lamela, who are all injured.

It leaves Pochettino down to the bare bones for a match Tottenham must win if they are to maintain the momentum gained from their impressive opening victory over Borussia Dortmund.

"It's not an excuse to have some players out of the squad," Pochettino said. "Christian is a very important player for us. It's true we will miss him but we need to move on, we need to find a way to play and perform and try to win.

"He is ill, he stays in London, and we trust the player who comes into his position. I am not a manager who cries because a player cannot play.

"It's about the team, the squad, quality, effort and we have a very strong squad to try to win."

Pochettino could throw 19-year-old Argentinian Juan Foyth into the back three, allowing Eric Dier to partner either Moussa Sissoko or Harry Winks in central midfield.

A more attacking alternative would be to pair Fernando Llorente, who has been struggling for match fitness, up front with Harry Kane from the start.

Christian Eriksen has joined the list of Spurs players who won't be able to face Apoel.

Either way, Tottenham are expected to overcome an Apoel side that lost 3-0 against Real Madrid earlier this month and are likely to finish bottom of Group H. But Pochettino is keen to guard against complacency.

"Our supporters might expect us to win but we know very well the Champions League is very tough and this is a tough game waiting for us," Pochettino said. "Apoel are very tough. I watched them in their local league and against Real Madrid. They have good players.

"It is important to take the game and respect them because we need to win. It's so important. First we need to fight and play better than them and show we deserve the three points."

Tottenham's squad proved too thin last season to cope with the extra demands of the Champions League -- and within matches they were also guilty of being tactically naive.

Defender Ben Davies said: "I think the main thing we learned last year was you have to be totally prepared for the team you are up against and you cannot play the same way against every opponent.

"It's a totally different level of football and we have to be able to adjust. We can't always go gung-ho against sides like maybe we do in the Premier League. Sometimes you have to be able to soak up pressure and then hit teams on the break."

Key to that strategy is Kane, who has eight goals in his last six matches and proved with his double against Dortmund that he can produce at the highest level.

"We don't know what else to say about him at the moment," Davies said. "All the boys appreciate him. "He is just incredible, he needs just one chance or even just one half-chance to produce a bit of magic and score.

"As a defender it is brilliant when you have a striker like that in your team. It means you go into the game knowing if you keep a clean sheet you are more than likely going to come away with the three points."

Apoel boss Giorgos Donis believes his defenders will know what to expect from Kane given they have already faced Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Three years ago Apoel went up against Messi and Neymar at Barcelona, who scraped a 1-0 win at home, but a Messi hat trick fired them to a 4-0 victory at the GSP Stadium.

"Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in Europe at this time," Donis said. "It is not going to be an individual effort to stop him, I think of it as an effort from the group.

"We have done this against Messi, against Neymar, against Ronaldo, against other great players, and the same thing we will try to do tomorrow."

Donis played for Blackburn, Sheffield United and Huddersfield and even made his Rovers debut against Tottenham in August 1996. Chris Armstrong scored twice in a 2-0 victory for Spurs.

"We lost but I played very well on that day," Donis said. "It is very different to be sitting on the bench and playing in a football match. I am very lucky this is my second time participating in the Champions League as a coach. We are realistic but we believe anything is possible if we fight."


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