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Will Tottenham bounce back from Champions League heartbreak?
Last Updated: 08/03/18 11:52am
Tottenham suffered Champions League heartbreak as they were knocked out by Juventus. Now the challenge is to ensure it does not affect their domestic form. Will they bounce back?
For over an hour of Wednesday's Champions League meeting with Juventus, Tottenham had one foot in the quarter-finals. Having fought back from two goals down to clinch a memorable draw in Turin, Mauricio Pochettino's side were in complete control at Wembley courtesy of Heung-Min Son's first-half goal.
What happened next was a reminder of how quickly things can change at the business end of the Champions League. Gonzalo Higuain had hardly had a kick but it did not matter when he turned home Sami Khedira's header. Paolo Dybala had been invisible but he was there to break free and score the second three minutes later.
They were Juventus' first two shots on target and they were decisive. Tottenham's youthful exuberance had overwhelmed Juventus for much of the tie, but it was nous and knowhow that won it in the end. Max Allegri's side stood firm when it mattered. For Tottenham, it was the heaviest blow of Pochettino's reign.
Attention will now turn to how they can recover from it. Tottenham are fourth in the Premier League, but fail to beat Bournemouth on Super Sunday and the gap to fifth-placed Chelsea could be reduced to two points. After that, there is an FA Cup quarter-final with Swansea before a Premier League meeting against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
It is a crucial run of games which makes it all the more important for Tottenham to keep their focus. Pochettino's side have shown they belong on the Champions League stage with their performances against Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus this season, but their continued progress depends on qualifying for next year's competition.
The next few weeks will provide a stern test of Tottenham's character, but they can take encouragement from how they rallied from their last major setback - the 4-1 thrashing by Manchester City in December. Spurs were outclassed that day at the Etihad Stadium but the disappointment did not linger long.
Instead, Spurs returned to action with even greater determination. In their next game, they made light of a potentially problematic trip to Turf Moor, hitting three goals past Burnley. Three days after that, they put five past Southampton at Wembley. It was the beginning of a 17-match unbeaten run; a run which only ended against Juventus on Wednesday night.
The defeat to Manchester City was not the first from which they have rallied this season. Their 3-1 win over Madrid - arguably the best performance of Pochettino's tenure - came just days after a 1-0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Their 2-1 win over Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion came directly after defeat to Arsenal in the north London derby.
Tottenham's powers of recovery were evident last season too. After the pain of missing out on the title to Leicester and the trauma of that 5-1 defeat to Newcastle on the final day of the 2015/16 season, Pochettino's men came back stronger - achieving their highest finish of the Premier League era with a points total that would have been enough to win it in previous years.
Picking the players up from their latest setback may be Pochettino's toughest challenge yet, but recent history suggests it would be a mistake to bet against him. "Of course we are disappointed, but it's part of growing," he said after Wednesday's game. This year's Champions League dream is over, but it's down to Tottenham to continue that growth at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday.
Watch Bournemouth v Tottenham live on Sky Sports Premier League HD from 3.30pm on Sunday
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