Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has classed Borussia Dortmund as one of the best teams in Europe ahead of their Europa League last-16 clash on Thursday.
Spurs have never played the German side in a competitive match but can expect a fiendish test at the Westfalenstadion, against a team flushed with big-name stars.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has netted 29 goals in 33 games this season while the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus and Mats Hummels have all been linked with the continent’s most glamorous clubs. Gundogan was pictured earlier in the week meeting Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain in Amsterdam.
Dortmund sit second in the Bundesliga, having scored 59 goals in 25 games, and Thomas Tuchel’s men are yet to lose a single league match at home this season.
The first leg in Germany will be Pochettino’s 100th game in charge at Tottenham and the Argentinian admits his youthful side are in for a thorough examination.
“Borussia Dortmund have very good players, a very good team, a great coach – Thomas is fantastic and he has showed that from the beginning of the season,” Pochettino said.
“I like the way they play but I think that it’s a good challenge for us. I think we play against one of the best teams in Europe.
“The strikers they have – Aubameyang, (Henrikh) Mkhitaryan, Gundogan in midfield, Hummels – they’re internationals and big players. They can stay here or go to Real Madrid or Barcelona.
“I think that Dortmund have a very good team and it’s a very good challenge for us. We’re excited to play in Borussia, an unbelievable stadium and a great atmosphere, and I think all is positive.”
Pochettino must again balance a desire to progress in Europe’s second-tier tournament with Tottenham’s domestic ambitions, where they are gunning to win their first league title since 1961.
Dele Alli, Danny Rose and Eric Dier have all been left at home, with Alli suspended, Rose nursing a calf problem and Dier handed a rest ahead of Sunday’s game at Aston Villa.
Pochettino said: “We are in a period that is tough for the players. We need to refresh the team. We need to rotate.
“Ever since the start of the season I’ve said that the important thing is to have a squad.”
Tottenham will also be desperate to get back to winning ways after failing to beat 10-man Arsenal last weekend, drawing 2-2 three days after losing at West Ham.
And Pochettino is eager to dispel any fears of fatigue as his players enter a crunch period in the campaign.
“It’s a good thing to be disappointed after the game against Arsenal,” Pochettino said. “A few years ago after a draw against Arsenal in a big derby people were happy. Now when you can only draw with Arsenal there is disappointment.
“It’s a good thing and changes the mentality inside the club and outside too. Today we can show a strong mentality. This is very important for me.
“We need time but I am very happy in the way that we have developed our mentality after 21 months. We are much stronger than before.”