Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has urged his side to avoid repeating the mistakes of last term's failed Champions League campaign and make a winning start against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley on Wednesday (13 September). Spurs failed to reach the knock-out phase last term after winning just one of their opening five group matches which included successive home losses.
Defeat to eventual semi-finalists Monaco was followed by a 1-0 reverse against Bayer Leverkusen, forcing the north Londoners to settle for a place in Europa League. But their run in the continent's second tier competition was ended in the round of 32 by Belgian side Genk.
The challenge of avoiding the ignominy of successive group stage exits is made more difficult after Tottenham were drawn with 12-time winners Real Madrid, Bundesliga giants Dortmund and Cypriot champions Apoel Nicosia. But despite the intimidating opposition, Pochettino wants his side to make a fast start to the campaign.
"Last season after the first game against Monaco it was difficult to change the dynamic," he told reporters, according to Football.London. "It's so important to try to win the game. Dortmund are a great team but in our mind our mentality is to win and be aggressive from the start.
"I think tomorrow is so important, to start well in the competition and get the three points. In theory it should be Real Madrid first and the others trying for second, but football is not about theory.
"I think we are in a good moment. After Everton's [3-0 win] the confidence is high and we feel good. It's true that in my opinion we need to improve a lot and learn. It's important now to be focused on our philosophy. The competition doesn't wait for you. We feel strong though. It will be tough because Dortmund are a great team."
Pochettino could give a debut to new signing Serge Aurier after his deadline day move from Paris Saint-Germain. The Ivory Coast international is eligible to play for Tottenham after being awarded a visa by the United Kingdom Home Office having had a conviction for assaulting a police officer overturned. Davinson Sanchez meanwhile could make his maiden appearance in the group stage of the competition after impressing on his full debut at Everton.
Five players will be absent for Tottenham with none of their long-term injury absentees available. Erik Lamela is not expected to play much before the end of the year due to a long-running hip problem; Victor Wanyama is out for a few weeks with a knee issue; and Georges-Kevin N'Koudou continues to be hindered by a foot problem suffered in pre-season.
Danny Rose's return is unknown having been out since January with a knee injury. The quartet joins Dele Alli on the sidelines, with the England midfielder serving the first game of his three match ban for being sent off against Genk in February.