Nuno Espirito Santo, the Tottenham manager, has told his players to forget their past Champions League exploits as they enter the unknown this week.
Spurs begin the group stage of the inaugural Europa Conference League with this trip to Rennes, a little over two years since they made the final of Europe’s elite competition for the first time.
That Champions League defeat by Liverpool in 2019 signalled the beginning of a slide that has dumped them in Europe’s third-tier competition and this match against Rennes is the toughest they are likely to face.
“We looked at Rennes and analysed them as a team from the previous game and the game before,” Nuno said. “We know we are going to find a tough match, a tough team, one that is very aggressive on the pressing, playing at home, we know it is going to be harder.
“We also have a lot of experience in Europe. The past doesn’t mean big things now, this is the present and we have to deal with the situation now and Rennes represent a tough, tough challenge for us and we have to raise up our standards.
“It is a realisation that this is the truth. The past doesn’t mean anything for us. What you did in football doesn’t mean anything. You have to challenge yourself every day – this is a message for life.”
Nuno confirmed on Wednesday night that Son Heung-min and Eric Dier had not travelled to France.
Son has a calf injury that he sustained on international duty and Dier suffered a dead leg in the 3-0 Premier League defeat by Crystal Palace on Saturday, but Steven Bergwijn, who missed the match at Selhurst Park, is with the squad following a recent ankle injury.
“Bergwijn is better, he travelled with us, he trained yesterday and today. He is much better,” Nuno said.
A promising start to the Premier League season came to an abrupt end on Saturday in a woeful loss.
“Everybody realises we didn’t perform as we wanted, and the first ones who realise this are ourselves,” he said.
“I think the best way to improve is when you arrive, analyse personally and are able to identify the things you need to do well. This is the first step to improvement.
“Training, training, spending as much time as we can on the training ground. Preparing the players, trying to find solutions and then give them the support and the confidence to compete and try to improve their performances.
“I don’t know any other recipes for success. It’s hard work. Hard work and the boys are doing it. They are realising that in football there are ups and downs and what’s important is how you react to it.” Press Association