LONDON -- Mauricio Pochettino has accused his Tottenham Hotspur players of lacking focus in the 1-0 Europa League defeat to Gent last week, saying he knew after less than a minute that they would struggle in the match.
Tottenham must win Thursday's second leg at Wembley to progress to the round of 16 after a surprise loss in Belgium, despite Pochettino playing his near strongest XI against the mid-table Jupiler League side.
"When we started against Gent, if you watch 50 seconds, you don't need to be a genius [to know] we would struggle, there would be a problem, because we weren't focused," Pochettino told a prematch news conference. "At that moment, it was too difficult to change it. We changed the formation at half-time to try to lift them but it was impossible.
"The problem is that when you start in a bad way, it's too difficult to change that perception and you give a good signal to the opponent that you're not focused on the game. To change that mentality is too difficult during the game. Of course I can detect that.
"They [Gent] did not surprise me. We were poor and they were better. We watched many of their games and knew their quality. What surprised the most was our performance not theirs. Tomorrow we are aware of how they play and it's up to us to show we deserve to go to the next round. It's about us.
"We are confident. It was obviously a difficult game last week. We don't feel we played to the best of our ability. It's a great opportunity for us to turn it around in the second leg. We are feeling confident, especially after the weekend [win against Fulham in the FA Cup]. We are just looking forward to the game."
A 1-0 win for Tottenham after extra time would see the match go to penalties but, asked if Spurs had practiced them, Pochettino said: "No. I hope that we don't arrive at penalties.
"You can shoot 100 penalties here without supporters and when it arrives the moment that you take the ball with 90,000 fans, you start to shake. Penalties is not about practice. It is about personality and character and conviction to shoot and score."
Pochettino also dismissed Kyle Walker's suggestion that he had reduced the number and intensity of Tottenham's training sessions to avoid burnout, and revealed the right-back had missed a number of sessions this month.
"Maybe that was his perception in the last weeks because for different reasons he was not involved too much in the training sessions -- for personal problems before [Manchester] City," Pochettino said.
"Before Liverpool, he got a virus and then was off resting at home. Maybe the perception was because he rested Sunday he is very fresh. It is his individual perception."
Meanwhile, Pochettino said that Spurs have still not confirmed to the Football Association that they want to play at Wembley next season.
The club are playing all European home games at the 90,000-seater national stadium this season and have the option to play all home games there next term while White Hart Lane is demolished and their new £750 million home is finalised.
They have until the end of this month to let the FA know their intentions and Pochettino said: "It's not confirmed but we all hope we will play next season at Wembley because that will show we are very close to finishing our stadium."