Luka Modric has warned that Tottenham Hotspur cannot use their testing midweek Champions League trip to Switzerland as an excuse should they lose at Stoke tomorrow.
Spurs, who finished fourth in the Premier League last season to earn a shot at Europe's elite club competition, recovered from a shambolic opening half-hour, when they trailed 3-0 to Young Boys in their play-off first leg on the artificial turf in Berne, to score two crucial away goals which kept alive hopes of reaching the lucrative group stage.
The result, though, did not come without cost as both Modric and the striker Jermain Defoe went off with groin injuries, which could rule them out of the trip to the Britannia Stadium.
However, Croatian playmaker Modric maintains that having to lift yourself for another tough domestic encounter is all part and parcel of competing at the highest level. "To go away twice in four days – that is football, you cannot choose the games or where you play," Modric said. "Some other teams struggle but I hope we play well. We have big qualities to play in the Champions League and we will show that this season.
"It is a very physical challenge at Stoke, like always, but we know that. We beat them last year and I think we can do it again this year."
The Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp, is set to recall Aaron Lennon for the trip to Stoke, after not wanting to risk the England winger on the artificial surface at the Stade de Suisse, while the midfielder Tom Huddlestone suffered sore ankles from the pitch, and centre-back Ledley King did not even travel.
Redknapp will be hoping his squad can battle through next week's second leg at White Hart Lane, where a 1-0 victory would see them join Chelsea, Manchester United and north London rivals Arsenal in the group phase for the first time. Qualification and the instant windfall which comes with it would almost certainly allow Redknapp to dip into the transfer market again before the 31 August deadline.
While target Loïc Rémy looks set to move to Marseilles in a £12.4m deal from Nice, Spurs continue to be linked with another loan deal for Eidur Gudjohnsen, who spent time at the club last season, along with Seville's £15m-rated Brazilian frontman Luis Fabiano, as well as Aston Villa winger Ashley Young.
Reports suggest that the former Arsenal defender William Gallas, now a free agent, could be set to make a controversial switch to White Hart Lane, provided a compromise on his £90,000-a-week salary demands can be reached, while Tottenham have been touted as a possible destination for another ex-Gunner, Alexander Hleb, who is surplus to requirements at Barcelona.
The striker Robbie Keane, meanwhile, is said to have been told his future lies elsewhere, with West Ham keen on the Republic of Ireland forward, whose potential move to Aston Villa collapsed following the departure of Martin O'Neill as manager.