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 By Ben Pearce

Are Spurs' commercial interests undermining Pochettino's prep?

When manager Mauricio Pochettino outlined Tottenham's plans for preseason back in March, it seemed that the club would be returning to a traditional friendly programme in England.

Explaining why Spurs had decided to play in Australia after their final Premier League fixture of the 2014-15 campaign, the head coach said: "It's never proper for the team to go to Asia or America at the beginning of the season to spend time doing commercial business. We'd rather do it postseason. We'll be in England [for preseason]. The training base will be here but obviously we're going away to play some matches.

"The aim is to combine the business responsibilities of the club with the needs of the team."

The thought of a preseason in England conjured up images of visits to lower-league opponents -- like the trips to Bournemouth, Colchester and Swindon in previous years. While they were not always in the most glamorous locations, those were nice, relaxed occasions. The fans could enjoy watching their team on summer evenings without fretting about the result, while the players and staff were more accessible and approachable for autograph-hunters.

If some supporters hoped for a similar day out this year, the reality has proved to be rather different -- the first three friendlies against Southend, Reading and Brentford have been conducted behind closed doors at Tottenham's training ground. At a time when some fans are feeling a growing disconnect with superstar Premier League players, this hardly helps -- and the remaining three warm-up games are all abroad in Denver and Munich.

Even the traditional final friendly at White Hart Lane, typically against European opposition, has been shelved due to Spurs' participation in next week's Audi Cup in Germany. This feels like a bit of a shame. While there is a justifiable view that there is too much coverage of preseason friendlies at this time of year, there is plenty to interest fans.

There are new signings to see and young players are often given a chance to impress. It would have been interesting to watch 19-year-old Nathan Oduwa in action over the past couple of weeks, given he has not been included in the squad for this week's MLS All-Star match, and Eric Dier apparently played in central midfield against Brentford. It would have been instructive to see that experiment.

Unlike most of their preseason matches in the UK, Tottenham's friendly at Peterborough was open to the public.
Unlike most of their preseason matches in the UK, Tottenham's friendly at Peterborough was open to the public.

Perhaps that is the point. Maybe Pochettino and his staff wanted to look at different players and test the versatility of others in a match situation away from the prying eyes of the supporters and media. The thought is that this would give the squad members -- particularly the youngsters -- a chance to gain fitness and find their feet without the pressure of having their performances scored out of 10 on countless websites. Fair enough.

Meanwhile, the lowered pricing for home games in the Europa League group stage and Capital One Cup -- £25 for adults last season -- enables those who struggle to get tickets for Premier League games to watch the team live (although those tickets could still be cheaper to fill the stadium).

Perhaps the more pertinent issue, then, is the relationship between Premier League clubs with their ever-increasing TV revenue and the lower-league sides in England who benefit from playing friendly games against the bigger teams.

As the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows many are in agreement that there needs to be a trickle-down effect, how are Spurs helping by playing their first-team friendly matches against Southend, Reading and Brentford behind closed doors and then jetting off to the United States and Munich to make yet more money overseas?

Of course, Tottenham are not alone in this respect. Arsenal used to play a regular pre-eason fixture at Barnet but that has gone, and their only friendlies in the UK this year have been in their own Emirates Cup against Lyon and Wolfsburg.

As Spurs bid to compete with wealthier rivals within the boundaries of Financial Fair Play, who can blame them for making the most of commercial interests abroad? It is worth remembering there are loyal supporters in the U.S. too -- fans in Denver will have to get up at 5:45am to watch the opening game of the season at Manchester United. Why should they not get a chance to see their team play live this week against the MLS All-Stars, while those in the UK set their alarms for 2:15am?

Ultimately, as long as the team gets the best possible preparation for that trip to Old Trafford in 11 days' time, most supporters probably do not mind where and when their team plays, and who they face. But, with that in mind, Spurs' decision to compete in next week's Audi Cup in Munich is questionable.

Tottenham face Real Madrid at the Allianz Arena next Tuesday and then either Bayern Munich or AC Milan on Wednesday evening. Those are exciting prospects against elite opposition -- the kind of company Spurs would like to rejoin in the Champions League. But, however Pochettino uses his squad, the timing is hardly ideal preparation ahead of an early kick-off in the Premier League curtain-raiser at United on the Saturday -- and Louis van Gaal's side will have had eight days off.

After weeks of training, are Spurs really getting the best possible chance of making a positive start? Or, despite Pochettino's hopes back in March, are the club's commercial interests going to undermine their chances on the opening day after all?

Ben is ESPN FC's Tottenham blogger. Follow on Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.

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