Shoot! recently caught up with former Premier League boss Harry Redknapp ahead of this week’s UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League fixtures live on BT Sport.
The 69-year-old, who has managed the likes of AFC Bournemouth, West Ham United, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, spoke exclusively about Spurs’ chances of winning the Europa League, Arsenal’s treacherous record in the last-16 and who should succeed Arsene Wenger as The Gunners manager.
Redknapp; who famously won the 2008 FA Cup with Portsmouth, also enjoyed his fair share of European euphoria, guiding Tottenham to the quarter-finals during the club’s first-ever campaign in the Champions League back in 2011.
Following this week’s European fixtures, here is Shoot!‘s full interview with the BT Sport football expert…
With your old club, Tottenham, still considered as 2016-17 Premier League title contenders, do you think Spurs will go all out to try and win the Europa League?
“Yeah, yeah I do. He [Mauricio Pochbettino] has done it so far this year, he has gone all out. They were in the Champions League, I know that is different, but they did it last year and went all out for the Europa League.
“They were always strong. He changed his full-backs last year and that was the only change that he used to make. But I think they’ll have a go. I think they’ll feel they can probably go on and win it.
“I suppose it will depend on how things go in the [Premier] League, if they look like they are closing in on Chelsea. They are going to make the [top] four, for sure.”
If you were in Pochettino’s shoes, would you be looking to give Spurs’ youngsters; the likes of Harry Winks, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Josh Onomah and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, a chance in Europe for the remainder of the season?
“He [Pochettino] hasn’t got that many youngsters, I don’t think there is a lorry load of them coming through.
“I mean Harry Winks looks a good young player, but I don’t think there is loads behind him. It depends if you want to stay in the competition. If you want to get knocked out, then play all of the kids.”
As well as Tottenham, Manchester United are in the Europa League’s Round of 32. Having gone unbeaten in the Premier League since October 2016, do you think Jose Mourinho will be prioritising on finishing in the top four, rather than European success?
“The [Premier] League has become all important. I don’t see them going all out for that [Europa League]. You look at the [FA] Cup game between Leicester and Derby, two reserve teams. It makes you think, they are one game away from the last-16, they have got a genuine chance of going all the way.
“They [Leicester] have got Millwall in the next round, if you beat Millwall, suddenly you are in the quarter-finals and one game away from the semi-finals at Wembley [Stadium], and yet they go and do that. So it shows you the importance of the Premier League now.
“Top four, getting in the Champions League is the most important thing for Manchester United. He will have a go for the Europa [League], of course he will, he’ll put a team out there that will want to get through and will want to win it.
“But he has got a squad that he can rotate and still be very, very strong. You have a look at his squad, only several teams can do that, most can’t do it. You can pick a second XI to start and they have still got a fantastic team, so they have got the strength in depth.”
United’s rivals Manchester City face AS Monaco in the last-16 of the Champions League next week. Having lifted the European crown twice with FC Barcelona (2009, 2011), can he repeat that success in his debut term at the Etihad Stadium?
“There is no magic, in my opinion, in managers. When he won it at Barcelona, it was fantastic, but he had [Lionel] Messi, [Andres] Iniesta and Xavi. Has he got the players to do it with Manchester City? Yeah, they have got the players.
“For me, they are our best chance of winning the Champions League. They have got a realistic chance. If [Vincent] Kompany can come back to fitness, that would be a big bonus as their back four still isn’t good enough. But if he comes back, it is a good team. That starting team, now, looks very, very strong.”
English football’s third and final Champions League contenders are Leicester City, who have been drawn against Spanish outfit Sevilla. What do you make of The Foxes’ chances of reaching the quarter-finals?
“No, I fancy Sevilla to beat them. They are strong. Before last season, they are now where we though they would have been last season. In the relegation battle, but just above it.
“The year before, when they had that great run under Nigel Pearson, that last nine or ten games when their fantastic run kept them up, then last year, you would have thought they were a team that would finish in the bottom six or seven.
“But they ended up winning it! Incredible. Fantastic achievement. Now, looking at them man-for-man, you go through their team and look at them compared to other teams before the start of the season, you would have looked at Leicester and gone, ‘Yeah, maybe they’ll finish fifth or sixth bottom’.”
With Leicester hovering just one point above the Premier League’s relegation zone, should manager Claudio Ranieri consider experimenting with The Foxes’ youngsters in a bid to preserve the club’s top-flight status?
“Well he has got to, he cannot afford not to! He has got to have a go at the Champions League, obviously, but he has also got to have a go in the [Premier] League hasn’t he, and he is still in the [FA] Cup.
“He put a reserve team out the other night, and Derby put out a worse team. Sevilla is going to be a tough game for them, great place for the fans to go though. Beautiful.”
BT Sport is your home of unmissable live football. Watch Manchester City vs Monaco in the UEFA Champions League exclusively live on BT Sport 2 from 7:00pm on Tuesday 21 February.