Mauricio Pochettino: Tottenham Hotspur must prepare for Newport County game like it is Champions League tie
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Spurs will be without several key players for clash at Rodney Parade, but their manager insists they will be ready for what is in store
Tottenham Hotspur could be missing a number of players for Saturday’s FA Cup clash against Newport County - but Mauricio Pochettino has urged his injury-hit squad to be fully focused and prepare for the clash as if it is a Champions League tie.
While Toby Alderweireld (hamstring) and Danny Rose (knee) could return to first-team action, Spurs could be without Hugo Lloris (illness), Christian Eriksen (illness), Harry Winks (ankle), Erik Lamela (bruised gluteus muscle) and Serge Aurier (calf) for Saturday’s trip to south Wales.
“Toby, like different players, we need to assess tomorrow,” said Pochettino. “They were integrated into the group in this last week. In the case of Toby, today was his third day with the team.
“Danny Rose and different players are doing the same. It’s a similar situation. We need to decide tomorrow on everyone. It’s one thing to be fit to integrate again with the team, and another to be fit to play.
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“They’re two different things and of course we are professionals and we need to take care of every player and then take the best decision for the team.
“We will take the best players to try to win, only thinking about trying to go to the next stage. It will be difficult because the FA Cup is always difficult to play in.
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“It’s not about the level or if you play against a Championship, League One or League Two team. It’s one game, it’s Newport and a difficult pitch to play on.”
Two rugby teams use Newport’s field at Rodney Parade, increasing Spurs’ challenge – and Pochettino is keen to ensure there is no complacency in his ranks.
“Everyone expects to see Tottenham fail - only our fans and us expect to win,” said the Argentinian. “It’s not because people are against us, it’s because of the magic of the competition, the FA Cup.
“We need to be ready and be aware that we need to compete and be at the same level as them, with our motivation and aggression, and adapt our game in a difficult stadium and pitch.
“It’s not about going there and, just because we’re Tottenham, we’re going to win. We need to show massive respective to the opponent. In my mind, it’s not a League Two team – it’s our opponent, I don’t care about their level. We need to give our best or we’re going to have a massive problem there.
“I saw their games, the last game in the FA Cup against Leeds United. It’s a very physical team with some quality players, and in the end the motivation will be massive for them.
“It will be a very tough and dangerous game. We are aware but another thing is to be
concentrated and focused and ready to fight. It will be a big battle.
“[We must] put ourselves in the same level as them, with the same motivation, not complain or find excuses but try to believe we’re going to play against Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus in the Champions League.”
The January transfer window remains open, but Pochettino is not expecting any new additions as it stands.
Asked about reported interest in Paris Saint-Germain winger Lucas Moura, he said:
“There’s a lot of rumours and different names. Last week it was a different name, now it’s another name.
“Always it’s difficult, this transfer window, because it’s only three and a half months of the competition [left] – February, March, April and 15 or 20 days in May. It’s so difficult to add players now - quality players that can help us to win games and achieve all that we want.
“If you want players that arrive to the Premier League or to change the team here in the Premier League, you need to know and be sure if you’re going to invest big money.
“If not, it’s a massive pressure for the player, for the club too because all the players need time to adapt themselves in a new league, or when you change club and play in a different philosophy.
“Sometimes you believe it’s going to help and sometimes it’s going to create a problem. That’s why it’s so difficult, the transfer window now.”
When it was put to him that Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have signed Alexis Sanchez, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Virgil van Dijk this month, Pochettino responded: “I congratulate all the teams that can make this because I think they are players that can help and they believe they are players that can help.
“They [were] here in the Premier League and always it’s so easy to adapt because you know the league, the country, your team-mates. That’s completely different. Always we are open and I’m so open to add some players like you say now.”
Finally, there was a suggestion that Pochettino had been irritated by a comment from Arsene Wenger this week.
Arsenal’s manager said: “You (the media) celebrate some teams who have not been in a final for 25 years and yet you kill us even though we have won the FA Cup three times in the last four years.”
That was thought to be a dig at Tottenham and Liverpool and, while Pochettino stressed his great respect for Wenger, he stated it was “a mistake” for his Gunners counterpart to talk about rival clubs.
“Wenger, I respect him a lot and because I respect a lot I don’t want to say anything,” said the Spurs boss. “I’m so young and have only spent five years in the Premier League, in two clubs - Southampton and Tottenham - but there’s no point to talk about another team.
“For me he is and will always be one of the best managers in the world. I respect him, but I think he needs to talk for himself and for Arsenal.
“I always gave, and will give, the full credit for what he’s achieved at Arsenal in more than 20 years. Before playing them, Arsenal, I praised him a lot.
“For me he is a special manager, but everyone sometimes makes a mistake and for me he made a mistake to talk about us or a different team.”
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