Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino unsure about the need for February break
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Reports have emerged in recent days suggesting a two-week break will be introduced for the start of February
Mauricio Pochettino is unsure whether a February break would prove beneficial for Premier League clubs and make their top sides more competitive in the Champions League.
Reports have emerged suggesting a two-week break will be introduced annually in early February, with FA Cup fifth-round ties being played in midweek and without replays to free up space in the calendar.
Asked for his views, Pochettino sought to sit on the fence, but he suggested he is not entirely enamoured with the proposal.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think the Premier League is the Premier League because we are different to other leagues. To keep the same dynamic is so important.
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“I don’t know how it’s going to work, this new situation, but it’s not for next season. It’s for the season after. I think we need more information about what’s going to happen. We’ll see. I have no opinion about that.”
Pressed further, Pochettino continued: “I think it will be different than the winter break that’s in Spain, Italy, France, Germany. It’s completely different - but for me it’s cultural.
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“In England you cannot stop playing on Boxing Day or at New Year or over the Christmas period. I think it’s the most beautiful period in England to play football. But in Spain if you want to play in this period, the fans are not happy. But that is cultural.
“Maybe in February, maybe it’s going to happen. Ok, we’ll see how it’s going to work. But I’m not sure if it’s going to work well or not.
“I think the most difficult period is Christmas, it’s not February. I don’t know, it’s so difficult. You cannot fight against the culture and the habits.
“Of course it’s tough, the Premier League. I’m not sure if that’s the reason that in the last few years English teams cannot win the Champions League. We’ll see this season what happens. But in football it’s difficult to be sure about things.”
Pochettino’s immediate concern is Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round replay against Rochdale at Wembley, when he will again be missing his two Belgian centre-backs, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.
Alderweireld suffered discomfort in his hamstring last Thursday and had to pull out of a training session, while Vertonghen suffered an ankle injury in Saturday’s training session and missed the following day’s match at Crystal Palace.
“Still we don’t know [when they’ll be back],” said Pochettino. “Jan yesterday had a scan and it was positive. He feels much better.
“For tomorrow, it’s sure [he can’t play] but maybe for the weekend, yes. Toby we need to assess day by day. It’s different to Jan.”
Meanwhile, Pochettino says he has briefly spoken to Dele Alli after the 21-year-old was again accused on diving during the London derby about Palace.
“You all know me,” he said. “We have conversations every day and meetings about everything, and of course after the game we had a short chat about this situation.
“I think we don’t need to announce we are going to have a meeting to discuss this or that. We’re focused as it’s our responsibility to help the players in everything.
“He’s an easy target for other fans as it’s easy to complain about that or accuse Dele, but I respect all opinions and of course Dele is focused on trying to improve.
“We’re focused on trying to help him. He’s a great player, a great kid. He’s a very competitive player who wants to win, but of course he wants to improve. We’re helping him try to improve and I think he’s going to improve and it’s only about now this process.
“But I’m not worried about this situation as he’s a clever player and he knows what he needs to it.
“It’s an amazing player with amazing personality and character, and of course he’s always in the focus, as was Wayne Rooney.
“But I’m happy with him. All players need to improve in different areas, not only in football but in these type of situations - be clever, don’t be the focus for these types of situations but be the focus for scoring great goals.”
Asked whether Alli’s reputation for simulation could result in referees denying him legitimate penalties, Pochettino said: “No, no. I trust referees are professional and will not behave like fans. They are professional and I trust them 200 per cent.”
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