Mauricio Pochettino has refused to complain about Tottenham’s “difficult” task of playing two Premier League games in the space of 48 hours.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola launched a fierce attack on the congested festive fixture schedule after his Premier League leaders beat Watford 3-1 on Tuesday night, saying it is “going to kill” the players.
Spurs entertain West Ham tonight after beating Swansea 2-0 on a heavy Liberty Stadium surface on Tuesday night, but Pochettino said ahead of tonight’s derby at Wembley: “It will be difficult for the players, but I am not going to complain.
“We are going to rest 48 hours until this fixture. We are maybe going to rotate and make some changes to bring some fresh legs to the team. This is an opportunity to play with the squad, and that is important.”
Spurs have had to sandwich the West Ham game between the trip to Swansea and Sunday’s FA Cup third-round tie with AFC Wimbledon after an issue with the original New Year’s Eve date. The decision was taken due to “transport issues”, after the Safety Advisory Group could only recommend a Wembley crowd capacity of 43,000 on New Year’s Eve.
“I know very well how is this business and it was impossible to play before,” said Pochettino.
“Some teams play after Boxing Day, but I think we are going to arrive in the same condition as West Ham.
“We are going to take a good decision to pick 11 players full of energy who are trying to win.”
Spurs crashed out of the Carabao Cup to West Ham in October, losing 3-2 after being 2-0 up at half-time. Pochettino was accused of disrespecting the competition with his team selection, but he has insisted that was not the case and Tottenham’s only crime that night was complacency.
“Review on the internet our starting XI and maybe you (reporters) change your opinion,” said Pochettino of a team selection which featured the likes of Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld, and Dele Alli.
“All the players have been in the Premier League and the Champions League. It wasn’t on the bottom [of Tottenham’s priority list], we took the competition very seriously, with the idea to win and go to the next stage. That was the truth. The problem was 2-0 at half-time and we all believed the game was over, but it finished 3-2 in the end and that was our massive mistake. If we are 2-0 up at half-time again, we need to be clever.”
Asked whether Spurs were keen to avenge that defeat, Pochettino replied: “This game is not [about] revenge.
“Now, it’s the Premier League and we need to win, because we fight to be in the top four and higher in the table.”
Harry Kane is expected to return after dropping to the bench at Swansea because of a heavy cold, but Rose is expected to miss out again after damaging the knee which forced him to miss the start of the season.
West Ham head to Wembley with manager David Moyes hoping they have seen the last of the relegation zone. The Hammers hauled themselves out of the bottom three with their last-gasp 2-1 win over West Brom on Tuesday night.
“The aim now is to try and not be talking about it, and to look up,” said Moyes. “The players know we have missed one or two opportunities to be further away.
“You can see how the Premier League is going to go between now and the end of the season, games are going to be won and lost on really fine margins. There is a lot of tension at the bottom, because two defeats and you slide back in, two wins and you can be talking about mid-table.
“Spurs have got a really good team, so it will be hard work for us, but we will go there with the same spirit, attitude and determination we have shown in all the games and you never know.”
Defender Angelo Ogbonna is among those tasked with keeping Kane quiet, but he will not be his only focus.
“I have a lot of respect for Harry Kane, he’s a good player, a fantastic player, but Harry Kane is Harry Kane because Tottenham have a lot of top players around him,” said the Italian centre-half. “I’m not just worried about him. I’m worried about Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min. I don’t fear them, but I respect them. We know Tottenham is not just about Harry Kane.”
Moyes hopes defender Aaron Cresswell will be fit, despite going off against West Brom with a back injury. Striker Andy Carroll is in line to start again after his two goals, including a stoppage-time winner, sank the Baggies.
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