Why Bramall Lane cauldron holds no fear for Mauricio Pochettino

Capital One Cup semi-final second leg
Sheffield Utd (0) v Tottneham (1)
Tonight: 7.45pm, Bramall Lane
TV: Live on Sky Sports 1

Having run the gantlet of the frenzied Copa Libertadores crowds in South America, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino will not be worried by whatever hot South Yorkshire reception may await his team at Sheffield United tonight.

Spurs head to Bramall Lane for the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final looking to defend a slender 1-0 lead and secure a place at Wembley.

Pochettino is fully expecting the home supporters to stoke up the atmosphere in a bid to unsettle the Premier League side.

However, the 42-year-old former Argentina international believes whatever is served up from the terraces by the League One supporters will not be on the scale he regularly witnessed while playing for Newell’s Old Boys.

“It was crazy. In Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Peru or Ecuador, people are very aggressive. It is nothing like that here,” said Pochettino, who recalled the semi-final of the 1992 Copa Libertadores against America de Cali in Colombia. He had scored in the 1-1 draw, which, despite his subsequent miss from the spot, was eventually won 11-10 on penalties before all hell broke loose.

Eduardo Berizzo, now Celta Vigo manager, was cut on the head by a battery thrown from the supporters.

“I remember going up the tunnel to the pitch and they started to throw batteries, my team-mate got hit and cut on the head. He had to get stitches from the doctor, it was very tough,” Pochettino said.

“When you go to these countries to play Copa Libertadores or World Cup qualifiers with the national team, I remember every time we drove from the airport, all the glass on the bus was smashed and we fell to the floor.

“It was always crazy with the army, military people and police (for protection).

“In Argentina, when you play at the Bombonera, at Boca Juniors, if you survive on the journey to the stadium, you are lucky.

“Sometimes you are scared, in different countries, like in Paraguay, you are worried for your life.

“In Argentina it is impossible to have the supporters in behind you (in the dugout like in England), because (they spit) saliva, they throw things, radios and mobile phones, it is dangerous.

“So if I can cope with that, we can cope with anything.”

Pochettino sees no reason to drop goalkeeper Michel Vorm despite the Dutchman’s handling error which gifted Leicester a dramatic 2-1 victory in stoppage-time at White Hart Lane on Saturday to end Spurs’ interest in the FA Cup, as a scuffed shot from Jeffrey Schlupp squirmed over the line.

“He is a great goalkeeper, has experience and is brave, nothing has changed,” the Spurs boss said.

“We are only disappointed and upset after the game because in the last action we conceded a goal, but this is football.”

Meanwhile, Sheffield United midfielder Stefan Scougall is confident the Blades can beat the odds tonight.

“There is nothing for us to fear and we are going to try to cause an upset — like what happened at the weekend (in the FA Cup fourth round) with Middlesbrough beating Manchester City and Bradford beating Chelsea.

“We have proved ourselves over the last year whenever we have played a team in a higher league that there is nothing to fear. We can go out and cause another upset.

“I think you will have around 30,000 Blades fans at Bramall Lane, so I think that is going to help us and drive us on a little bit more.

“Hopefully we can give them something to cheer about.”

Midfielder Ryan Flynn (Achilles) is United’s only injury doubt.

Kieran Wallace and Che Adams, both cup-tied at the weekend, are available again while Kieron Freeman, who is one of three new signings United made last week, could come into the squad.


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