Insufficient time to rest for Chelsea game, says Spurs boss

LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino feels it is a joke that Tottenham Hotspur must kick off against Chelsea at noon on Sunday given they will arrive home from their Europa League match against Qarabag in Azerbaijan no earlier than 5am on Friday.

The Tottenham manager said Chelsea, who played at Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Champions League (this morning, Singapore time), will have the advantage and it is easy to imagine him cursing the Europa League.

Pochettino had said last April that he considered the competition to be a hindrance to a Premier League club's quest for domestic honours.

He believes that flying home after the game is, on balance, the lesser of two evils, with the other being staying the night, training at the local facilities in the morning and then heading back on Friday afternoon.

Tottenham chose this option last season after their Europa League last-32, second-leg defeat at Fiorentina and before the League Cup final on a Sunday which, coincidentally, was against Chelsea. They lost 0-2 in the Wembley showpiece.

Pochettino made his feelings plain when asked to comment on the early kick-off against Chelsea. "I laugh, I only smile," he said. "Again, it's like the week we had three weeks ago when we played Monday night against Aston Villa, Thursday night against Anderlecht (both at home) and Sunday at Arsenal.

"Maybe it's worse, because you need to fly nearly six hours and then there is the decision about whether to come straight back or stay. It's very difficult because both decisions are bad.

"What will we do? For us, it's better to go straight after the game and get to England as soon as possible and maybe give Friday off for recovery."

Pochettino did admit that clubs could not have it all their own way - in other words, signing up to the riches of the Premier League's broadcasting deal and then complaining when, because of the demands of television, they get a kick-off time that does not suit them.

"It's always the same problem," he said. "At the beginning of the season, all the clubs in the Premier League want to play on TV because it's a business.

"But when the moment comes to play, we complain.

"The balance is difficult but we have to accept it because football is a business. But it is true that you give the advantage to the opponent."

Tottenham are top of Group J and they could afford to lose at Qarabag and still qualify.

Their final tie is at home to Monaco on Dec 10.

Pochettino has picked strong teams in the Europa League but he is expected to rest some of his stars this time with the home fixture against Chelsea in mind.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline 'Insufficient time to rest for Chelsea game, says Spurs boss'. Print Edition | Subscribe