Changes 'not' due to FA Cup semis

LONDON • Mauricio Pochettino defended his team selection after Tottenham dropped Premier League points at Brighton, denying that Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United influenced his decision.

The Spurs boss made six changes to his starting line-up on Tuesday and then saw his team drop two points in their quest to secure Champions League qualification.

Despite the 1-1 draw, Spurs remain in a strong position to finish in the top four, eight points clear of Chelsea, who play their game in hand today at Burnley.

Spurs now turn their attention to the meeting with United at Wembley as they attempt to end a 10-year wait for silverware.

The FA Cup represents both teams' only chance of a trophy this season, and Jan Vertonghen's comments in the lead-up only fuelled speculation that Spurs took their eye off the ball at Brighton.

Said the defender: "This team and club deserve a trophy for all the work we've put in and we hope Saturday can be the next step."

But Pochettino, who has yet to lift silverware with Spurs since taking over in 2014, insisted that the game had no bearing on his team selection on Tuesday.

"Everyone is ready to play and it was a moment to give some fresh legs to the team, but we were thinking about trying to win," said the Argentinian, who left out Dele Alli and Davinson Sanchez.

Top scorer Harry Kane put Spurs ahead with his 26th league goal of the season, but Pascal Gross' spot-kick equaliser put the hosts on 36 points, eight clear of the relegation zone with just four games left.

While Chelsea need three points to keep alive their slim hopes of Champions League qualification, manager Antonio Conte is similarly expected to rotate his squad with Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Southampton in mind.

At his pre-match press conference, the Italian urged his team "to try until the end to finish in the top four" despite admitting it was "not simple to close the gap".

According to the Evening Standard, January signing Ross Barkley is in line to make a rare Blues appearance while Conte confirmed Emerson Palmieri, who has yet to start in the league, will also play at Turf Moor.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2018, with the headline 'Changes 'not' due to FA Cup semis'. Print Edition | Subscribe