LONDON (AFP) - Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has apologised to Rochdale after he said their pitch "posed a "massive risk" to his players as it was "not in a condition to play football".
Spurs, who made an outstanding recovery to draw 2-2 away to Italian champions Juventus in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash in midweek, have a slightly less glamorous journey when they travel to third-tier Rochdale's Crown Oil Arena in the last 16 of the FA Cup on Sunday.
Pochettino criticised the state of the pitch before League One basement club Rochdale spent an estimated £500,000 (S$900,000) improving the quality of their turf for the visit of the Premier League high-flyers.
"I want to apologise to the people in Rochdale, the chairman, and the people who took my comment the wrong way," Pochettino told reporters on Friday (Feb 16).
"My comment was about the care, first of all for the Rochdale players, our players, and the competition that all of England watches on TV.
"After the replay against Newport, I was with my coaching staff and they showed me a picture from Rochdale's pitch after their tie against Millwall and it was not in a great condition.
"I was conscious about the FA Cup, the football, and the image that we are going to sell, but the care for the players, too."
The Argentinian added: "Now, when I see the pictures and videos of the pitch on the Rochdale website, I need to congratulate them because the effort was massive to get it in the best condition to play without risk.
"The conditions are fantastic so I congratulate them. The effort has been massive, and again, I apologise if someone took my words in the wrong way."
'BOWL OF CURRY'
Meanwhile, Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy said: "I was on the pitch last (Thursday) night, it's like a snooker table. Tottenham will be very pleased when they see it.
"It all got a bit blown out of proportion. Somebody showed the Tottenham manager a picture of the Rochdale pitch. It's like showing somebody a picture of a bowl of curry and asking them what it tastes like," he added.
"Until you actually get out there you wouldn't know what it was like."
And Rochdale manager Keith Hill insisted his sise had not squandered a key component of home advantage by proving Spurs with a Premier League-standard pitch to play on.
"I don't think we were used to the pitch," explained Hill.
"I think the pitch has hindered us rather than helped us. We're not helping Tottenham here, we're helping our future."
Tottenham star striker Harry Kane, who has already scored a remarkable 33 goals this seasons, is doubtful for the trip to Lancashire with an ankle problem.
But Pochettino insisted for all Spurs' recent wins over Manchester United and Arsenal, as well as their hugely creditable draw in Turin, there was no question of them taking Rochdale lightly.
"What is important is to forget what happened in Turin or against Arsenal," Pochettino said.
"We don't have time to enjoy that we won the derby, or our draw in Turin and how we played in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
"This is a different game, a different competition and it will be tough.
"For me, it will be a tougher game than Juventus or Arsenal because it is a challenge to be motivated in a competition that we want to go far in, but you have to perform at your best if you want to win."