Football: Mauricio Pochettino plays down FA Cup risk

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino insisted Spurs will not take the lowly opposition lightly.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino insisted Spurs will not take the lowly opposition lightly. PHOTO: AFP

Upgraded Rochdale pitch earns approval as Spurs boss makes apology to third-tier team

LONDON • Tottenham 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 came back 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 today.

Pochettino criticised the state of the pitch before League One basement club Rochdale spent an estimated £500,000 (S$920,208) improving the quality of their turf for the visit of the Premier League side.

"I want to apologise to the people in Rochdale, the chairman, and the people who took my comment the wrong way," Pochettino said.

"My comment was about the care, 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 (fourth-round) 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, I need to congratulate them because the effort was massive to get it in the best condition to play without risk.

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 blown out of proportion. Somebody showed the (Spurs) manager a picture of the pitch. It's like showing somebody a picture of a bowl of curry and asking them what it tastes like," he added.

And Rochdale manager Keith Hill insisted his side had not squandered a key component of home advantage by providing Spurs with a quality pitch to play on.

"The pitch has hindered us rather than helped us (but) we're not helping Tottenham here, we're helping our future," explained Hill.

Tottenham star striker Harry Kane, who has already scored 33 goals in all competitions, is a doubt with an ankle problem while Brazilian winger Lucas Moura is expected to make his full debut following his £25 million move from Paris Saint-Germain last month.

But Pochettino insisted Spurs will not take the lowly opposition lightly. "For me, it will be a tougher game than Juventus," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ROCHDALE V TOTTENHAM

Singtel TV Ch109, 11.50pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Pochettino plays down cup risk'. Print Edition | Subscribe