From Juventus to Rochdale— the big games keep coming for Spurs
Spurs should be a picture of bulletproof, unshakable confidence heading into this weekend’s FA Cup 5th round tie with Rochdale.
After Tuesday’s alarmingly grown-up performance against Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus, Dele Alli and the gang will feel they can achieve anything. Elon Musk? Pah. Spurs could blast through the stratosphere with a vigorous high press.
So, then. What better way to parachute our Turin heroes back to Earth, than a late-winter trek to Greater Manchester. Right among the muck and bullets of domestic knockout football.
No one will convince you that a visit to Spotland is as glamorous as one to the Allianz Stadium, or that a win against Keith Hill’s band of League One strugglers will be as widely praised as the draw against I Bianconeri .
But it’s a crucial fixture all the same. In many ways, more important than the tie in Italy. At the tailend of a brutal run of games against Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Juventus, this is the one that could yet prove season-defining.
Lose and there goes Spurs most realistic chance of silverware for another year. The FA Cup should be huge news for Mauricio Pochettino and his hopes of forging a legacy.
Life’s a pitch
There have been calls from some old cup romantics for Pochettino to bloody get on with it, after the Argentine had the audacity to complain about Rochdale’s pitch last week.
In their eyes, playing on a field that looks like it’s been recently hit with an air strike is all part of the magic. Think Ronnie Radford, think the 1970 FA Cup final between Leeds and Chelsea.
Alarms were raised in Spurs camp after photos emerged online, following Rochdale’s 4th round replay with Millwall. Pochettino was justifiably concerned that Spotland looked more suitable for a historical re-enactment of Agincourt, than a professional football match. A sandy, boggy wreck of a pitch.
Someone’s going to do themselves a mischief, Mauricio pleaded.
Thankfully, common sense has since prevailed and the FA have ordered Rochdale to sort their allotment out. Sure enough, the grass has now been resurfaced at Willbutts Lane.
A victory for modern football. One in the eye for lovers of tradition and muddy shorts.
So who will have the pleasure of stepping out onto the freshly laid lawn for Spurs on Sunday afternoon?
Well, in the interest of taking the competition seriously and, at the same time, not overworking those who gave their all in Turin, you’d expect a strong but considerably changed line-up from Tottenham.
Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier, Toby Alderweireld, Heung-min Son, Victor Wanyama, Lucas Moura, Harry Winks are all nominally first team players. None of whom played any significant part on Tuesday. You’d feel safe with all of them starting against Rochdale.
Meanwhile, let’s avoid the mistake Arsenal made against Forest in round three and keep some big hitters on the bench. Just in case things get weird.
It’s always advisable to keep a Harry Kane around in case of emergencies. A solid life lesson.