Pochettino: Spurs draw not about squad rotation

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Tuesday was an opportunity lost for Tottenham Hotspur, which gave away its game-in-hand on third-place Liverpool and failed to keep pace in the race for second place with Manchester United.

Full credit to Brighton and Hove Albion, who fully deserved a point against the visiting North Londoners, but Harry Kane‘s goal was the only marker Spurs could manage against a Gulls side which hasn’t kept a clean sheet since a nil-nil with Newcastle on Dec. 30.

[ RECAP: Brighton 1-1 Spurs ]

The questions for boss Mauricio Pochettino centered around his squad rotation, with Lucas Moura, Moussa Sissoko, and Toby Alderweireld among those handed starts.

“In the second half we dominated, created chances but not enough to win the game. The draw is a little bit disappointing because the intention was to get all three.

“We were thinking of giving the team fresh legs because Saturday’s game against Manchester City was tough mentally and physically. We have a squad good enough to win games. Today was not because we rotated the team. Everyone is ready to play but Brighton was a very difficult opponent and we need to give credit to them.”

Chris Hughton‘s Gulls are a bonafide club who deserves to stay in the Premier League, but Spurs inability to find a second goal Tuesday is quite the surprise. Spurs now get Manchester United at Wembley for Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal.

Poch “not going to complain about penalty” in Spurs’ loss to City

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Tottenham Hotspur’s progression from top-four dreamers to doers is so very apparent when you look at the current Premier League table and see they need just nine points (from their final five games) to clinch a Champions League place for the third straight season.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Man City’s win over Spurs ]

And yet, it’s games like Saturday’s 3-1 humbling at the hands of PL champions-elect Man City which remind the lilywhite faithful, and more importantly manager Mauricio Pochettino, just how far they still have to go in order to challenge for that particular trophy. After the game, Pochettino was particularly pensive when considering the gulf in class between the two sides on Saturday.

[ MORE: De Bruyne says “Three games won’t define City’s season” ]

He could have taken the easy way out, when asked after the game about Jon Moss’s blatantly incorrect decision to award City a penalty during the first half, but insisted that now single moment impacted the game so much as City were simply the better side from first to last whistles — quotes from the BBC:

“I am not going to complain about the penalty. I think that many things happen during a lot of games, sometimes it is for you and sometimes not.

“In the end, if we analyze the game, they fully deserve the victory. We struggled to start in the game. When we conceded the penalty, we started to play.

“For sure they are going to win the PL but I’m disappointed because we didn’t compete in the first 25 minutes. In football you always want to compete and win. We feel that we are close but it is not enough.

“Of course, when you are calm and relaxed, you think in the last few seasons we are improving. But we still need to improve to reach the last level which is the most difficult thing.”

[ MORE: Wolverhampton Wanderers win promotion, return to PL ]

Pochettino, of course, was quick to remind everyone attending his post-game press conference — just as he’ll surely have reminded his players in the locker room and repeatedly again over the coming weeks — that there’s still a piece of important silverware to be won: the FA Cup.

Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City

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  • City has lost three-straight in all comps
  • Man City won 4-1 on Dec. 16 at the Etihad
  • Spurs lead all-time 60W-35D-59L

Manchester City looks to snap a three-match losing streak, all to rivals, when it heads to Wembley Stadium for a late Saturday date with Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live at 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

City has a 13-point lead on second place Manchester United, and sits 17 points ahead of Spurs.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Spurs are 10 points clear of Chelsea in the race for a Top Four spot, and can keep pace in the race for third place with a win.

What they’re saying

Spurs’ Pochettino on if the race for the Top Four is over“In football, never. Until you achieve what you want, it’s never over until the end. We need to keep pushing, winning games and this is a massive three points against Manchester City. There is still a lot of work to do until the end and you cannot underestimate clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal, big clubs that can win every game. You need to focus on winning games and winning points and when mathematically you achieve what you want, then it’s over. Until then, it’s impossible to think like that. Football can always surprise you.”

Pep Guardiola on rebounding from Man Utd, Liverpool losses“After losing at Anfield and United, we were top. During the season it is like this. These are magnificent players. I am sad – we are sad – but I have to judge the way we did it. They know when I am angry and I’m not happy and I tell them it’s not the way we have to do it. But they know I am still there, supporting until the end. A month ago, everyone says we are champions and we cannot lose – now we lose three in a row. It’s part of the game. All the teams lose games. Whatever happens in the season, winning or losing, they deserve my respect for what they have done.”

Prediction

Spurs will be rested and ready, and could threaten to extend City’s skid if they manage an early marker or two. Call it 2-2.

Pochettino insists Alderweireld not playing due to form of starting defenders

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Mauricio Pochettino has insisted that Toby Alderweireld‘s absence from the Tottenham squad of late is down to player selection, not any personal reasons and not contract related.

The towering Belgian defender has been a rock at the back for Spurs since signing from Atletico Madrid in 2015, but this season he has hardly featured. Most of that is down to a serious hamstring suffered in October, but he has fully recovered from the tear, and yet has not played since returning to fitness.

Many have speculated as to why Alderweireld has been left out of the squad, and those with more mischievous thoughts have postulated that his contract situation may have something to do with it. While injured, talks of a contract extension reportedly broke down, and with his current deal expiring in the summer of 2019, questions have been asked of Pochettino, which he has deflected.

“My decision is always about football,” Pochettino said. “It is not personal and not because of a contract problem. I don’t care about that. Always my decision is about what is best for the team and the best for the club.”

Instead, the Spurs manager insisted, it is because those who have played in his place are in good form. “I am so sorry because Toby was an important player for us in the last two seasons. Then he got the injury and players like Davinson [Sanchez] and [Jan] Vertonghen stepped up — and you have got to deserve to play.”

Pochettino then gave Alderweireld an ultimatum, saying he will play when he deserves to. “If we are happy with the players who are playing, you need to wait. That does not mean he is not going to play again. But now he needs to keep pushing and try to show me he can play better than the others.”

Unfortunately, while a coach can challenge a player publicly, if that’s Pochettino’s true feeling then it’s unlikely Alderweireld will make it back into the team unless a player in the lineup is either injured or dips in form. Tottenham has conceded 26 goals this season, third-fewest in the Premier League behind the two Manchester clubs sitting in first and second place in the table, so with the way things stand, it’s hard to argue with Pochettino’s reasoning even if deep down fans don’t believe him.

Pochettino on ending Chelsea’s streak: “It’s a day to feel very proud.”

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Even a club as big as Tottenham Hotspur knows how big a single win can mean, even outside the parameters of a title race.

[ MORE: Recap | 3 things ]

Spurs finally got over a 28-year Stamford Bridge-sized hump on Sunday, beating Chelsea 3-1 with the help of two Dele Alli goals (and the emotional lift of Harry Kane‘s substitute role and early return from injury).

Manager Mauricio Pochettino didn’t hide his glee after the win, which saw the Blues go eight points clear of fifth place Chelsea with seven matches to play.

“After 28 years it is important to win here. It’s a happy day for everyone, fans, players. And we feel very proud.

“We tried to change and switch some players at half-time to find better links and positions to move the ball. After the game when you win it looks like a good decision. The players deserve praise because we showed character at 1-0 down. It’s a day to feel very proud.”

Spurs also have an opportunity to truly focus on winning a long-sought trophy with the FA Cup semifinal against Manchester United on April 21. Both teams are fairly set in the Top Four and will surely be sending their top troops onto the Old Trafford pitch.

But Sunday remains about ending Chelsea’s home mastery of Spurs. It was quite a win for Pochettino’s men.