Tottenham Hotspur just knocked Manchester City out of the Champions League on away goals after a two-match series saw them locked at a 4-4 aggregate score. But there’s no rest for the weary, and these two teams will again face against each other at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, this time in the Premier League.
The stakes may not be quite as high as with a berth in the Champions League semifinals on the line, but this is still a hugely important game for both teams. For City, it’s a chance to reassert themselves at the top of the Premier League table as Liverpool lurks close behind. For Tottenham, it’s a massive three points up for grabs as they try and hold off Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United to finish in the top four and ensure Champions League football next season.
In his pre-match press conference, Mauricio Pochettino talked about motivating his physically and mentally exhausted squad for another go at the Etihad, and why he returned to London and didn’t just opt to stay in Manchester until the weekend.
“We are all tired after an amazing and crazy and unbelievable night. You know that we left yesterday everyone is happy but a little bit tired too. We arrived late, we didn’t sleep too much but the happiness allows you to feel strong and with energy and of course now thinking about the game of Saturday because we don’t have time to enjoy it. Now we need to forget the Champions League and try to be ready for Saturday because it’s going to be a battle.
“It is not easy [to keep the players motivated. It is so difficult to tell them to stop to thinking about the result last night and the possibility to play in the semi-final. It is our responsibility altogether to try to make sure we are going to be there on Saturday with the capacity to fight and challenge them again.”
After Moussa Sissoko picked up an injury in the first half of yesterday’s match, resulting in his substitution, Spurs are practically in a full-blown injury crisis. The club released team news on social media this morning, and while Eric Dier and Vincent Janssen (lol) are expected to return to training, Sissoko and Erik Lamela are being assessed, and Poch will be without Harry Kane, Serge Aurier, and Harry Winks this weekend. And Poch also hinted that there might be some rotation even among those who played on Wednesday night.
“We need to assess some players, we need to assess some players that cannot be possible to play. Some small issues that maybe makes it not possible for some players to play on Saturday again. That is the most important now thinking to try to take the best decision to try to help the team and to provide the team with energy to be possible to fight and challenge for the three points.”
Poch also explained why he opted to bring the team back to London after yesterday’s match, arriving home very late, instead of just keeping the team in Manchester through the weekend. According to Poch, it’s to keep the players in familiar surroundings and comfortable.
“I think when you make the plan you try to be sure you can provide the team with the best quality. I think to stay in Manchester was maybe one option but I think with the quality we have here that it is better to spend time here and sleep here. After a game it is difficult to sleep and in the time that you fly and arrive and the conditions you have here to assess players, train, treatment, [it’s] better to prepare for Saturday and it only takes half an hour to fly back to Manchester.
“When you are in a hotel it is not your home, it is not your bed, and it is difficult to rest. We believe it is better to fly again Friday, and to have two training sessions here in our training ground.”