TOTTENHAM manager Mauricio Pochettino has warned his team there will be no excuse if they do not overcome League One’s giant-killers Sheffield United and reach the Capital One Cup final.
United have forged a reputation as cup specialists by defeating five top-flight opponents in little more than a year, including two of the Premier League’s top seven this term in West Ham and Southampton.
Pochettino insists he will not underestimate Tottenham’s opponents in tonight’s semi-final first leg at White Hart Lane and expects his Spurs team to treat them as seriously they would a more prestigious rival.
“I think we need to be focused on our game and play with intensity, high level and high tempo,” he said. “No excuse, we need to go onto the pitch to try and win the game. It is a very important game, it is a semi-final. We understand that this is an important game.”
Spurs are set to be without full-back Kyle Naughton, who is on the verge of a £5m transfer to Swansea, and while Pochettino played down talk of striker Roberto Soldado being the next departure, he did not rule it out.
“I am happy with him,” he said of the Spaniard, who has scored just 15 goals in 61 Tottenham games. “Any player is [not] for sale. We want to keep all players because we need all players, a strong squad. No more comment about that because I repeat always the same: I am happy with the squad.”
Pochettino appears to have hit his stride halfway through his first season in north London, having won seven and lost just one of his last 10 matches in all competitions.
Nigel Clough’s Blades, who lie seventh in the third tier, have a more mixed recent record but won 3-0 at QPR on their last trip to the capital earlier this month.
Sheffield United have beaten five Premier League sides – including three on visits to London sides – during their cup runs of the last two seasons.
■ 3-0 v QPR (A)
FA Cup round three, January 2015
■ 1-0 v Southampton (H)
Capital One Cup round five, Dec 2014
■ 1-1 v West Ham (A), 5-4 on pens
Capital One Cup round two, Aug 2014
■ 1-0 v Fulham (A)
FA Cup round four replay, Jan 2014
■ 2-1 v Aston Villa (A)
FA Cup round three, January 2014