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Qarabag FK v Tottenham: Mauricio Pochettino defends call to rest players

By Andy Sims

Published 26/11/2015

Tinker: Mauricio Pochettino has left a few big names at home
Tinker: Mauricio Pochettino has left a few big names at home

Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino insists he has picked a strong enough squad to secure qualification for the Europa League knock-out stages tonight.

Spurs have made the 5,000-mile round trip to Baku to take on Azerbaijan side Qarabag knowing that victory will see them through to the last-32 with a match to spare.

However, Pochettino has left three key players behind in London - Kyle Walker, Danny Rose and Mousa Dembele - with one eye on Sunday's Premier League game against Chelsea.

"For us, it is a very important game," Pochettino said of the Group J clash. "Some players who can play have again stayed in London, but all the important players available, who we believe can win the game, are here. But it is not our right to win."

Pochettino has brought in-form striker Harry Kane to Baku, although the England international may start on the bench having played almost every minute of every game for club and country recently.

"We will see if Kane plays," Pochettino added. "This is a problem we have had in the last few weeks, the international players play a lot; Kane, (Dele) Alli, Walker, (Eric) Dier. The competition is very tough and it's not easy to manage that.

"But we try to assess and analyse to make the correct decision. It is a very important game, one that we need to win."

One player set to get another opportunity is full-back Kieran Trippier, whose playing time this season has almost exclusively come in the Europa League.

"I'll make sure I take every opportunity I get," the 25-year-old former Burnley defender said.

"It's an experience for me to be playing in the Europa League and if we do get through then hopefully I will stay in the team for the Europa League.

"The lads are flying at the moment but if I keep training hard, and playing well in the Europa League, then hopefully time will tell."

As well as the rested trio, Pochettino is without Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli, Nabil Bentaleb and Alex Pritchard through injury.

England new boy Alli is expected to start as he will be suspended against Jose Mourinho's side on Sunday.

Tottenham can afford to lose to Qarabag and still qualify for the Europa League's knock-out phase - their final tie is at home to Monaco on December 10 - and some fans had wanted Pochettino to leave all of his stars back in London.

Belfast Telegraph

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