Belfast Telegraph

Pochettino aims to surprise Chelsea

Manager Mauricio Pochettino hopes Tottenham can follow the example of his former club Espanyol to end their long Chelsea hoodoo with victory over the Barclays Premier League leaders on Wednesday night.

Spurs have not won at Stamford Bridge since a late goal from Gary Lineker secured a 2-1 victory back in February 1990.

Pochettino, though, knows first hand what it takes to end such an historic jinx, having guided then struggling Espanyol to a long-overdue win at Pep Guardiola's Barcelona in 2009.

"Espanyol had not beaten Barcelona in the Camp Nou for 27 years. It was my first season in charge there and also the first season that Pep Guardiola was at Barcelona. It was very satisfying because I had played at Espanyol for 11 years, so it was a very special victory," Pochettino recalled.

"It was only the third or fourth game that I was in charge and we had started to set a different style on Espanyol. Barcelona were at the top (of the table) and so our plan was to press high and it was a surprise to them maybe.

"I remember Barcelona had Ronaldinho, (Samuel) Eto'o, (Thierry) Henry, Yaya Toure, (Eric) Abidal, (Carles) Puyol, (Andres) Iniesta and yes, they were surprised how we played.

"Always, of course, you need to be a little bit lucky during the game. In the end, we won 2-1 and it was an unbelievable memory."

Pochettino, though, does not believe he will be able to get one over on Jose Mourinho's well-drilled side without a top-level performance similar to the one which helped them beat Everton at the weekend.

"Now it is difficult to surprise as Mourinho knows me and I know him and I think that in football it is difficult to surprise another team," he said.

"We had a very good performance against Everton and realised how we wanted to play. But it is not easy to keep this intensity or this level over the season. We need time to train hard after coming to this level.

"I have been saying for weeks, we believe we are going the right way and it is very important to keep going forward, even if the results are not always positive, like we want."

Much has been made of the hectic Christmas schedule, which Pochettino is no stranger to following his time at Southampton.

However, the Argentine coach does believe the rigours of a European campaign have to be carefully managed, or it will "kill" the season.

"When you win each week, you are top of the Premier League, top of your Champions League group, in the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup, then it is much easier to recover, because you are happy and when you laugh, you recover easily," Pochettino said.

"When you lose four games at home, it is difficult to recover easily for the players and the supporters because you are sad and you don't sleep, so it is difficult.

"After we play Chelsea, we are at Crystal Palace on Saturday, and they will have had 24 hours more recovery.

"When you play Europa League, you play Thursday and it is very difficult to recover for Sunday, you need to manage the squad. It would be good to play Monday (night instead).

"It is very different playing in the Champions League to the Europa League.

"The Europa League is very good if you arrive at the quarter-finals or semi-final, then the final, but before if you are not ready - not smart of how you manage the squad - maybe the Europa League kills you."


From Belfast Telegraph