What type of clash are you expecting on Saturday?
Mauricio Pochettino: “A tough game. We will play against one of the best teams in Europe with a great manager, great players, players that have won European competitions and World Cups. I think we are going to play against one of the best teams in Europe.”
Do you feel that you need to win a trophy to reflect your progress and what impact would a win against Chelsea this weekend have on the Premier League title run-in?
Mauricio: “It’s true that we are having a good season in the Premier League and FA Cup and it’s true that we feel a little bit disappointed about the Champions League. It was in a period where we struggled a little bit to compete in that moment, when we competed against Monaco – we can see now where Monaco are, in the semi-finals. We were competing with a very good team, it’s true that we feel a little bit disappointed about that competition but in the Premier League and FA Cup now we have the chance to fight for big things. For us it’s more important now to be focused and spend energy on trying to enjoy the game, to play under our philosophy, try to learn and grow up. We are in a different process and different moment to Chelsea. It’s impossible to compare both teams. It’s a big challenge for us to compete with one of the best teams in Europe in the FA Cup semi-final and fight for the Premier League too.”
Is Danny Rose targeting a return next weekend against Arsenal?
Mauricio: “Arsenal, maybe, but for Saturday, no. He is okay, he is doing well, he’s still not with the group but he is at a very good level.”
What’s your take on the expectations around this team and the need to win a trophy?
Mauricio: “It’s nice to say we are ready and we want to win but it’s not an easy task – it’s so difficult to win trophies. Three years ago when we signed here, I remember in the first few press conferences you are were asking (about) how we can reduce the gap with the top four. That was the main problem that Tottenham had and after nearly three years, not only did we reduce the gap to the top four, we are fighting in the Premier League to win some titles. That is the position that we wanted to be in and I think we’ve achieved that. Now, to win will be more difficult because you are competing with big sides, big clubs, big players. To achieve that level when you challenge and you fight against a team like Chelsea – they have players that won have won World Cups and if you compare with our players, they have still not won anything. Maybe some players have won some titles but that is about trying to improve and we are improving a lot. First of all you must be there, be close and have the possibility to challenge. Today we have the possibility to challenge with the big teams to try to win some titles, then it’s up to us to try to step up and make that dream a reality.”
Chris Hughton at Brighton has spoken about the importance of keeping momentum in the closing weeks of the season….
Mauricio: “Yes, I want to congratulate him and Brighton, of course, for (winning) promotion to the Premier League. He is a lovely person, all the Tottenham fans and family love him a lot. Of course, he is a great manager, a great football person and I agree with him that it’s very important to keep the momentum in football. Now we are in the last period of the season, we are involved in two competitions and it would be fantastic to keep that momentum and try to translate that momentum into positive results to try to achieve the big things that we are fighting for.”
Tell us about your team’s current mentality...
Mauricio: “Today we are in a very good mental level. Faith and belief I think are important words but the most important thing is to feel that faith and belief and when you feel it, it’s running in your body and in your blood, that is the most important thing. Then it’s football, it’s a game where you need to give your best and play better than your opponent and we’ll see if we are capable of showing on Saturday that we deserve in the end to go to the final.”
How much of an impact can Saturday’s result have on the Premier League title race?
Mauricio: “Who knows our fate? The result on Saturday is impossible to guess. The important thing now is to be focused 100 per cent on the game and try to be better than them. Of course it will be a very tough game, they have great players, a great manager and we’ll see what happens afterwards. Now, Saturday is a final. It’s a semi-final in the cup but it’s (like) a final because if you don’t win, you go home and forget the competition. For us it’s a final, we must show that it’s a final from the first moment in the game, be aggressive, try to play under our philosophy and mentality and compete and enjoy the game. To have the opportunity to play a semi-final against one of the best teams in Europe, it doesn’t happen too many times and it’s a great opportunity, a very exciting one that arrives on Saturday.”
How would you suggest your team has grown up?
Mauricio: “We are showing that we’ve learned from last season. We see the data, the stats – we have improved a lot. Now, with six games to play in the Premier League, we have achieved 71 points. Last season, we finished with 70. We’ve improved. That is the reality. The team is playing in a good way, good football, exciting football, scoring goals, not conceding too many chances and goals and we are in a great moment to keep the momentum – that is the most important thing because in football it can all change very quickly. Now is the moment, like it was last season, to translate all those feelings, all those stats into reality. You can only say at the end of the season if you’ve grown up or you’ve learned. If you win some titles or if you maybe are very close to winning the league or the FA Cup, that is the most difficult step to achieve.”
Is there more expectation on Chelsea this weekend?
Mauricio: “We create our own expectation. We feel that we can compete with them and that is important. Then the expectation outside of the club, you cannot manage that. You can only see the reality if you are outside of both clubs, you can compare the two different futures, philosophies and projects and then everyone can have their opinion. Our expectation is to win because we are ambitious, we know our strengths very well and our things that we need to improve. We know that the pressure is on to try to win every game and we are thinking about big things. That is the most important thing.”
After your battles with Chelsea in recent times, is your rivalry with them as big as your rivalry with Arsenal?
Mauricio: “My feeling is that all want to challenge us and all feel that they are our rivals. Today, to beat Tottenham is a big, big challenge for everyone. That is very good news for us, it means that something important is growing here and that feeling is good. I like this feeling. All that has happened in the last few seasons makes us stronger and like I’ve told you before, it’s important to show that we are clever, intelligent and use all that happened in the past to try to be better. For us it’s a big thing that people include Tottenham in that level of clubs like Chelsea, City, United, Liverpool and Arsenal. It means a lot and because we are in a completely different project, I think it makes us very proud.”
Will playing at Wembley be an advantage to you on Saturday?
Mauricio: “I will tell you after the game! When we competed this season at Wembley, we competed in a new competition for us, the Champions League. Then in the Europa League we played with 10 men after half-time and (with the way) we played and deserved to go to the next round, I think it was a little bit unfair but that is football. It’s true that we’ve struggled a little bit to get good results there but we need to make Wembley our home, to get that feeling.”
As you’re the in-form team out of the four semi-finalists, does that make you favourites to win the FA Cup and is there pressure on you to produce that outcome?
Mauricio: “I always feel the same pressure because my feeling is always when I play, I never see (that) my opponent is believing in our team and our skills. It’s not about favourites. If there is one favourite it’s more Chelsea because they’re on the top of the table in the Premier League and the experienced players and the manager that they have. We are talking about a team that, in the last five years, has won European competitions, World Cups, a manager that won the league with Juventus in Italy. It’s a more experienced team than us but we (have) good momentum, we’re a hungry team and now to challenge this type of team is a very important thing for Tottenham. We are going there to try to play in our way, try to win and go to the final. Then we’ll see but it’s important to enjoy the game and the fact that we’ve got to the semi-final against Chelsea, we must feel the happiness. It’s a very important competition, we are fighting with the best team in England and it makes us very happy and very proud.”