How much did you learn about Liverpool from the Premier League game in August?
Mauricio Pochettino: “We were in a different momentum in August. Both teams have improved a lot, we’re close in the table, we’re involved in the Champions League and that demands a lot of energy. They are in a very good moment, they have one of the best squads in the league.”
Do you expect Liverpool to field a strong team?
Mauricio: “They have a very strong squad. If he plays Mignolet, he’s an international goalkeeper who has only been on the bench in the last few games. If he doesn’t play Firmino, he can play Sturridge. If not Coutinho, maybe Wijnaldum. If not Henderson because he’s suspended, he can play Leiva. You know it’s a very strong squad and for me, we play against Liverpool. Tomorrow it’s Liverpool v Tottenham. For me, football is a collective sport. It’s true when you are involved in many competitions, as we are, you can see I will rotate the squad in different games. Now we assess the team and take the best solution to try and play in every game with freshness and try to compete in the best way. We have Liverpool and then key games against Leicester, Leverkusen and the derby against Arsenal and for that reason, it’s important to be clever how we rotate and manage the squad.”
Eric Dier has described Hugo Lloris as the best goalkeeper in the Premier League. What would you say about the level he’s performing at?
Mauricio: “For me, he’s one of the best in the world, not just England. He’s in the top three goalkeepers today in the world. Many times I’ve said Hugo is one of the best goalkeepers.”
He might not play if you rotate…
Mauricio: “It’s true, tomorrow we’ll play Michel Vorm. I can confirm that to you. Hugo is not a machine, he’s one of the best, but not a machine. We have very good goalkeepers like Hugo, Michel, Pau Lopez and the youngsters too and tomorrow is a very good opportunity for Michel because he deserves to play.”
Is it difficult to rotate in this game as it’s against Liverpool?
Mauricio: “For me, our idea is the same and that is to win the game. We have a squad where all (players) deserve to play. They are all working so hard to play. It’s true it’s a different competition and like against Gillingham, sometimes you need to give a rest to players who play a lot and avoid the risk of injury, or perhaps some players who maybe don’t feel so good. It’s about balance, but we take the game with the idea that we win, that we go into the next round. We know too that Liverpool are more fresh because they are not involved in European competition but our idea is to compete and try to win the game.”
Looking at the weekend, Spurs dropped points but as it played out, so did Arsenal, so did City. Did it actually turn out to be an okay weekend in the Premier League with those teams not pulling away?
Mauricio: “I’m still a little disappointed because we missed the opportunity to be on the top of the table. It’s true that after Sunday only Liverpool won. We’re in a similar position as before the weekend. We are very close to the top, still unbeaten with lots of positive things we need to keep. But it’s true it’s always difficult. You can see Leverkusen at home against Hoffenheim, they were 3-0 down. Borussia Dortmund difficult, City difficult, Arsenal difficult – all the teams that play in the Champions League, it was difficult for them because the opponents are fresh, in our case Bournemouth, with more time to prepare for the game. It’s no excuse but in the end the effort (at Bournemouth) was good, we created more chances and deserved more at the end but it was impossible to win the game.”
Do you have a timeframe for Toby Alderweireld’s return?
Mauricio: “We will see this week. We hope that maybe he will be available for next week. For sure tomorrow, he’s still out, but maybe available for next week.”
Moussa Sissoko’s charge from the Football Association – what is your reaction and will you accept it or contest it?
Mauricio: “We accept it. After reviewing the video we accept the charge and now we move forward.”
In terms of missing games at this time, it must be a blow that he’s not available for selection?
Mauricio: “That is true, we’re in a period where we need all the squad and all the players fit to compete. We have four games ahead – Liverpool, Leicester, Leverkusen and Arsenal. It’s difficult now because he’s a player (who was) in our plans to play tomorrow and now we need to change a little. We have some injuries like Toby and Harry Kane, players who have some problems, players who need to rest a little because they play a lot. But okay, we have a strong squad, we need to go tomorrow with the idea and mentality that we want to win the game. We know it will be a difficult game, they are not involved in European competition and for sure, they are more fresh and they have a very good squad too, but in the end it’s a game where we need to compete and believe. It’s an opportunity to show the depth of our squad.”
Could Georges-Kevin Nkoudou make his first start?
Mauricio: “Maybe, yes. I’m thinking about giving him the opportunity from the start. Maybe.”
Will Marcus Edwards be involved?
Mauricio: “He’s injured. He has a twisted ankle and he’s recovering. He’s not available for six or seven weeks. He got a bad twist on his ankle.”
Are there any other injuries?
Mauricio: “We have some issues that we need to check for tomorrow.”
Will you make some late decisions?
Mauricio: “A player like Hugo is a good example. In October he played a lot of games, two games more on international duty and then into November with no time to rest. They are not machines. It’s very difficult to cope with the pressure in every game because every game is important and when you play Champions League it’s tough, very demanding. It’s for that reason we rotate and we will rotate in the next few games because it’s important all the squad feel they have a chance to play and show their quality. Maybe tomorrow for some players it’s a good chance to show they have the potential to consistently be in the selection for the starting 11, not just in cup games but in the Premier League and Champions League.”