Fresh from a five-match winning run in the Premier League, the manager shuffled his pack for last weekend’s FA Cup tie with Aston Villa, making nine changes to the starting line-up for what turned out to be a 2-0 victory over the Championship side.
With attentions now firmly back on domestic duties, Mauricio acknowledges that he has some tough decisions ahead of him as we prepare to lock horns with a notoriously tough-to-beat Baggies outfit (kick-off 12.30pm).
Asked if picking the team will be one of his most difficult tasks as boss, he replied: “Yes, it’s hard. It’s a difficult decision but we know very well the business and we all know football. When you are in a team and sign a contract you sign to train and to be ready. Then a club signs a manager and coach to pick 11 and seven (substitutes), decide a philosophy and a way we need to play.
“The principles are settled here and the players all know that they have healthy competition between themselves. If you work hard, the football will always pay you back. We are involved in different competitions and the chance always arrives if you work hard and you deserve it.”
The 2-0 victory we enjoyed at Chelsea’s expense last time out in the Premier League a week-and-a-half ago sent us up into third spot in the table and Mauricio says there’s been a good mentality around the training ground since then.
“We’re ready, we’ve had a great week and we’re focused on trying to win games, to perform well and to improve. It was a great week to work all together again,” he said.
“Our position in the table is the consequence of our performances, our behaviour and our efforts. It’s important now to believe in the way we work and the players are showing that every chance we have. That’s the key for us.
“We’re in a good position, we have good momentum and to keep that is important for us. We need to work hard, to keep going – nothing is done at the moment, there is a long way until the end of the season but our ambition is there and we have to enjoy the moment, enjoy every day and try to improve and compete.
“It was a good example against Chelsea that the team played well and competed better than we played and that’s important. It was one thing we missed last season and today we can say that is the way – not only to play well, but to compete in the right moment.”
Mauricio on the challenge of defeating West Brom
“Every team is difficult to beat in the Premier League. It’s true, West Brom are doing well, they are having a fantastic season and it will be tough to beat them but we are ready to compete. Every season is different and every game is different. For us, the past is the past and we don’t care about that, we’re focused on trying to win this game. For us to get the three points would be fantastic for us and key to being able to fight for big things at the end of the season.”
On deciding his starting line-up
“It’s important for us to be competitive to increase our level. For me, it’s not just about 11 players, it is 25 players and we need to behave like a team. My decisions are always tough, picking one player or another and only (having) the possibility to select 11 and seven more on the bench. That’s always tough but it’s about competition, about trying to put a competitive team on the pitch and then if we win, it will be about the squad. I don’t change my mind for those decisions.”
Does your background as a player help you to understand the lads’ desire to be involved?
“Yes, we try to put ourselves in their position and try to be fair. The problem is that it’s difficult to be fair with them all but being professional means being ready and then if you play or don’t play, that’s the manager’s decision. Maybe you are disappointed because you believe you can play but that is football and if you behave well and are always professional, football will always reward you.”
Is there a mutual respect between you and Tony Pulis?
“Yes, of course. He’s a great manager and from day one when we arrived in England we’ve had a good relationship.”
DON’T MISS SATURDAY’S OFFICIAL MATCHDAY PROGRAMME!
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- Exclusive interview with in-form Dele Alli
- Discussing the talents of Toby Alderweireld in 'Centre of Attention'
- Mauricio Pochettino's exclusive column
- Another instalment of 'The White Hart Lane Years'
- A chat with ex-West Brom defender and boyhood Spurs fan Paul Robinson
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- Reviewing our FA Cup, FA Youth Cup and SSE Women’s FA Cup ties this week
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