Chelsea v Spurs - Mauricio's preview
22 April 2017|Tottenham Hotspur
Two years ago, Mauricio Pochettino wanted his young team to 'feel what it means to lose a final'.
So rather than disappearing to the sanctuary of the dressing room after our 2-0 loss, the players watched Chelsea lift the League Cup at Wembley.
Now we meet again, this time in the FA Cup semi-final.
Two years on, is the team where Mauricio hoped they would be? "I think yes, we’re very ambitious and you always question if we can make things better, always," he said this week.
"It’s true we’re in a very good period, we are fighting for the Premier League, fighting for the semi-final of the FA Cup and, yes, we were disappointed with the Champions League but we can use that (experience) to learn.
"We’re in a good momentum and it’s important now to give our best and try to win. We know very well that Chelsesa are one of the top teams and that shows because they are top of the table but we are confident we can play well and fight to try and win."
The wheels were certainly in motion in 2015, Mauricio's first season, highlighted by league wins against Chelsea and Arsenal. We arrived at that League Cup Final on March 1, 2015 in seventh in the Premier League, 16 points adrift of Chelsea, who went on to win the title.
Two years on, the picture has changed. We'll travel up Wembley Way this time in second place, just four points adrift of long-time leaders Chelsea and on the back of seven-successive wins in the Premier League, a Club record.
Momentum is with us - and many pundits believe the result of this match could have a bearing on the title race.
What did Mauricio think? "Who knows how it will affect the future? You never know. My opinion is if you win, it can affect it in a positive way," he said.
"For us, it’s so important to go through to the final. That would be a big achievement and every time you go to play, you want to win. The most important thing now is to spend all our energy and to be 100 per cent focused on this game against Chelsea."
Below: Mauricio watches training with coach Miguel D'Agostino this week
Take us back to the 2015 League Cup Final, can you remember how you felt and what was said?
Mauricio: "It was good to feel at that moment what it means to lose a final. It will be easy for us to be motivated and to fight to win this semi-final. But, this is football and it’s important to perform well and to be better than our opponent. It’s a game we need to win, to show our skills and quality, a lot of things will happen in 90 minutes."
Chelsea have been in fine form all season and remain top of the Premier League - but have lost two of their last three going into this weekend. What are your thoughts on them?
Mauricio: "For me, if not the best, they are one of the best teams, great manager, great players, players who have won the World Cup. They win a lot of trophies, European competitions. They have very good squad, very good players and a great coach and it’s a big challenge for us to play against a team like Chelsea. We are growing in the last two or three seasons, we are improving a lot, we’re learning, we’re young. We have to show our hunger. For us, it’s a big challenge to play a team like Chelsea."
With those words in mind, how big would a win be?
Mauricio: "It would be fantastic to win, but still it’s only the semi-final. You must win the final if you want to write your history. That is so important but for now, we’re focused on the semi-final and then we’ll see what happens. We’re just focused on trying to win the game and trying to play better than them."
With what is at stake, can you at any point enjoy it?
Mauricio: "Yes, I try to enjoy, but during the game it’s so difficult. After the game, there is not too much chance to enjoy it. Wembley is a very special stadium, a special pitch and in life, like in football, it’s about enjoyment - enjoy the game, try to be happy when you play football, try to play with freedom and try to win."