Pochettino hits out at congested fixture list ahead of Barca clash


Pochettino is frustrated with the amount of fixtures his players have faced (photo credit: Football365).

Pochettino hits out at congested fixture list ahead of Barca clash

By Ryan Conway

After dispatching Huddersfield Town 2-0 on Saturday, Mauricio Pochettino was left to field questions about the fitness of his squad going forward as heads turned towards a clash with Barcelona in the Champions League.

The two sides met in a July tour of America with Barcelona winning on penalties following a 2-2 draw. On Wednesday, the stakes will be much higher.

[Spurs v Barcelona at the Rosebowl – Photo Gallery]

The Tottenham manager lost centre-back Jan Vertonghen and midfielder Mousa Dembele at the weekend to a muscle injury while Hugo Lloris, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen all remain on the treatment table. On Tuesday morning, they along with Michel Vorm and Serge Aurier were absent from open training.

When asked of their readiness to face Barcelona Pochettino was cautious, “Dele [Alli] will not be clear for Wednesday.”

The situation is apparently far worse than that quote if the news from this morning’s training is any indication. Oliver Skipp, who was a standout in the USA, may find himself promoted to the bench.

Spurs’ start to the season has been littered with injuries and questions about the team’s fitness. Given the intensity at which the former Southampton boss insists his teams play at, he can ill afford to have key players side-lined with soft tissue injuries.

The Spurs manager bemoaned the congested fixture list, asserting that his squad’s injury list is not the exclusively the club’s fault,

“Sometimes it’s about luck. The circumstances of this season are a massive challenge for everyone,

“A lot of teams have the same problem, players are not machines. We want to push them, but it is not easy.”

Tottenham lost their opening Group B clash against Inter Milan, collapsing in the final five minutes allowing Mauro Icardi and Matias Vecino to score after Eriksen had given Spurs the lead in Italy.

The result leaves Spurs facing a critical run of games in the Champions League – especially if they are to remain empty-handed after their clash with Barcelona.

With an important run of games facing them in both domestic and European competition Pochettino can hardly afford a thinning squad.

A dozen members of the Tottenham squad were on duty in Russia at the World Cup, a scenario which the 46-year-old referenced when it came to his team’s fitness,

“It’s not just the Premier League, but the other competitions, too. The players finished the World Cup, they need to rest for a few weeks. But then the Premier League starts and then another international break. They play again, two games, in the UEFA Nations League.”

Pochettino is not the first manager to level criticism at the overcrowded fixture list. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have aired similar grievances. In January Guardiola was irked at Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker suffering injuries which the City boss partially put down to the fixture congestion,

“We are going to kill them. I think the federation or whoever is in charge need to reflect a bit. This is not normal,” said the Manchester City manager.

In October 2016 Klopp hit out at the “interesting idea” of having fixtures just 48 hours apart,

“I cannot believe [it]. Having a matchday with less than 48-hours between two games – plus travel – how should this work?”

There is hope for Spurs that they can achieve a positive result at home on Wednesday. That lies in the sudden poor form of their Catalan opponent. Barcelona lost to bottom side Leganes on Wednesday which was then followed up with an uninspiring draw with Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Add those to their 2-2 draw with Girona in late September and the Catalan giants have failed to win in their last three games.

Of course, Spurs must be wary of the attacking threat posed by their Spanish opposition, but encouragement can be drawn from a leaky defence which has failed to keep a league clean sheet since the second weekend of the season. The month of September saw Barca ship eight goals in five league games – including three occasions where they conceded two goals.

A loss in midweek would be hugely damaging to qualification hopes. A further loss of personnel could be even more disastrous on all fronts.


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