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Pochettino defends decision to rotate ahead of semi-final


Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Mauricio Pochettino defended his decision to make multiple changes after Tottenham's hopes of Champions League qualification suffered a minor setback with a 1-1 draw at Brighton.

Ahead of an important FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United on Saturday, Pochettino opted to rotate his squad at the Amex Stadium with six alterations from the team which started the weekend defeat to Manchester City.

His selection appeared justified when Harry Kane swept Spurs in front early in the second half but the Seagulls levelled soon after through Pascal Gross' penalty.

The result leaves Tottenham eight points clear of fifth-placed Chelsea in the battle for a top-four finish.

Asked if his starting XI was influenced by the weekend meeting with Jose Mourinho's United, manager Pochettino replied: "No, no, no. I was thinking today and trying to win.

"After Saturday evening (the loss to City), we finished very late, some players needed to rest, some players needed to stay on the bench and I think we have a strong squad.

"Everyone is ready to play and it was a moment to give some fresh legs to the team but we were thinking about trying to win today.

"We tried to add to the team fresh legs to match them in the physical condition and I think the season is tough for some players that play a lot.

"But (I am) always thinking about trying to win today, not next Saturday."

Davinson Sanchez and Dele Alli were both omitted from Pochettino's squad on the south coast, while Kieran Trippier, Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier and Erik Lamela dropped to the bench.

The changes appeared inconsequential when Kane calmly opened the scoring in the 48th minute after calamitous Brighton defending allowed Son Heung-min to burst into the box.

Spurs' lead lasted just over two minutes though as Serge Aurier was penalised for a clumsy challenge on Jose Izquierdo and Gross tucked away the spot-kick.

Brighton boss Chris Hughton was pleased the decision to change his penalty taker paid dividends as his team moved eight points clear of the relegation zone.

Albion top-scorer Glenn Murray has missed two costly spot-kicks this season and he stood aside to allow German midfielder Gross to convert from 18 yards.

"That's not any slight on Glenn. He's had six penalties this season, scored four and missed two but Pascal's somebody who's used to taking penalties so it's a close thing," said Hughton.

"I just felt that that change might do us a favour.

"When they go one up at that stage, most people probably expected Tottenham to go on and get a second and a third.

"The response was quick and I think that helped the confidence in the team. We're well worthy of the draw that we got."

Asked if the Seagulls are now safe, Hughton added: "No and only because I can't afford to think that way."