Mauricio Pochettino has said Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal against Manchester United will not define Tottenham’s season or help them to achieve their objective of Champions League football next year.
Spurs face United at Wembley Stadium on the back of two disappointing results, after Saturday’s defeat to Manchester City was followed by a 1-1 draw at Brighton on Tuesday.
Pochettino is aiming to win his first piece of silverware since joining Spurs four years ago, while the club are without a trophy since 2008 and last won the FA Cup in 1991.
But speaking after the frustrating draw at the Amex Stadium, which leaves Spurs eight points ahead of fifth-place Chelsea, the Spurs manager said the semifinal would not define the club’s season.
“No. It’s the FA Cup semifinal. If you win the FA Cup, you are not going to play in the Champions League next season,” Pochettino told a postmatch news conference.
“You are only going to play in the Champions League if you finish in the top four. Of course, it’s important and our fans will be excited to play, we are excited to play, but today was the most important game. Now, of course, it is finished with Brighton and we must think about Manchester.
“The team was focused on winning today, but the opponent made it very difficult. We run a lot. We had the possession, but lack of aggression in the final third. That I think was the constant during the whole game. We missed in front to be a little bit aggressive. We dominated, but it was difficult to create clear chances to break.
“Of course, you’re never happy when you draw. But credit to Brighton. We created enough chances to win the game. We dominated the second half, but in the end, the draw is one point more and now it is to try to be focused on Saturday.”
Pochettino made six changes to his XI from the 3-1 defeat to City, with Dele Alli rested and Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele, Erik Lamela and Kieran Trippier among the substitutes.
Centre-back Toby Alderweireld made his first league start since October, while winger Lucas Moura made his full Premier League debut.
“I was thinking about today and trying to win,” Pochettino insisted. “After Saturday evening [against City], we finished very late. We assessed every single player, I think some players needed to rest. Some players needed to stay on the bench.
“We have a strong squad with the possibility to play, everyone is ready to play. It was a moment to give some fresh legs to the team. But we were thinking about trying to win today.”
Spurs push for a place in the top four is still in their hands but Chelsea can close the gap to five points with four games to play if they beat Burnley on Thursday.
“Of course, it’s up to us,” Pochettino said. “But at the same time, it’s so important to be focused and win games. Still games to play, eight points.
“They need to play Thursday. So important to be focused in every game until the end. We need to try to win every single game to achieve something important at the end of the season.”