London (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino has vowed his Tottenham Hotspur players will remain grounded when they face Crystal Palace, the Premier League’s bottom side, at Wembley on Sunday.
Tottenham are still basking in the adulation that has come their way since they beat Champions League holders Real Madrid 3-1 beneath the Wembley arch on Wednesday.
The mood would be dampened if Palace, who are yet to score in five away league defeats, are not beaten this weekend and Pochettino has warned his players not to take their eyes off the ball.
“We must be focused. We must use the result to lift us and build confidence,” said the Tottenham manager.
“But we understand we must work hard to get another good result on Sunday. It’s always difficult to play Wednesday to Sunday. The effort was massive.
“We must be ready for a very tough game. Crystal Palace have a very good team. They struggled from the beginning of the season.
“They changed manager, but we know Roy Hodgson very well. We had a good relationship with him from the national team. They are always organised. It will demand a lot of energy.
“It’s true the challenge now is to be focused. It’s a massive opportunity to forget the Real Madrid game.”
Spurs’ 1-0 defeat at Manchester United last weekend left them eight points below leaders Manchester City in third place and Pochettino is already concerned about being cut adrift.
“Crystal Palace is another final for us,” he said. “After out defeat against Man United, it’s so important to win again in the Premier League.
“We know very well in football, we must keep feet on the grass. All the games are so important and tough. You cannot be relaxed when you compete in this game.”
The victory over Madrid, which carried Spurs into the last 16, came at the cost of injuries to Hugo Lloris (groin) and Toby Alderweireld (hamstring) that have ruled both out of Sunday’s match.
Back-up goalkeeper Michel Vorm will make his first league start of the season in place of Lloris, with Eric Dier a candidate to fill in for Alderweireld.
– Zaha ‘excites us all’ –
Palace are in desperate need of a result, but manager Hodgson does not expect Tottenham to be complacent and take his struggling side for granted.
“They are young, professional and well-managed,” he said.
“I’ll be surprised if we don’t see Spurs play well. I expect to see the team I have admired since the start of the season. They beat Real 3-1, but it could have been six.
“Knowing Pochettino, he’ll be telling his team all the right things — keep running and doing what they have been doing — and making sure there is no complacency.
“The big question is whether the players will be able to take it on board.”
Hodgson’s principal task will be keeping Harry Kane and Dele Alli, his old England players, quiet.
“We know how dangerous and good they are,” said Hodgson, who led the national team between 2012 and 2016.
“Our job has got to be to prevent them getting into dangerous situations.”
His own trump card could be Wilfried Zaha, scorer of last week’s 97th-minute point-saver in Palace’s 2-2 draw against West Ham United.
“Since Wilfried has been back from injury he has added a different dimension,” Hodgson said.
“We threaten teams much more now in the final third. He excites us all because he has the ability to set up and score goals.”
Mamadou Sakho and James McArthur could feature for Palace after returning to training following their respective calf and ankle injuries.
Patrick van Aanholt is a doubt with a hamstring problem, while Chung Yong Lee (hamstring) and Christian Benteke (knee) are both out.